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Women's Fashion / Fashion Equations

Louis Vuitton A/W11 Womenswear

A mathematical guide to the key inspirations and references in designers' collections by Laura Bradley, illustrated by Tom Baxter

Louis Vuitton A/W11
Louis Vuitton A/W11 Illustrations by Tom Baxter

Louis Vuitton's autumn/winter 2011 press release opened with a dictionary definition of the word 'fetish': an object believed to have magical power, or, something to which one is irrationally devoted. The collection referenced The Night Porter, French maid attire and S&M accessories.

Louis Vuitton's autumn/winter 2011 press release opened with a dictionary definition of the word 'fetish': an object believed to have magical power, or, something to which one is irrationally devoted. Backstage, designer Marc Jacobs revealed the theme was inspired by a conversation with LVMH's Bernard Arnault about womens' designer bag fetishes and his intention was to explore themes of commitment, effort and discipline.

Jacobs' main reference was Italian director Lilana Cavani's controversial 1974 film The Night Porter, which starred Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling. The pair play the roles of a former Nazi SS officer and a concentration camp survivor who have an ambiguous, disturbing relationship. As well as its shocking themes (including sadomasochism and Nazism) the film is also remembered for its striking imagery and Rampling's attire, in particular, the iconic scene in which she appears capped, braced and gloved performing a Marlene Dietrich song. The aforementioned look was central to the collection – Jacobs dressed each of his girls in peaked caps, some of them LV monogrammed. The wardrobes of both female and male of The Night Porter were explored in the form of voluminous trenchcoats, leather gloves, braces and military-style jodphurs and jackets.

American-born Jacobs often references French culture when designing his collections for the Parisian house. The French maid was one of his key starting points this season. The characteristic look originally evolved from the typical maids' black and white afternoon uniforms of the 19th century; Jacobs' girls sported puff-sleeved, Peter Pan-collared uniforms in plasticised lace or decorated with appliqués in the shape of platform pumps and masks.

One of the most iconic fetish objects is the whip and even though it didn't feature in the collection, Jacobs' designs certainly conjured up ideas of traditional S&M. Blindfolds, handcuffs, sculpted corsets, rubberised skirts, stockings and dominatrix boots; even the new Lockit bag features a handcuff, at times cast in 18-carat gold or diamond encrusted. These examples risk being cheap and trashy but Jacobs' knack was staying true to the discilpine aspect of 'fetish'. He promoted the 'less is more' philosophy (a back-buttoning blouse is far sexier than a bare top-half). And obviously, his fabrics (double-faced cashmere, silk, shearling and python) were far more luxurious than the sort one usually associates with sex shops.

The next Fashion Equation will be published in two weeks.


Research assistance by Yana Sheptovetskaya

Laura Bradley is the Commissioning Editor of AnOther and published her first series of Fashion Equations in May 2008. Tom Baxter is an illustrator currently living and working in London.

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