Jacobs and LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault in 2006. (ARTE France/ANDA MEDIA)
“I was somewhat amazed not to see a single handbag in the first show,” says LVMH honcho Bernard Arnault toward the beginning of Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton, a documentary by Loïc Prigent. “However, he has made up for it since.” The film, screened last night for a capacity crowd of fashion lovers at FIT, delves into Jacobs’ transatlantic roles at the helm of both Louis Vuitton, the leathergoods powerhouse for which he inaugurated ready-to-wear in 1997, and his own fearlessly quirky label. It’s a rare behind-the-scenes look at the designer and his team at work on two spring 2007 collections in Manhattan and then Paris, interrupted only by a triumphant trip to Tokyo, where Vuitton held a champagne-soaked encore presentation of the previous season’s looks in a translucent pod erected for the occasion. “The things you have to do to gain new markets!” LVMH exec Yves Carcelle tells Prigent with a grin, yelling over a live set by Grace Jones.
After six months of fly-on-the-wall filming of Jacobs and interviews with the likes of Sofia Coppola and Larry Gagosian, Prigent was most stunned by a member of the Vuitton creative team he met while on the Tokyo trip. “I asked her what she did, and she told me ‘I’m here for the belts. In case one hole is not right and they need another hole. That’s what I do,'” he explained in a Q&A following the screening. “The belt girl blew me away. Keep in mind that they were putting on the same show as they had a couple of months before—with the exact same models.” Prigent also singled out “the bag people” at Vuitton as particularly…innovative. “They had all these unbelievable ideas,” he said, having been allowed to film design meetings but required to blur the “mood boards” lest competitors’ steal ideas. “It was all this crazy stuff, things with Mickey Mouse. Crazy!”
And for Prigent, that’s exactly the appeal of filming fashion designers. After making a name for himself with a peek into the Chanel ateliers, he captured the adrenaline-fueled runway run-up at houses ranging from Fendi to Proenza Schouler in a miniseries called The Day Before. “I love that designers say ‘n’importe quoi,'” noted Prigent, lapsing into his native tongue. “Marc Jacobs has a tattoo that says ‘Shameless,’ and who better to film than someone who has a tatoo that says ‘Shameless?'” Body markings aside, he describes the designer as a hard-working “genius” whose complex, cerebral creative process is belied by the simplified seasonal themes he throws out in post-show interviews.
Having recently completed films for French TV about Elbar Albaz (“quite funny”) and Isabel Marant (“French girls are totally obsessed with her”), Prigent is now at work on a documentary about Yves Saint Laurent‘s final haute couture show. “I always do ‘the day before,’ so now I’m doing ten years later,” he said. “I’m filming the interviews now—the models in the show, people who were there—and everyone is crying.”
Tonight at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), Prigent will take questions after a screening of The Day Before: Fendi by Karl Lagerfeld, and on Thursday, he’ll be back at FIT for The Day Before: Proenza Schouler, all part of the Reel Fashion film series presented by FIAF, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and the Museum at FIT.