The Sublime Meaning of Louis Vuitton's World Cup Trophy Case

For the next two weeks, I'll be deferring to some friends for their World Cup-related insights. Yesterday, Anmol Chaddha, our man in Cape Town, maneuvered the tricky, harshly realistic expectations of the host fans. Today, Pete L'Official—who has previously guested in this space with his musings on Cristiano Ronaldo—considers the meaning of Louis Vuitton's plush, edition-of-one World Cup Trophy case. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? (Well, I do. And it involves R. Kelly.) Be sure to bookmark this page, until the blog's RSS feed gets sorted out.

By Pete L'Official

Of all the pleasantly bewildering things to behold in these days leading up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the image of Louis Vuitton's FIFA World Cup Trophy Case, with the trophy itself safely ensconced in what looks like velvet-lined interiors, certainly ranks among the most provocative. That FIFA should call upon one of France's most famous fashion houses to appoint a bespoke accessory for one of the world's most famous prizes? Not at all surprising. Neither is the fact that the case comes plastered with the company's signature monogram. (Any perceived vulgarity of taste here is far outweighed by the refinement of their other Cup-themed promotional campaign.)

What is rather chastening about the idea of such a luxurious—or ridiculous—object won't be found in the picture that features trophy and case, presented under the bright and watchful eyes of Naomi Campbell (!), but in another: that of the same case, but one amidst many, many others, all similarly logo-stamped. This is the trophy's Raiders of the Lost Ark moment. ( In case you've forgotten...)

One-of-one, you could say that Louis V's case is more limited in edition than the trophy itself (of which there are two, though only one of solid gold--the one given out to the winning team is merely gold-plated.). Which makes the case all the more fascinating: this made-to-order object, so specialized and specifically designed to execute one purpose—to house the World Cup Trophy—is then designed to look on its exterior like every other piece of Louis Vuitton luggage you have ever seen in your lifetime, whether bootleg or the genuine article. It is, on the part of LMVH, a gesture both breathtakingly arrogant and one that frankly makes me smile. Of course they would slap their logo all over the box. Louis Vuitton, and certainly those who make calculatedly public use of their production line (talking to you, Kanye, Pharrell, fact, what are the odds on Yeezy being on the phone to the company's original workshop in Asnières right now looking for a one-off carrying case for the next Grammy that he will unceremoniously lose to someone extremely undeserving of one) is not a line known for subtlety.

If the image seemed shocking or dismaying, my point is that it shouldn't. Yes, it fills a conspicuous role in a world already too familiar with advertising and sponsorship, label collaborations and brand crossovers, corporate synergy and transnational signifiers, but it also provides us with a rare and spectacular vision—a singular moment and a single object—befitting that of the spectacle of talent, tactics, pride, politics, architecture, infrastructure, marketing, fashion, beauty (...and everything else that Bono told you it wasn't about) that comprises the World Cup. It almost beggars belief, like only some of the best of World Cup moments can. (And stay tuned for an impassioned meditation on this very Dutch moment from a fellow contributor.)

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Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. More

Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Bookforum, Slate, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe Ideas section and The Wire (for whom he writes a bi-monthly column). He is on the editorial board for the New Literary History of America.

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