The initiative, which the brand first launched May, animates its global store facades with images of rainbows drawn by local children. This week, Vuitton released an accompanying Instagram filter on the same colorful theme.
In a post on its Instagram account, fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada pointed out that while said rainbow iconography is age old, it is more commonly associated today with the LGBT community, which has used the symbol since the ’70s. It referred to June’s annual Pride parades marking the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Diet Prada took issue with the fact that the campaign did not mention Pride or the LGBTQ community. It also posed the question “Are they co-opting queer iconography?”
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The post cited fashion influencer Bryan Boy who commented on Instagram, “Is there a reason why they omitted references to Pride/LGBT in their communications usage of the rainbows especially during Pride month?” It also featured a comment made by Robin Givhan, the Washington Post critic, when Donald Trump opened the house’s Texas factory.
“Can there be neutral ground when the players are a president who has made women in general, along with immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community, feel as though they are under siege…?” the journalist asked at the time. Diet Prada also noted that the Trump administration has “just formally reversed an Obama-era policy that protected transgender patients from discrimination in healthcare.”
The Diet Prada post then appeared to backtrack and went on to admit that during the coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom, the rainbow became a symbol of support for hospital workers.
The post concluded with the following: “It is unclear whether this is what the brand is referencing. With its vague messaging and awkward timing, is Louis Vuitton’s rainbow-filled message a covert acknowledgement of the queer community without alienating conservative brand devotees?”
FN contacted Louis Vuitton for clarification. A brand representative explained that while the Louis Vuitton rainbow Instagram filter launched this week, the Rainbow Project campaign itself was conceived during the lockdown period and launched May 20.
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On Monday, @LouisVuitton announced a new Instagram filter featuring their iconic quatrefoils interspersed along a hand-drawn rainbow, encouraging followers to “share the #LV 🌈 spirit”. Simultaneously, stores around the world were decorated with various rainbows, contributed by the children of employees. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ While rainbow iconography spans centuries and cultures, it’s most commonly associated in modern context with the queer community, which has used the symbol since the 1970s. In honor of the anniversary the 1969 Stonewall riots, Pride-related parades and events have occurred every June since. The celebration has evolved into a month-long occasion where communities worldwide proudly display their solidarity, often through rainbow motifs. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Fashion influencer @bryanboycom noted LV’s choice in an instagram story, asking “… is there a reason why they omitted references to Pride/LGBT in their communications usage of the rainbows especially during Pride month?” Meanwhile, a press write up in CR Fashion book said LV’s usage of the rainbow “ symbolizes hope and new adventure, fitting for this current moment”, with a Pride tie-in mentioned as a side note and seemingly happy coincidence. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ During the coronavirus pandemic, the rainbow became a symbol of support in the UK for people wanting to show solidarity with NHS front line workers. Peaking in April, social media users shared rainbow artwork in support. It is unclear whether this is what the brand is referencing. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It was only in Oct. 2019 that LV welcomed Trump to the opening of their new Texas factory. In WaPo’s coverage of the event, @RobinGivhan questioned the alliance. “Can there be neutral ground when the players are a president who has made women in general, along with immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community, feel as though they are under siege…?". The Trump administration just formally reversed an Obama-era policy that protected transgender patients from discrimination in healthcare. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ With its vague messaging and awkward timing, is Louis Vuitton’s rainbow-filled message a covert acknowledgement of the queer community without alienating conservative brand devotees?
According to the brand representative, “the campaign was launched in response to schools being shut down in order to spread a message of hope and positivity and to cheer people up.”
Louis Vuitton reached out internally to employees and had their children submit their own drawings of rainbows. Thirteen drawings were selected from children in the United States and China to those in Paris and Madrid and exposed on windows and facades of stores worldwide.
The project launched with an installation at Vuitton’s Fifth Avenue boutique in New York and the subsequent roll out included the Champs-Elysées store in Paris and the Madrid store in Spain.
The representative added that while only a lucky few had been selected, all the images had been shared internally, and “It was about celebrating kids who have also suffered acutely during the pandemic.” The campaign was announced May 20 following the reopening of the first wave of stores and formed “a private initiative not linked to ‘Pride month'”.
“We’ve been quietly supporting the LBGTQ community for a long time both in our campaigns and our runway shows and although it is not something we communicate on, it is crystal clear and a given,” the representative noted. They cited the fall ’19 and spring ’20 shows which respectively featured Canadian transgender model Krow Kian British transgender singer Sophie Xeon sophie xeon.
The brand also cited the spring ’16 campaign featuring male model Jaden Smith wearing women’s clothing designed by Nicolas Ghesquière.
In terms of the brand’s previous relationship with the rainbow iconography, let’s not forget Virgil Abloh’s men’s wear debut,where the runway was conceived as a color gradient with obvious nods to aforementioned rainbow.
Louis Vuitton is not the only brand to embrace rainbow iconography throughout the pandemic. British label Kurt Geiger has also employed the motif for some time. Last year, it launched a range of rainbow-colored accessories and donated a percentage of the profits to British children’s charity The Rainbow Trust. Neither of which has previously brooked any such negative backlash.