The pop-up store has its origins in street retail, but one of the luxury brands to leverage this concept most successfully is Louis Vuitton. Last November, the French maison opened a pop-up store in Sydney to introduce its spring/summer 2017 collection to fashionistas down under.

“It’s just really to present the collection in a different way,” said Kim Jones, Louis Vuitton’s Creative Director for Menswear, when he oversaw the opening of the Sydney pop-up store. “You know there are a lot of facets at Louis Vuitton, so you can go to a big store and be
quite drowned out by lots of things. But this is just to focus on what the new collection is about.”

The new collection is especially intriguing as it is, in a way, a continuation of Jones’ first show for Louis Vuitton, which also drew on African themes. It also marks his second collaboration with The Chapman Brothers, and both of these influences featured heavily in the store at Westfield Sydney shopping centre, which is within walking distance of the city’s main Louis Vuitton emporium on George Street.

As you stepped into the store proper, your eyes were drawn downwards to a sketch of an elephant on the floor. It was done in Jake and Dinos Chapman’s unique style – all bulging eyes, sharp teeth and a menacing grin. The elephant and other animals, all drawn in the same style, were pasted on many of the items on display.

There was a keepall with a sharp-toothed giraffe; a flocked T-shirt with a zebra featuring different textures for its mane and body; and an Amazone bag in Damier Ebene with a rhino. The last is exclusive to the pop-up store. More conventional – but still stylishly in-season and quintessentially Louis Vuitton – pieces were also available, including a shimmering blue and white pyjama top bearing the maison’s “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” slogan.

The entire pop-up store was contained in a single chrome shell; quite similar to the one they used for their Bangkok pop-up store in early 2016, but much more abstract and with a more pronounced sense of fluidity. Seen from the outside, it looked for all the world like a liquid metal sculpture. That being said, the design certainly worked: There was a palpable transition from a “shopping mall” to an “intimate boutique” draped in blues, metallic colors and earthy tones.

It might not scream “African safari” but the pop-up store did manage to elicit the sense of exploring a new land full of strange beasts and incredible sights. “It’s like reading stories from the Louis Vuitton archives,” Jones quipped during a brief interview session before the popup store’s opening. “About travellers who had trunks made to go to Africa and then seeing what they were doing in Africa and taking inspiration like that.”

Opening night for Louis Vuitton’s Sydney pop-up store was, predictably, a star-studded event. Still, the pop-up store wasn’t exactly a large venue. So, after touring the store, invited guests and VIPs were directed to the Studio at Sydney Tower to sip cocktails, enjoy the stunning night view (from 300-plus metres above the street) and mingle with the who’s who of Sydney.

Moving between the two venues proved to be a slow-paced affair, but nobody seemed to mind and the lines in front of the three elevators were quite relaxed as people happily mingled and browsed at the pop-up store itself. Being such an eye-popping collection, Louis Vuitton’s spring/summer 2017 offerings were natural conversation starters, anyway.

It did seem, however, that it was Kim Jones himself who ended up commuting quite a bit throughout the night, shuffling between the store and the party, posing for photo ops, or simply greeting his guests and fans. These included top Australian models Jarrod Scott and Jordan Barret (the latter was seen sporting the aforementioned “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” top), electronic music duo Flight Facilities and actor Jai Courtney.

The Sydney pop-up store was preceded by one in Berlin and was followed soon after by yet another, in London. “And then there’s one coming up in Beijing in January, as well as one in Milan,” Jones pointed out hours before the opening party. “Our collections are doing really well and it’s a good way of getting the message out there to people.” So, it’s safe to assume that Louis Vuitton’s message of African inspirations (and whatever the designers of the house will dream up next) will continue popping up all over the globe for the year to come and beyond.