Louis Vuit­ton wants to wrap you up in a blan­ket

CityPress - - News - GARRETH VAN NIEKERK garreth.van­niek­erk@city­press.co.za

Look­ing for a R33 000 Ba­sotho blan­ket? Well look no fur­ther than Louis Vuit­ton’s lat­est menswear col­lec­tion. The fa­mous French lux­ury brand premiered their Ba­sotho Plaid menswear this week – just a few years af­ter their first Ba­sotho blan­ketin­spired col­lec­tion – and the range is a hit.

Louis Vuit­ton South Africa con­firmed this week that all the blan­kets are sold out in Jo­han­nes­burg and Cape Town.

The Vuit­ton range fea­tures a small cash­mere and wool ver­sion of the Moun­tain King­dom’s fa­mous blan­kets, which have been used in sa­cred rit­u­als for cen­turies. The Vuit­ton blan­ket ref­er­ences a blue and yel­low ver­sion of a tra­di­tional Seana­marena de­sign, with an ex­ag­ger­ated graphic maize cob and gi­raffe dom­i­nat­ing the pat­tern. The blan­kets also in­clude the yel­low “wear­ing stripes” which tra­di­tion­ally designate the direction a blan­ket should be worn.

But South African de­sign­ers are not happy.

“The sad part of the sit­u­a­tion, for me, is that the African con­sumer would rather con­sume the Louis Vuit­ton ver­sion than sup­port small busi­nesses who are al­ready of­fer­ing the same prod­ucts,” said de­signer Thabo Makheta this week.

Makheta, a Mosotho her­self, reg­u­larly uses the blan­kets in her de­signs. “It’s un­for­tu­nate that a lux­ury Euro­pean brand is pre­ferred by those African con­sumers,” she says. On the Louis Vuit­ton web­site, a model drapes the blan­ket over his arm, like a shawl. Vuit­ton says their blan­ket should “com­plete the look” of their “African theme” Spring/Sum­mer 2017 men’s col­lec­tion. In the cam­paign images the model wears a shirt fea­tur­ing the same pat­tern that has been “tai­lored from fluid silk”, they say, adding that the “lux­u­ri­ous shirt fea­tures an ab­stract African blan­ket and gi­raffe de­sign”. On­line au­di­ences had a field day when the images of the pictures went vi­ral, with ac­cu­sa­tions of cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion com­ing down on the brand. “I feel like LV ‘plaid’ enough with our cul­ture. Damn Cul­ture Vul­tures,” said Dona So­prana on In­sta­gram. An­other In­sta­gram user, go­ing by the name Afro_Judee added, “Damn, I hate these main­stream brands. Wowza! No au­then­tic­ity ... at all.” But Makheta re­mains prag­matic about the sit­u­a­tion. “Look, Prada once pro­duced a pa­per clip with a price tag of $185 000, so it’s not sur­pris­ing. So now I’m tired of get­ting of­fended from these things. Be­cause so many Euro­peans have been tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from Africa, there is a grow­ing sup­port for lo­cally pro­duced items. But maybe it’s time for us to also pull up our socks, and then once we’ve done that we can ar­gue with the con­sumer about buy­ing the lo­cal prod­uct.”

PHOTO: LOUIS VUIT­TON

BA­SOTHO PLAID French lux­ury brand Louis Vuit­ton has cre­ated a cash­mere ver­sion of the Ba­sotho blan­ket

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