The Checkerboard: Louis Vuitton’s Exclusive Canvas

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The Checkerboard: Louis Vuitton’s Exclusive Canvas

The Louis Vuitton checkerboard is not just a simple print – it has become a staple the house diverted from Marc Jacobs to Virgil Abloh, but it is first and foremost a firewall against counterfeiting.

The LV Checkerboard As Old As the Eiffel Tower

In 1889, all of Paris was busy and bubbling with the approach of the Universal Exhibition which was held that year between May 5 and October 31. This is because, this one is special – for the centenary of the French Revolution, visitors and Parisians are in fact promised an unparalleled novelty: an all-iron construction, enthroned over a Paris sublimated by Art Nouveau.

It is in this context that Georges Vuitton, son of Louis, imagined a print even more complex than the striped canvas: a checkered canvas on which is inscribed, or rather anchored, the signature “L”. Vuitton, registered trademark. As old as the Eiffel Tower, the checkered canvas was also born from this period of great creativity.

But already France and its technical and aesthetic prowess are the object of much envy. The pieces of the Louis Vuitton trunk maker were no exception. While it is now clear that counterfeiting goes hand in hand with this house, this tumultuous relationship actually began at the end of the 19th century.

Louis Vuitton and Counterfeiting

Then, when the heir to the label, Georges Vuitton imagined the checkered canvas, it was nip the impostor in the bud. This canvas with different patterns was designed to distinguish the brand, to protect it, but also and above all to make it possible to distinguish Louis Vuitton trunks at a glance. Later, the house developed a non pick-able lock that a single key can open.

Both strong and flexible and completely waterproof, the checkerboard fabric is first woven – it is only with the appearance of the coated fabrics that the checkerboard becomes truly a print. It preserves an illusion, the aspect of a weaving of mats allowing the rhythmic appearance of the famous inscription which seals the registered trademark.

Having become an exclusive Louis Vuitton staple in the same way as the monogram, the checkerboard illustrates the great strength of the empire: the visionary character that inhabits the founder and his many successors.

However, in 1896, the house ceased production of the checkerboard canvas. It was not until 1996, 100 years later, that the trunk maker reconnected with his signature, a cluster with the arrival of Marc Jacobs.

From Marc Jacobs to Nicolas Ghesquière, the Second Life of LV Checkerboard

From then on, the canvas was reintroduced into the collections under the name “Damier Ébène”. The success was as immediate as it was sensational. Numerous checkered fabrics have since been imagined: Damier Azur, Damier Graphite for the 120th anniversary of the canvas, the Damier Infini in embossed leather, or even the Damier Aventure.

In 2001, after the September 11 attacks, Marc Jacobs decided to repaint the mythical checkered canvas – the Japanese colorist Takashi Murakami took it over. It is a triumph.

2013, the house signed a collection tribute to its iconic canvas – it was the collaboration of Daniel Buren for the scenography that Marc Jacobs launched on the podium a myriad of pieces with spectacular geometry, vividly modeled on the checkerboard.

The then artistic director thinks of the checkerboard as “a moving pattern, a rhythm, a mathematical equation, a kind of movement and perpetual change.” Since then, Nicolas Ghesquière has been at the helm of Louis Vuitton creation for women.

For the Spring/Summer 2017 season, he once again reinvented the mythical checkerboard assembly in a more than avant-garde dress. As proof, if necessary, of the inexhaustible evidence of the checkered canvas, which has since become the iconic pattern of the creations of 101 Avenue des Champs-Élysées.