In 1925, Gaston-Louis Vuitton wrote an article on shop windows for French design magazine Vendre. Praising a new wave of “magnificent and modern” store facades, he urged shop owners to use their windows to turn the streets into a cheerful space. “Let’s draw the passer-by, let’s give him a reason to dawdle, to stroll!” he wrote.
Vuitton (the grandson of Louis, and the third generation to run the Louis Vuitton brand), was known for creating striking window arrangements, combining bold colours and simple shapes to dramatic effect. Describing the art of creating a good display, he said it required both “a sharp sense of architecture and the skills of a stage director.”
90 years on, Louis Vuitton is known for creating some of the most inventive and extravagant window displays in retail. Over the past six years, creative director of visual merchandising Faye McLeod and art director Ansel Thompson have worked with leading visual artists, set designers and production companies to create dozens of beautifully crafted window arrangements for flagship stores as well as smaller branches.
Windows promoting a collaboration with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama in 2012, for example, featured life-sized models of the artist among snaking polka-dot tendrils. The facade of the brand’s New York maison store was wrapped in thousands of black polka dots, and windows had to be cleaned four times a day due to passers-by pressing their face and hands against them to get a closer look.
Louis Vuitton’s Fall/Winter 2012-13 windows. Displays referenced the brand’s lavish fashion show, which featured a working Louis Vuitton train and replica station. Lead image (top): 2012’s Christmas windows in Paris. Image: Stephanie Muratet
Another 2012 display featured accessories arranged among thousands of brightly coloured feather arrows, while 2013’s Natural History windows featured golden veloceraptor, triceratops and diplodocus skeletons (below). Other windows have featured unicorns, dancing bears, vintage train cars depicting a fictional version of the Orient Express (above) and aluminium sails designed by architect Frank Gehry.
Thompson and McLeod’s work is now showcased in Louis Vuitton Windows, a lavish book published by Assouline which includes photographs of some of their most ambitious concepts alongside behind-the-scenes images, renders and sketches. The book also includes an introduction by Vanessa Friedman, fashion director at the New York Times.
McLeod joined Louis Vuitton in 2009. She studied fashion design and technology at Cardonald College in Glasgow, and was previously visual director at Jigsaw and creative director of windows and visual merchandising at Liberty (where she met Thompson).
The pair are now based in New York and work with a team of 18 to create 10 Louis Vuitton window displays each year. Team members come from a range of backgrounds, including psychology, automotive design, architecture and illustration.
2012 windows promoting a collaboration with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama at Louis Vuitton’s maison store in New York. Image: Stephanie Muratet
“We collaborate with the artistic director