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Vuitton & Jacobs, by Michelle Schwartzbauer

Vuitton & Jacobs, by Michelle Schwartzbauer

My day alone in Paris was a time of self-discovery. That day I understood the importance that fashion would have in my life.

In 2012, I spent the last week of my summer abroad in Paris with my parents, who decided to take one day for themselves to explore the city as a couple. That day, a day all to myself, I knew I wanted to visit La Cinémathèque française, for its history of film, and Musée des Arts Décoratifs to see the Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs fashion exhibit.

I’m not sure where my love of fashion came from. I grew up with two older brothers and a mother who always wanted me to look pretty, but never forced me to dress a certain way—a good thing, as I always tended to rebel a little bit against the norm.

My first exposure to the joy of fashion was ballet costumes. As I waited backstage at a performance admiring the beautiful ballerinas as they danced onto the stage and off again, fashion became an idea of magical transformation for me.

Imagination is important for a young girl. Playing dress-up was not just a way to have fun; it was a way for me to escape to a different world, a different persona.

Growing up, fashion became an important form of self-expression. I didn’t feel like I was being true to myself unless I was wearing exactly what I wanted—not abiding by fashion rules set before me. Though at the time, I didn’t realize I was expressing myself through clothing; I was simply wearing what I though looked cool.

My clothing phases as a child included Hippie, which meant wearing anything with words like “peace” and “love” emblazoned on it; and The Clash, where I wore things that didn’t match. All of these phases overlapped at different points and shifted up and down in craziness. I began to take notice of the fashion industry when I received Teen Vogue in the mail at age 13. Unbeknownst to me, my mother had signed me up for a subscription to Teen Vogue, hoping I would drop the American Girl and Highlights magazine phase.

Reading Teen Vogue opened me up to a new world of colors, clothing, and culture like never before. I learned about designers and the history of fashion and fashion trends. Looking at the beautiful colors and designs transported me to a world of creative expression. This magazine and others became my personal escape during middle and high school years.

When I stepped into the Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs exhibit in Paris, the excitement I felt about fashion growing up in my teen years came rushing back. There I was, in the fashion capital of the word, moved again by fashion and its designers. The first level of the exhibit featured the history of Louis Vuitton the luxury fashion house, established in the mid-1880s, that made trunks and leather luggage and handbags. I toured the company’s archives and galleries of trunks, some of which unfold into a bed or as a fully appointed toiletry kit.

The second level was a sensory explosion overloaded with passion and inspiration completely devoted to Marc Jacobs’ crazy, eccentric, and fashion-forward thinking. At the start, the Marc Jacobs exhibition featured what could only be described as a “real-life tumblr page,” or a giant, moving mood board: Marc Jacobs’ impressionistic exploration and inspirations all in one place. I was immediately blown away. Clues giving insight into the designer’s imagination, captured together in one place, excited me about fashion’s constant need to change and challenge itself.

As creative director since 1997 of the house of Vuitton, Jacobs transformed the luggage and handbag house into a fashion brand. The exhibit included displays of Marc Jacobs’ designs and a wall dedicated to his Louis Vuitton handbags. In the background, throughout the exhibit, I listened to a recording of Marc Jacobs talking about some of his favorite collaborations working with Louis Vuitton and artists Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince and Stephen Sprouse.

After viewing the exhibition, I returned to the Marc Jacobs inspiration section to capture one last fleeting feeling of exhilaration. While viewing these pictures and videos and listening to the background music, I began to understand why I was drawn to fashion. With fashion, you can be anybody. There will always be those who try to create rules for fashion, but in reality, there are no rules, and that is beautiful. I like being my own person and fashion lets me do it. To me, fashion speaks of life and humanity in the way that it is always changing, re-inventing, yet repeating itself all at once.

Paris itself is an example of this beauty, and is home to so many examples of inspirational fashion. Experiencing street fashion is almost as good as attending a couture fashion show. Everyday we make a choice about what we wear. We can decide to conform or break free. When I feel as though I should conform, I remember my time in Paris and let my imagination and inspiration take me to the world were I dress exactly how I feel.

Jane Campbell photo crop port vertJane Campbell is a student at the University of Minnesota studying Journalism and Cinema & Media Studies, with minors in French and Design. She had her first taste of French culture during a high school trip to France where she fell in love with Paris. She studied abroad at Université Paul-Valéry in Montpellier this past summer for six weeks, falling even more in love with the culture of Southern France. Back in Minneapolis, she divides her time between sorority and academic life, also interning at Minnesota AIDS Project and A Woman’s Paris. In her free time, she enjoys watching old films and reading magazines.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Sequins, Lamé, and Alien Hair: Inside Ylan Anoufa’s Paris Couture Show, by Abby Rodgers who, since moving to Paris, wanted to attend a fashion show during Paris Fashion Week. When her friend Marina, who did the makeup for the Gustavo Lins couture show, received an invitation to the Ylan Anoufa show she asked Abby to come along.

Beauty Confessions from a Globe-trotting Parisienne. Parisienne Bénédicte Mahé shares a French woman’s approach to beauty and makeup; and how the relationship Americans have with beauty is very different from that of the French. Including her list of Beauty Resources in Paris and a vocabulary of French to English translations. (French)

Diving into Paris Fashion: From famous to fresh, by Parisian Abby Rodgers, who asks the question, “…with veterans such as Lagerfeld making the move to the street-wear market, where is fashion headed in Paris and what influence does the newest generation have?” Included are fashion brands and stores that are favorites of Abby and her friends.

Scarves à la Françoise: The lingua Franca for stylish women, by Barbara Redmond who shares her experience trying on scarves and tying them at the home of her French friend in Lyon. Arriving at the famous silk manufacture in Lyon, André Claude Canova, Barbara and her friend gently tapped on the window even though the shop was closed.  The shop girl let them and they all enjoyed hours of playfully draping, twisting and knotting scarves and shawls. An experience spurred by the ubiquitous nature of women and scarves: our common language. (French)

Ballet Flats in Paris: And God made Repetto, by Barbara Redmond who shares what she got from a pair of flats purchased in a ballet store in Paris; a feline, natural style from the toes up, a simple pair of shoes that transformed her whole look. Including the vimeos “Pas de Deux Coda,” by Opening Ceremony and “Repetto,” by Repetto, Paris.

Text copyright ©2013 Jane Campbell. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Michelle Schwartzbauer. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.