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Cardinal Virtues

It is always nice and satisfying when a designer does something different and (relatively) new for a label. Respect for a brand’s characteristic and heritage doesn’t have to be shown by doing the same, obvious thing over and over again. As long as the creation comes in high quality—which means conceptually clear and flawlessly executed—the brand’s distinctiveness should be safe.


Marc Jacobs clearly understands that. What he does for Louis Vuitton is never limited within the box. Perhaps there isn’t even such thing as a “Louis Vuitton” box. Jacobs’s constant reinvention for the highly recognizable brand makes it hard for anyone to freeze Louis Vuitton’s characteristics.


What is quintessentially Louis Vuitton? Jetsetters’ luggage and polished head-to-toe look? Jacobs has done much more than that, even to the extreme point where he visited Bikini Bottom and dragged SpongeBob SquarePants to Paris Fashion Week for Spring/Summer 2008. But Jacobs isn’t without principle. In 2005, he did say that he has “pinned down who the Vuitton woman is: She’s someone who loves to dress up.”



 And the primary rule of liking to dress up is to never be afraid of putting on new looks on ourselves. To reinvent means to undergo trial and error. Try everything. Mix them and match them until you get the perfect harmony. Who knows what stunning new look you’ll come up with at the end of every experiment.


Jacobs had probably contemplated that when he finally envisioned what he would offer to the style-hungry, status-obsessed fashionistas around the globe for Spring/Summer 2009. And his intellectual discourse resulted in a collection that got both the stylish girls and cold critics in ecstasy. After undergoing a decline in satisfaction and praise last Winter, his Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2009 collection propelled Jacobs to the top of his game.


As if unaffected by the depressing newspaper headlines, the models came out parading playful mini-skirts, showing off some seductive legs with their confident walk. Even if your legs aren’t as skinny as theirs, the head-turning shoes would still make you center of attention. The platform-sandals came in multiple straps, feathers, and plastic panels forming African faces that cover the wearer’s insteps. If those aren’t stunning enough, they also come in bright, multi-tone of colors.



Above the half-naked lower part of the body, the models were equipped with padded-shoulder jackets covering some see-through tops. Some got their waists cinched with obis, and not one of them came out without drop-earrings and/or plunging tribal necklaces that are, oh yes, colorful and chunky as a surefire way to make some serious statements.


Beside the mini-skirts, there were also some peek-a-boos going on the tops. Some were partially, in triangular forms, see-through on the back. Even the covered front could expose your tits under a certain intensity of light, due to its thin layer of fabric. The finale was an orange (or a hue close to it) mini-dress crunched asymmetrically, with plunging neckline on the front and strappy back that reveals much skin. Floor-sweeping dresses were never Jacobs’s playground, and this finale mini-dress, worn by Sigrid Agren, simply marks Jacobs’s territory.



The show was successful and the reviews were unanimously positive, but will the selling-floor have the same fate? LVMH won’t take “No” for an answer, not when its golden boy managed to bring the best in the midst of critical times. And to advertise the clothes, there’s only one artist who could keep up with and tame this wildly creative collection: Madonna.


About why Madge was selected, Jacobs said that he “… wanted the campaign to be very bold, very sensual and very atmospheric. To carry off all these references and all this sophistication, we needed the ultimate performer – and for me, that is Madonna”.
At first I thought Madge wasn’t quite right for the part. But then I figured who else could effortlessly pull off various colors in every bit of shape and much embellishment than the Material Girl herself? Her personality, chains of controversy, and history of tireless reinvention suit this collection with the perfect pitch of synergy (or is it the collection that suits her?).




Take a close inspection at the advertisements. Tribal inspired clothes and accessories, worn by a modern mega-artist that constantly changes, at a bar that seems classic and very European. Somehow, in a way that perhaps only a genius can track, the pieces fit together. Nothing seems incoherent or out of context. And the willingness to dress-up and be youthful and energetic in tough times that the collection and advertisements suggest would surely appeal to everyone.


More than two millennia ago Socrates, via Plato’s Republic, discussed about four cardinal virtues that have “pivotal role in human flourishing” : prudence (practical wisdom), courage, temperance, and justice. Socrates suggested that “a person is prudent when knowledge of how to live (wisdom) informs her reason, courageous when informed reason governs her capacity for wrath, temperate when it also governs her appetites, and just when each part performs its proper task with informed reason in control.”


This Spring, for those of us who have no time or interest to contemplate philosophical ideals, Jacobs have materialized those virtues in something that one is ready to put on without having to worry about headaches (as often occur after philosophical contemplations). The various bits of style in the collection serve our appetites with temperance, and wearing those heavily accessorized looks is simply courageous. The collection is prudent in suggesting us to never lose focus on looking great though squeezed under global crash, and that is doing justice to the flourishing of our soul.


The 21st Century depression is here, but there’s no reason for us to embody it. That’s how Jacobs sums up the Socratic ideals of cardinal virtues in this collection for our current context.


– Adhi Putra Tawakal –


About adhitawakal

A former Philosophy student who aspires to become a professional stylist/fashion editor while cultivating his skills as a public relations/social media practitioner.


3 thoughts on “Cardinal Virtues

  1. My fellow on Facebook shared this link and I’m not dissapointed at all that I came here.

    Posted by Samuel L. | April 22, 2009, 6:42 am
  2. You’re satisfied with my article(s)? Well, thank you Samuel.

    Posted by adhitawakal | April 22, 2009, 9:26 am
  3. As always, I enjoy your writing. Although I’m not a fashionista myself nor understood the phylosophy behind the design (if I can’t wear it, why would I buy it-the design is not practical IMHO); I think this post is great.

    Keep it up, bro!

    Posted by Diny | October 7, 2009, 4:02 pm

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