Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The secret to Louis Vuitton's longevity

In the second report of the ‘Fashion Season: Paris’ theme week, Isa Soares looks at the history and craftsmanship behind long-lived luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton

VIDEO: http://edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2014/02/25/spc-paris-fashion-week-louis-vuitton-soares-pkg.cnn.html 

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's arguably the most-recognized fashion brand in the world. Here at Louis Vuitton, every detail is stitched, hammered, and painted by hand by master craftsmen.

SOARES (on camera): At the heart of the Louis Vuitton brand is travel. This is how it really all began. Take a look at this suitcase. Inside it is a foldable bed. It was used and sold in the late 19th century for the exploration of Africa. The same with this one here, it's actually made of aluminum, so the insects couldn't get in.

SOARES (voice-over): From trunks to handbags and special commissions, everything is painstakingly produced at workshops like this one just outside of Paris. Some pieces require 300 stages to assemble. At the helm of Louis Vuitton's parent company, LVMH, the largest luxury group in the world, is Bernard Arnault.

BERNARD ARNAULT, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, LVMH: We already are behind the possibility of production because we want to keep the best level of quality and to train our team. Maybe it takes 18 months to two years before they can really start producing.

MICHEL DUFRENOY, CRAFTSMAN, LOUIS VUITTON (through translator): I've been working here for 26 years. I verify and make sure that all the corners are perfect.

SOARES: The brand has a long history. Louis Vuitton himself came to Paris as an apprentice trunk maker the year before the first ocean liners made their maiden trans-Atlantic voyages. It was a time of great productivity.

SOARES (on camera): This is the home of Louis Vuitton and his family. It was built in 1869, and you can tell, having a look around, the attention to detail and craftsmanship began at home, from the stained glass windows in the 1900s to that blue art nouveau fireplace. Even the chandelier, which screams la belle epoque.

ARNAULT: (inaudible) special that has been ordered by a customer that we design for him.

SOARES (voice-over): Today, LVMH has over 60 brands in its portfolio, and Louis Vuitton alone is worth almost $30 billion, according to Forbes. Merchandising French style is what has proved so popular with customers around the world.

ARNAULT: I remember when the first time I went to China in 1991 for the opening of the first Louis Vuitton shop, and in the streets of Beijing, you had no cars, only bicycles. And in spite of that, we opened, and because we were the first in China, we still are the first today.

SOARES: So, in a global market, what's the value of an event like Paris Fashion Week?

SOARES (on camera): How does that translate from the catwalk to goods sold?

ARNAULT: Very often on the catwalk, you trigger the desire of the customer. And very often, after the show, we have a demand for the product that has been shown.

SOARES (voice-over): Demand that Louis Vuitton, the teenaged trunk apprentice, could only have dreamed of.

Isa Soares, CNN, Paris