Reimagining Louis Vuitton's Iconic Capucine Bag With Nicholas Hlobo

BY Connie Chamberlayne / Jul 15 2019 / 20:00 PM

“Ultimately, art and fashion are not so different”

Reimagining Louis Vuitton's Iconic Capucine Bag With Nicholas Hlobo

A question to all bag lovers: did you snap up your first Speedy as quick as a flash? Or were you filled to the brim with sheer joy upon the purchase of your first Neverfull? Us too. Like the entry allowance wrist band that you refused to take off after your very first rock concert, arm-candy connoisseurs around the globe begin and indeed, continue to build on their designer-bag collections with Louis Vuitton’s iconic monogram canvasses. They are the universal badges of honour that definitively let the world know, “I’m part of the club.”

Capucines Bag by Nicholas Hlobo, Dhs22,500, Louis Vuitton
Image: Supplied

But Vuitton devotees are well aware that the label offers so much more than these ubiquitous treasured styles. Enter, for example, the timeless Capucines bag. Taking its name from the Rue des Capucines in Paris, where Louis Vuitton himself opened his first store in 1854, the iconic style is beautifully crafted in full-grain Taurillon leather and is a true testament to the maison’s uncanny knack for creating supremely chic staples we simply have to have.

First launched in 2013, the Capucines is now taking on a second life thanks to the brand-new, limited-edition Arty Capucines Collection which sees six contemporary artists put their stamp on Louis Vuitton’s contemporary classic. The bag’s distinctive design and sleek silhouette provide an ideal canvas for the line-up of leading international creatives: Sam Falls, Urs Fischer, Alex Israel, Tshabalala Self, Jonas Wood and last but certainly not least, Nicholas Hlobo, who spoke to BAZAAR about the story behind the partnership.

Nicholas Hlobo is one of six artists Vuitton has collaborated with
Images: Supplied

Born in Cape Town in 1975, the South African artist is renowned for his awe-inspiring installations and intricate two- and three-dimensional objects that are both a commentary on the realities of his homeland since the end of apartheid’s legalised discrimination in 1994, and an investigation of his own cultural identity. Tactile materials such as discarded ribbons, leather, wood and rubber are melded and woven together to create hybrid objects that communicate the dichotomies of modern-day South Africa and Nicholas’ experiences within it.

Inspired by the flower within Louis Vuitton’s monogram canvas, his unique application to the Capucines bag intertwines fabrics, details, colours and patterns that give the illusion that these textures have grown organically from within its interior.

Only 300 of Nicholas' Capucines bag will be made
Images: Supplied

“I wanted to mirror the ways in which I use different materials in my work,” Nicholas explained. “I stitch onto my paintings and drawings, and my sculptures are created by layering found materials such as leather, tyre tubes and copper pipes. I started by looking at the Louis Vuitton motifs, and in particular, the flower. I felt that I could interpret it as something blooming from the bag… an element literally emerging from it. Bags tend to have clean lines and I wanted to really break from that; to introduce bulging elements that do not have a sense of conforming, and the feeling that [something] is growing from beneath the bag’s surface.”

A playful iteration of Louis Vuitton's monogram flower
Images: Supplied

Intricate yet heavy embroidery is the defining feature, communicating a beautifully dramatic, handmade hybrid of artist and brand, fashion and art. “It was about bringing together two different worlds,” Nicholas elaborates. “Louis Vuitton has its idea of perfection and beauty. I have my own standards of perfection but I approach it differently; I’m more curious about the ugliness that lies beneath the surface yet informs the beauty. Physical human beauty is not necessarily defined by surface skin; it’s determined by what’s happening underneath – how the bones push through the skin, muscles and ligaments – which is not beautiful if we were to look at it. This collaboration was a wonderful opportunity to ‘cut’ through the Louis Vuitton bag and make beautiful things grow out of it.”

Nicholas Hlobo braids in ribbon to his Capucines bag
Images: Supplied

And what beauty that has turned out to be. “The Capucines bag is an inherently moveable object and will take [my] work out into the public space,” Nicholas explains. “Ultimately, art and fashion are not so different.” He’s absolutely right.

Nicholas Hlobo’s Arty Capucines Bag is available now in a limited, numbered run of 300.

See more in the Jul/Aug 2019 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia