PARIS — Although largely oblivious to the global handbag craze, acclaimed American artist Richard Prince has nevertheless discussed the phenomenon with his wife, Noel.
"But I really don't get it," he confessed.
All the better for his buzzed-about collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, which was unveiled Sunday night at the end of Paris Fashion Week.
"By not getting it — it's another point of view. You come up with something unique," Prince said in an interview Saturday, dressed in a black suit, white T-shirt and a wide, black belt embossed with the words "Louis Vuitton After Dark," one of the fruits of the freewheeling project with Jacobs.
While an outsider to fashion, apart from a T-shirt he did for Comme des Garçons a few years back, Prince said it is rich subject matter. "I've always been interested in this idea of advertising and fashion colliding, or existing side by side," he said.
When Jacobs approached him to develop a concept for Vuitton's spring 2008 show, Prince did extensive research about the 153-year-old French luxury brand, and went to town interpreting the monogram, not long ago so sacrosanct it was forbidden for workers to slice the LV initials (except in hidden areas on, say, the folds of a monogram backpack.)
Prince, an artist famed for appropriating and reworking others' photographs and paintings, had no such trepidations.
"I started silk-screening the monogram. I started stamping it. I took it apart. I cut it up. I splashed it around. I tried to abstract it in a way that you would still be able to recognize it," he explained, his slender frame wedged into an overstuffed red velvet sofa in the Hotel Meurice here.
Prince and Jacobs took a free and easy approach to their collaboration, with the artist developing scores of concepts independently, from freckle prints on fabrics to multiple versions of the monogram canvas to decor ideas for the runway theater, and Jacobs picking and choosing among them at will.
"He would take what I did and apply it to the actual object in ways I would never be able to do," Prince said. "He was very decisive, very spontaneous and very quick."Jacobs said yes to using Prince's collection of vintage "After Dark" paperbacks, the covers of which were over-printed with LV monograms and used for the show decor.
"This idea of collecting is part of my work," he explained. "I like the idea of working with something that already existed, interpreting it and having what I did interpreted. I'm not sure who did what in the end."
Prince spent the past 14 days at the Guggenheim Museum in New York installing his major exhibition, "Spiritual America," which opened there Sept. 28.
And what bag did he use to haul around his magic markers, rubber bands, papers and such? A rather unglamorous plastic bag from Zitomer, a drug store across from the Carlyle Hotel.
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