There’s hardly any doubt that the Le Pliage is the ultimate trademark for French maison Longchamp. Inspired by the art of origami, founder Philippe Cassegrain first introduced the bag in 1993, naming it after the French word for ‘folding’. And the tote certainly does that job, taking to a fraction of its original size after three simple folds. Tied with its durability and accessible luxury, these qualities have carried the Le Pliage through the years, long enduring as a classic icon.
The nylon tote now sees a facelift as the Parisian house joins hands with the Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative; an homage to the late American artist. Celebrating shared values of graphic simplicity, inventive design and optimistic colours, Indiana’s bold graphics complement Longchamp’s bright spirit and ebullient vision impeccably.
A visionary in the pop art movement, Indiana’s paintings explore the power of language and numerals anchored in American identity. His stacked format of ‘LOVE’ stemmed from a series of frottage drawings and honed through various mediums of painting, sculpture and print. Soon enough, ‘LOVE’ stood on the pedestal of 20th century art and eventually became one of the most recognisable artworks in the world.
It was only fitting for the artist’s universally recognised translation of ‘LOVE’ to feature on the Le Pliage. The exclusive collection features Indiana’s signature artwork emblazoned across the canvas Le Pliage in vivid colourways and in two new iterations of the silhouette: a square tote and a mini crossbody. An exclusive edition of a cowhide leather Le Pliage in XS embossed with a red ‘LOVE’ emblem will be released alongside. Indiana’s icon will also come by way of unisex clothing and accessories, including a silk scarf decorated with vibrant numbers as an ode to the artist’s fascination with numerology.
In celebration of its release, Vogue Singapore speaks to Longchamp’s creative director Sophie Delafontaine and the Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative on the significance and process of the partnership.
How did this union come about?
Sophie Delafontaine: The relationship between fashion and art is something that remains endlessly inspiring for all of us at Longchamp. Among all the talents I wished to work with, the late American artist Robert Indiana was always on my list because I felt his work, which is so graphic in style and optimistic in tone, really matched the bold spirit and bright energy of Longchamp. I approached him around six or seven years ago, when he was in his eighties. After he passed away, I continued the conversation with The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative, which agreed to proceed with a capsule based on LOVE, the image of stacked letters he first created in 1964 as a series of frottage drawings. What intrigues me about this work is that it has become an icon of 20th century art. Indiana’s paintings and sculpture are in major cities and museums around the world. I wanted to introduce his legacy to a wider audience and to celebrate a universal message of optimism.
The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative: It was important to associate ourselves with a brand that respects the integrity of the artist’s work and truly appreciates the impact of Indiana’s genius with colour and form. Longchamp symbolises elegance and tradition, so we felt assured the brand would honor Indiana’s intention for LOVE. We were also interested in the history of Longchamp and its origins as a supplier of leather-covered pipes to American GIs following World War II. Indiana enlisted in the US Army Air Corps (which later would become the US Air Force), intending to take advantage of the GI Bill [of educational benefits] upon completing his service, eventually enrolling in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Longchamp’s connection to this period of American history serves as an interesting link to Indiana’s beginnings as an artist.
The capsule collection largely focuses on Indiana’s LOVE image, which first appeared as a motif in his work in 1961, later appearing in its current form with the slanted ‘O’ in 1964. Can you tell us more about its significance?
The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative: Love was a subject of great spiritual significance for the artist and a theme that was woven throughout his six-decade career. Indiana incorporated the word into his work for the first time in 1961 in a painting titled 4-Star LOVE.
In the words of the great American poet Robert Creeley, “Robert Indiana has made of basic American iconography the most subtle and evocative resonance of colour his time has seen. He has used the figure of language and number to echo endlessly the paradigms of human emotions and made LOVE an international sign of transcendent power. He is the most deftly Emersonian of our painters, the consummate signer of our human declaration.”
Sophie Delafontaine: At Longchamp, we always speak about authenticity and energy. For me, Robert Indiana’s LOVE image is all about truth, and it conveys passion—sometimes romantic passion, which also expresses itself in terms of good energy. Love is universal, a positive message that is understood all over the world, and I liked the idea of reproducing this message on Le Pliage bag, which is a universally beloved bag that remains accessible to so many people. I felt that there was a natural synergy between Robert Indiana and Longchamp, too, in the strong graphics and bold colours that the artist chose throughout his career.
How did you adapt the artwork for the capsule collection?
Sophie Delafontaine: We spent a lot of time researching and understanding more about his choice of colours, his typography, his love of numbers and numerology, his love of words. The capsule comes in three colourways, all of which are taken from Indiana’s original artworks. Then, when it came to shapes, we added some new bag shapes to the Le Pliage bag family that are totally square, to reflect his square canvases. We also reproduced some of his brightly coloured numbers on a silk scarf, a limited-edition bag and on stickers for packaging.
Close attention has been paid to the logo, the zipper and the packaging. In terms of details, how did the DNA of Longchamp and Robert Indiana align?
Sophie Delafontaine: Robert Indiana had a very precise aesthetic, so details were very important. We played a little with the slanted ‘O’ so it highlights the press button and our horse logo on the leather flap, linking Indiana’s work with the Longchamp spirit. Our iconic Longchamp zipper is a medallion featuring a jockey on a racehorse, and Indiana used a lot of stars in his work, so we developed a custom zipper with the jockey embracing a star to reflect the DNA of the house and the artist. We also worked on a custom typography for the logo, which reproduces the distinctive stencil typography Indiana liked to use and appears on the labels inside the bags. Additionally, our Le Pliage bag comes in 100% recycled polyester and is renowned to be highly durable. I loved the idea of releasing an ephemeral collection created to last forever.
Sophie Delafontaine: On behalf of Longchamp, I am very happy to be able to play a small part in bringing Robert Indiana’s work to a wider audience and to protect his legacy as the creator of one of the world’s most important and best-known artworks.
The Longchamp x Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative collection will be available online and in stores from October 31 2023.