After being a presence on the Chinese mainland for 20 years, Louis Vuitton believes it has reached the status of art. The idea can be glimpsed in the brand new Louis Vuitton “maison” designed by Peter Marino in Shanghai’s fashionable Plaza 66 mall, opened in conjunction with the anniversary. The new store – the 16th maison for the brand – sprawls over four floors and features a golden spiral staircase, not to mention the invitation-only “Apartment,” which boasts a hair salon where customers can ponder their choice of customized merchandise. Because as Louis Vuitton gets older, it certainly gets wiser. Having exhausted its elite status with a plethora of logoed products, the brand has re-imagined exclusivity.
“The made-to-order concept is the ultimate luxury,”said Louis Vuitton’s CEO, Yves Carcelle. “It’s the same with art. If you are interested in art, the ultimate is to commission an artist rather than buy a piece that is already done. Maybe in the West, this trend took 20 years but here it takes 5 years from the first purchase to the willingness to have more sophisticated products and services.”
The new space in Shanghai features sections for men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, leather goods, watches and jewelry, shoes, belts, and rare products, but it was designed as the hub of custom-made service in China. In addition to unique bags and shoes, the location offers customizable mahjong tile boxes and tea chests. “As long as we didn’t have this space to show them to our clients, in a world that is changing fast, we were missing our weapons,” Carcelle said.
Carcelle’s opinion on the need for the new maison, staffed with 100 employees, arrives amidst reports that the Chinese luxury market is quieting. Christopher Zanardi-Landi, the brand’s executive vice president, makes clear that Louis Vuitton’s strategy does not lie in expansion. “It’s more of a question of differentiation and upgrading shopping experiences within cities,” he said. “Ten years ago, Chinese customers were not so sophisticated and very logo-driven. But they are now very knowledgeable.”
The executive vice president called the Shanghai maison the ultimate luxury experience in the world, like a voyage of discovery.”
photo credit: louis vuitton