The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off this weekend in Japan, and fans from all across the globe are heading to Tokyo to catch a match—or a few—at the Ajinomoto Stadium. This is the first time the tournament is to be held in Asia, outside the traditional heartland of the rugby union. To commemorate the momentous event, Louis Vuitton has launched its first rugby ball in collaboration with renowned former All Blacks player, Dan Carter, which will be released exclusively in Japan today.
Since 1854, Louis Vuitton has brought unique designs to the world. Although not new to sporting collaborations—let’s recall that it was only last year that the FIFA World Cup Russia Collection was released—the house has now created its first-ever rugby ball; a sporting accessory that could encourage even the most discerning of sports fans to get their hands on.
The limited-edition ball parallels the number of appearances Dan Carter has made for New Zealand between 2003 and 2015—only 112 are available for purchase. Alongside the house’s artisans, Carter was heavily involved in the creative process, choosing a black and silver colourway that's inspired by the All Blacks rugby kit. Combining innovation with style, the ball is crafted in the Monogram Eclipse canvas which creates a modern juxtaposition against the classic and traditional lacing. The oval-stitched patch made with Louis Vuitton’s tanned cowhide leather ties the ball together, emphasising the whole design.
Each leather ball also features Carter’s signature for that added personal touch sports enthusiasts would appreciate. In addition to that, each is accompanied by its own carrying harness and a T-shirt signed by Carter—the perfect memento to celebrate the Rugby World Cup. Or as Carter says: "it's more than everything that I thought it would be".
How did this collaboration between you and Louis Vuitton for a rugby ball come about?
It's always been a dream for me to one day design a rugby ball, and even more so with Louis Vuitton. I love fashion and I have been a friend of the house for a long time, but my biggest passion is rugby. So, it's how can we bring these two together.
Louis Vuitton has also had a past with rugby, so maybe it was coherent?
I've played in four Rugby World Cups. And for the last world cup, Louis Vuitton was there at the final with the case for the Webb Ellis Cup, so it has an affiliation with rugby. I love doing things that have not been done before and was thrilled when we agreed to it, and it has been such an amazing experience. Often, with rugby we train pretty hard and we don't get to see how things are done from the very first stage, so to be able to design, to be a part of that creative process, has been amazing.
What can you tell us about the creative process?
The most challenging thing was deciding the materials: canvas versus leather; even though I knew in my mind that either would look fantastic. When you are working with an amazing brand like Louis Vuitton, the details, the finer parts of the process, are always going to be of the highest quality. So for me, as it was a new experience, I was going along for the ride and adding my input where I could.
Then we had to start thinking about the market as well, which I really hadn’t thought about. Not just what I like, but also what the people of Japan would like—that’s where we are showcasing the ball, where all the rugby community is going to be, in Japan. And the fact that I am currently living there just creates a really cool story.
How did you feel once you had the ball, the finished product, in your hands?
I was so happy. Even after having gone through the process, you still don’t know 100 percent how it’s going to turn out. But when you see it for the first time, in that moment, it is like a dream come true. All the hard work that had been done with the design team, picking the materials, the colours, the final details, it all came together perfectly. The Louis Vuitton and Dan Carter rugby ball, it's more than everything that I thought it would be.
Why did you choose these specific materials? The combination of the Monogram Eclipse Canvas and the black natural cowhide leather?
It was a tough decision, and like I said, I think any of the materials would have looked fantastic on a rugby ball. I love history—the history of the brand, of the company—and the Monogram is a real heritage piece of Louis Vuitton. It was then a question of the brown or the black version. Coming back to my roots as a New Zealander and having played for the All Blacks for so long (in a black jersey) and having the career that I did, black is a strong colour that really relates well to me and my rugby career. I also thought about the Japanese market and thinking they would absolutely love it. It stood out to me compared to the other leather materials we could have used. It's the main reason that we decided on the Monogram, and again I love the history aspect as well.
Besides having been part of the creative and design process, any personal anecdotes or highlights on this ball?It's got my personalised signature, my name, the Louis Vuitton branding, and you will find a very special part of the bow, that amazing leather, vintage-looking lacing that was a direct request I had put in. I love this sort of history, the vintage style, the lacing. I wanted a ball that looked vintage but was still relevant in today's market, so it's like a bit of a mix of the two; the vintage style with the modern look.
Another part of the design process was the shape, it was important that it could be immediately identified as a rugby ball. That was the first thing I looked at when I saw the ball, to make sure that it’s not an American football shape, but a real rugby ball. There was the detail in the lacing, the shape was perfect, the size, so yes, it's a rugby ball.
Is this the ideal ball for you? The vintage but modern aspects with the representations of your roots, the All Blacks…?
When you design something like that, it needs to have a story, so the colourway—from the dark black, from my New Zealand heritage, the vintage style of the lacing of the original rugby balls they used to play with decades ago, the modern look, the Monogram canvas, the little bit of details on the stitching, the signature—it all comes together perfectly.
What will you do with your ball that you will keep?
This sounds bad, but I will probably kick it through the posts. As much as I'd love to sit it in my house as a beautiful piece, there is just something that I need to do whenever I have a ball in my hand and that's to kick it. I’m going to find the goal posts and I am going to kick the ball through the posts because that's just what I am so used to. I will be so worried about getting it dirty, doing any damage to it, so I'll quickly grab it, clean it like it's my baby, and get it perfect again. And then put it there for people to enjoy and to pass on to my children. My children will probably kick it too much, and they can pass it on to their children, and it will be around for generations.
You will let your children play with it?
I will let them touch it, but they would probably destroy it. Some of the other toys that they have, they've destroyed, and this is a very special piece I want them to admire. They will be able to touch it and throw it around a little bit, but they won't be kicking it around the muddy rugby fields of New Zealand.
The Louis Vuitton and Dan Carter rugby ball is available in selected Louis Vuitton stores in Japan from today.