20 May 2008

Louis Vuitton and Darfur

It would seem that Louis Vuitton has its knickers in a knot, or perhaps a better analogy would be its handbags turned inside out, with a t-shirt that is destined to do big business in Internet sales. Nadia Plesner, a Danish activist with an interest in the ongoing conflict and unfolding tragedy that is Darfur, has produced a t-shirt that has the image of a starving little black boy holding a Louis Vuitton bag and interestingly cradling a little dog that very much resembles the mutt that Paris Hilton has.

The Louis Vuitton bag is obviously a trademarked design and legally cannot be used without permission of the owners of the trademark. Well, this is the claim of Louis Vuitton anyway. I wonder if Paris Hilton has thought about trademarking her dog in some way. I wonder if it is even possible? Because when I first looked at the image I recognized the dog and thought how Paris Hilton is that. I guess I am not a fashionista because although I saw the bag I did not immediately recognize it as a Louis Vuitton. besides I don't have the money to be buying Louis Vuitton bags, except for some much cheaper imitation version, anyway.

Louis Vuitton has won an injunction in a Parisian Court to stop Plesner from selling the t-shirts, but in true activist style Plesner has refused to comply with the order. This has compelled Louis Vuitton to up the ante and take further legal action to force compliance. Apparently, there is a meeting scheduled for 30 May between Plesner and the Louis Vuitton executives to thrash out a compromise.

One would think that this is a no brainer for Louis Vuitton, you simply would not want your product to be associated with the violence and suffering in Darfur in this way. If Louis Vuitton was to compromise and allow the image then it would seem that this is another case where dollars trumps common sense. Simply, the picture says to me that Western Nations and big businesses are complicit in the violence and suffering in Darfur and Sudan, and are making money off of the suffering of our fellow human beings. does Louis Vuitton really want to make its money this way.

Interestingly, Plesner says that she already has 4000 orders for the t-shirt and posters with the image. T-shirts are selling at USD 53 and posters at USD 20 so it is a nice little revenue raiser with the profits going to the Divest for Darfur campaign.

Clearly something needs to be done in Darfur and Sudan with more than 200,000 people already killed and more than 2.5 million made homeless. As human beings we cannot sit idly by as our brothers and sisters are suffering in such terrible circumstances. So, in that sense a USD 50 t-shirt or a USD 20 poster seems like a pretty good contribution. If I was the lawyer that was representing Louis Vuitton then my advice would be to make a donation to the Divest for Darfur campaign and buy the rights to the design from Plesner. This might be a public relations winner rather than a nightmare.

I am awaiting Plesner's next project which supposedly involves a take -off of the Little Miss series and involves Little Miss becoming Little Miss Child Prostitute. Plesner is an activist on a mission!


Rob Baiton said...

I know people have passed by this post by the stats on my page visit counter...too bad it does not inspire any comments!

Anonymous said...

well it's just kinda old news.
but anyway GO Nadia Plesner.