You visited Yayoi Kusama in her studio in Tokyo in 2006. Can you tell us more about your meeting?
It took place while we were filming a documentary with Loic Prigent about my life and work at Louis Vuitton. It was an incredible meeting, charming and special. I went to Yayoi Kusama's studio and she sat with me for quite some time. We talked a great deal about life and work and our passion for making things. She was extremely generous with her time, so that whenever I stood up to leave, I ended up sitting back down again. She took great pleasure in showing me a Louis Vuitton Speedy bag she had hand-painted herself. She was just a charming person - everything I'd imagined her to be from her work.
Yayoi Kusama is a big fan of yours, and has a photo of you both together on the wall of her studio. Are you a fan of hers? What do you like about her work?
I am a big fan of her work, and recently saw her show in New York. When I look at her career and her different vehicles for expressing herself - from her early performances staged at MOMA, to her sculptures, paintings, canvases, nets and her endless polka dots - I find a sort of simplicity, naivety and passion. The fact that she never veers from her vision is really admirable. As with any great artist, she creates her world, she shares it with us, and we respond to it. Yayoi Kusama has often claimed to have an obsession with infinity. You see it in every painstaking canvas and installation she creates, and you also see a world that never ends. That is what I admire, love and respond to in her and in her work.
How did the collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama come about?
I was approached by Yves Carcelle, who told me Louis Vuitton would be sponsoring a brilliant show by Yayoi Kusama, which would tour several countries, and that they would very much like me to do a collaboration with her. Of course, as I love her work and as I did have a personal connection with her in Tokyo, I was very excited by the idea.
In the past, the collaborations I have undertaken have been very spontaneous decisions, and the artists I have chosen to work with have all meant something to me personally, creating a world I relate to, and work I love and appreciate. This is also true of Yayoi Kusama, so I readily embraced the idea. My team and her team met here in Paris, and together we created a whole array of accessories, bags, shoes and textiles, which we then presented to her. With almost no exception, she responded very favourably.
It so happens that I have just seen the look book for the collaboration, and it is really charming in the way it conveys the spirit of her work. With a sort of tongue-in-cheek attitude, we have made the model look like Yayoi Kusama herself. The whole project is very dynamic and animated, representing her obsession with polka dots - a round shape that has no end, and therefore is infinite.
Could you tell us a little more about the products?
We have created some really terrific shoes and bathing suits, easy-to-wear silk dresses, knitwear, all very consistent with the style of Louis Vuitton. We also have a bonded cotton trench coat lined with Yayoi Kusama's polka dots printed over the monogram pattern. Then there is a plastic trench coat, which allows the wearer to look as if they had been hand-painted with spots, which again references her earlier work. We have also created accessories, including a small charm, which will join all the other sweet, whimsical charms we have made, and a beautiful minaudiere that represents one of Yayoi's pumpkin sculptures. The entire collaboration has energy and vibrancy, and it also represents a true collaboration in the way it fuses the Louis Vuitton monogram with Yayoi Kusama's dots. To me, both are endless and timeless.
Yayoi Kusama says that the message she would like to convey with this collaboration is "Love Forever" - what about you?
Well, love is a beautiful idea. The dots represent something that has no points, no hard edges and is infinite. And what could be nicer than infinite love?
As you have said, Yayoi Kusama is obsessed with infinity. She says that one of the reasons she is happy to collaborate with Louis Vuitton is because it will help her expand her polka dots all around the world. Will that indeed happen?
Definitely - the world being one big dot, and Louis Vuitton having fans all around the world. I hope and expect, as with our previous collaborations, that this one will bring the work of Yayoi Kusama to a new audience, the audience of Louis Vuitton. It is a continuation of something I began when I arrived here, the idea of art and artistic collaborations. It is wonderful how contemporary art permeates and changes the environment. For many people who do not look at art, or go to galleries, or maybe are simply not aware of Yayoi Kusama's work, there will now be a new venue to see it and to come to appreciate it through the eyes of Louis Vuitton.