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At NY Fashion Week: LVMH invests in next-gen artisans

February 19, 2010

Inside a loft at Milk Studios , the DJs pumped up the beat and Champagne flowed as Renaud Dutreil talked about the future of fashion. As the chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc, the North American arm of the world’s largest luxury goods company, Dutreil has a lot invested in the subject.

The scene: A preview show mobbed by photographers and beautiful people.

“Louis Vuitton was an artisan,” Dutreil told Reuters, referring to the French company’s founder. “He worked with his hands. It’s important to transmit this value proposition to the next generation. They are the Web generation.”

On the runway: Some of the most whimsical styles shown during the Fall 2010 season of M.A.C. & Milk Fashion Week, the downtown cousin of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. Both wrapped up late Thursday night.

Paper dress anyone? (That “cone bra” bodice reminiscent of Jean-Paul Gaultier is you.) These clothes won’t be sold at the mall. They’re the work of local master artisans, who were matched with 23 teams of students at Parsons The New School For Design in a student competition. LVMH and Parsons sponsored the contest.

Check out this video of Mr. Dutreil keeping an eye on the runway and some of the most inventive styles:

The idea? The master artisans worked with the design students to show them the intricacies of their crafts. A leather worker, a bespoke suitmaker and a custom metalworker were among those who gave their time and talent to this project. The students created clothes and documentary films inspired by the artisans’ craft and “the world of LVMH,” which includes luxury handbags and luggage sold in Louis Vuitton stores and the company’s boutiques inside such high-end stores as Saks Fifth Avenue .

Simon Collins , dean of fashion at Parsons, said the contest’s winners will be announced in the spring. And yes, Virginia, there is prize money involved! The school’s relationship with LVMH, which goes back for years, has often led to LVMH internships for Parsons students, Collins says. But the luxury goods maker’s commitment to this contest is “a first,” the dean notes, adding that it’s “huge” for design students to have the chance to learn craftsmanship from master artisans.

Stopping by to check out the students’ work: stylist Robert Verdi and Parsons alum, the designer Ashleigh Verrier, who incidentally got her start after selling her Parsons thesis collection to Saks. After posing for the red-carpet photographers, Verrier told Reuters: “It’s so important that the craftsmanship isn’t lost and that creativity is supported. It’s amazing what’s being done here.”

In the luxury industry, “craftsmanship” is a watchword. After all, craftsmanship is what sets, say, a Louis Vuitton bag, an Hermes scarf or a Dior gown apart from leather goods or apparel produced for wider distribution and sold at prices with fewer zeroes at the end.


I’d rather stick with the Jen we currently have!!

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