Stephen Sprouse's graffiti leopard is so much ingrained into part of Louis Vuitton's 21st century identity, ever since Marc Jacobs introduced it back in 2005. Same goes for the cartoonish kitsch of Takeshi Murakami or Yayoi Kusama's polka dots. Once established, that artist-borrowed visual language doesn't feel out of step with Louis Vuitton, despite the widespread tokenism of luxury brands pairing up with the art world. And so it is that we have another famed graffiti auteur invited by Louis Vuitton to treat its products as a blank canvas. Ben Flynn aka EINE will be no stranger to those that follow the ins and outs of street art or regularly walk around Shoreditch in East London. In fact, his work might have crept up into your visual conscience without you even noticing. Eine has designed a scarf as part of Vuitton's Foulards D'Artistes series with a neon-lit depiction of the words "Great Adventures" in his signature bold 'Vandal' font. Navaz of Disney Rollergirl, Shini of Park and Cube, Betty of Le Blog de Betty and I were therefore invited to go on a condensed art walk around Shoreditch, visiting (or in my case, re-visiting) Eine's famed work on the streets, guided by longtime Eine supporter Cassius Colman, who owns the Nelly Duff Gallery.
Colman was quick to point out how Eine's work immediately distinguished itself from the rest of the graffiti scene by way of elaborate typography. His most famous piece of work is probably the then-dubbed Alphabet Street where he painted the sequence of the alphabet on the closed shutters of shops all along Middlesex Street, lending a visually cheerful vibe to street art that perhaps hadn't existed before (not surprisingly people who buy Eine's prints like to buy them for their children to encourage them to learn the alphabet). His work tends to spell out messages that point at pertinent issues. Take the "Worth More" piece on Old Street, which previously spelled out 'Change', which I barely noticed for two years when I worked at Dazed & Confused across the world. Both were painted in commemoration of Tom Easton, who was knifed to death in 2006 and commissioned by the Tom Easton Flavasum Trust to bring awareness to knife crime in London. There's often tongue and cheek involved in both Eine's choice of fonts as well as word play. A newish mural on Middlesex Street sees A-B-C building block lettering jumbled up and when deciphered, it says "Sell the house, sell the kids, sell the wife", a line from the film Apocalypse Now. Entirely appropriate and slightly hilarious as the mural is on the edge of London's financial district and even as we were taken photos of it, 9-5 workers were asking us what was it we were looking at. It's a chuckle at corporate culture's expense without being needlessly offensive. Eine's SCARY piece under the tunnel on Rivington Street has stood the test of time alongside bits of Banksy's stencil work (they were partners in crime back in the day) as examples of street art that showcase the 180 degree shift from renegade forms of expression to respected national treasures almost. Sanction by the establishment doesn't get more official than British prime minister David Cameron gifting President Obama an Eine print.
We were finally led back to the man himself, at Selfridges Oxford Street where he was creating an installation wall, laboriously stencilling and painting out repeat patterns of his Louis Vuitton scarf design and where I got to 'artfully' drape Eine's font around the neck to ensure as many of the letters from his Great Adventures would be exposed. Eine was as down to earth as you'd expect from someone whose work is fundamentally meant for universal and democratic consumption, despite his mainstream crossover into commercial projects. It's also abundantly clear that whether it's a 140cm x 140cm silk chiffon scarf in a luxury brand atelier or or a closed shop shutter at midnight – to Eine, they're all just blank canvases.
Some of the above photography of art tour taken by Mark Rigney of Hooked