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Louis Vuitton: how did Jean-Michel Othoniel design his Artycapucines bag?

For the ultra-limited edition Artycapucines collection, six great contemporary artists reinterpret the iconic Louis Vuitton handbag. Spotlight on the model imagined by Jean-Michel Othoniel.
Reading time 5 minutes

Known for his sculptures with abundant shapes, Jean-Michel Othoniel poetizes and re-enchants the world with his monumental and refined works, composed of glass beads with sinuous lines. Today, it is under the Louis Vuitton label that he imagines his version of the essential Capucines bag ...


Combining the famous glass bead sculptures of the French artist with the mischievous spirit of a Tropezian-inspired beach bag, the Artycapucines model by Jean-Michel Othoniel combines grace and joie de vivre. Faithful to the designer's stance, the elegant raffia weaving, entirely hand-crafted, highlights the knots uniting its countless fibers. Free from any treatment, the material reveals the delicacy of its chromatic nuances. The upper edge of the bag is adorned with a decoration embroidered by hand and fashioned in a variety of black silk satin boa-like, a reference borrowed from the world of haute couture. The handle of the bag is made up of imposing black resin beads evoking the artist's famous monumental works, such as Le Kiosque des Noctambules which decorates the entrance of a Parisian metro station. For this variation of the Capucines bag, Jean-Michel Othoniel uses the same decorative techniques as those of his emblematic glass spheres. Like an exclusive portable sculpture by the artist, a fascinating charm composed of three resin beads completes this exceptional creation, lined with blue satin. Meet the designer who has received the favors of Louis Vuitton.

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© Louis Vuitton

Who or which event convinced you to start an artistic journey?

I grew up in Saint-Étienne. There was no real cultural life outside of the local museum. At the time, works by American minimalist artists were on display, such as those by Donald Judd and Robert Morris. This place has become for me an opening onto a world of possibilities. I went there every Wednesday and occasionally attended the preparations for the artists' exhibitions. As a child, I was a true virtuoso and I excelled in my studies. But that is not enough to become an artist. Rather, it is something that is imposed on you and that we do not really choose. Later, when I became a young adult, my generation was wiped out by AIDS, and with the disappearance of my friends, I realized how precious life is. It was in this dark period that I drew the strength to be more radical, less dilettante, and to devote myself completely to art. This is the only positive point that I retain from this time.


What do you think are the recurring themes of your work?

Although I am a sculptor at the base, the material dimension of my work is part of a larger process of transmitting socio-political messages. For the past few years, I have tried to study how my work can re-enchant the world. To me, each piece is an oxymoron: joy and hope mixed with melancholy.

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© Louis Vuitton

Let's come to your collaboration for the Capucines bag.

I approached this project as I would have done for an architectural work, considering the bag as the scale model of a building. My version of the Capucines bag evokes, in my opinion, the Tropezian summers of the 50s, the sun and nature. I wanted to instill a vegetal dimension in it, which explains the choice of raffia, a material that evokes the beach. The handle is made up of my iconic black pearls which give the bag a more refined and graphic dimension, while emphasizing its architectural ambitions.


How do you see your collaboration with the artisans of Louis Vuitton?

Collaboration with master craftsmen is an integral part of my creative process, whether they are French metalworkers and embroiderers or Italian glassmakers from Murano. My work with the artisans of Louis Vuitton represents, in my eyes, the ultimate luxury: every detail bears witness to a high-precision approach, from the choice of colors to the tactile qualities, including the resistance of the materials of the bag. I dream of having a studio operating on the model of the Louis Vuitton workshops: discussions, the myriad possibilities available and absolute efficiency. It's a bit like being a conductor directing virtuosos in music.


The Capucines bag is a nomadic object, which means that your work will be exhibited in the public square. How do you feel about this?

I constantly strive to arouse interest outside museums, which is why my works are so often installed in public spaces. These bags remain faithful to a collective idea, to an object that everyone can understand. I imagine this bag bathed in sunlight, on the seat of a car belonging to a mischievous person, happy and full of life.

Each model in the Artycapucines collection is available in 200 copies in a selected Louis Vuitton stores.

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