In December, I followed Louis Vuitton‘s wonderful invitation to celebrate the inauguration of the house’s new “winter resort”. After the opening of its first store in Gstaad in 2004, the stunning new shop on the renowned Promenade reinforces its ties with the famous Swiss ski resort.
Built on a single level, the store is a special example of Alpine design, featuring unique and luxurious furniture. At its heart, a marble, stone and wood fireplace creates a welcoming atmosphere.
Before leaving from the Alpina Gstaad to the cocktail reception at the new store, I had the honour to interview Roberto Eggs, President Louis Vuitton Northern Europe. Find out why Louis Vuitton products are never going on sale, hear more about the house’s first fragrance and which will be the strongest markets in 2013. Enjoy this insight into the world of the famous French Maison!
What are the Louis Vuitton core values?
The main one belongs to travel. The story of travelling started a long time ago when the young Louis Vuitton at the age of 14 left home for a very long trip on foot from his native Anchay to Paris in 1835. After having arrived at the French capital, he started to create a company for box-making and packing for people to travel.
Linked to the DNA of the brand, there is the travel, the most important today for us, the canvas, the leather and the new metier, a breath of fresh air, is related to fashion thanks to Marc Jacobs.
How can you ensure the durability of the Louis Vuitton image of luxury and exceptional quality?
It is a challenge every day. I believe in every single action, from ourselves, from our employees. It is important to create unique products and an unique experience for our clients in the store. We have a luxury for everyone and a luxury for each one.
Could you tell us a little bit about the new store concept for Gstaad?
I challenged the approach for resorts because Louis Vuitton has got the highest amount of those, for both summer and winter. Our first one was Crans Montana, which opened in 1996. First, I was thinking about the experience. People like to buy when they are on holidays and are sometimes disappointed by the limited selection they find compared to the big cities. Therefore I wanted to create an experience that clients for example cannot have in Champs-Elysées.
We started with St.Tropez, followed by Gstaad to create the same feeling for winter. Before, the store held the record to be the smallest Louis Vuitton shop in the world with 18m². So, first of all, I looked for a suitable space. In Singapore, it is an island, in St. Tropez a villa, so in Gstaad, it had to be a chalet. We found this fantastic place on the historic Promenade, and created the perfect mountain style by building a modern chalet. In 1996 we didn’t have the ready-to-wear collection or shoes because Marc Jacobs hadn’t been working yet for Louis Vuitton. But today, we can offer a specific capsule collection in our “winter resorts”.
Are you planning to change other stores, too?
We will rennovate the St. Moritz store followed by Crans Montana and integrate the new concept.
Moreover, we have two cities in Switzerland with strong potential. In Zurich, we are planning to offer ready-to-wear for men in the future and in Geneva, an “apartment” is foreseen to present the haute maroquinerie collection.
Another “apartment” that we are going to open in April is in Moscow’s GUM that will have the most amazing view, overlooking the famous Red Square.
How far can the luxury market go?
The limits are the limits that we have in our minds. You are setting the limits yourselves.
For me, there is still a lot to do on an international scale, last fall, we opened our first store in Kazakhstan in the city of Almaty. The 700 m²shop sells all of our brand’s lines and is workling very well. We have not been present in Poland yet and will open Warsaw this upcoming June.
Personalization is the trend of the future. We started with some new products, such as unique haute jewelry pieces,and haute maroquinerie. Six very peculiar shapes that are available in 30 different types of leather, including exotic leathers, and 30 different colours. Customers can create their own bag in a very special ceremony, that will take 6 months to be produced. I am planning to bring this outstanding service to Switzerland.
The same goes for our made-to-order men shoes that are available at our global store in Milano, and now also at London’s New Bond Street. Russia will follow this year.
Speaking of the international development prognosis, which will be the strongest market in 2013?
As I said, we are working on expanding the concept of haute maroquinerie and made-to-order shoes. The strongest market next year might be Russia, that is growing very fast.
And what about Asia?
Of course, there is China, and plenty of other markets are developing very well like Thailand and Taiwan.
How do fake products influence the house of Louis Vuitton?
Clearly it is bad because counterfeiting is linked to child labour and black money that we have no tolerance for. Last year, we had 30.000 counterfeiting acts, from physical actions, websites and so on. It is a war that is very difficult to fight. The success is linked to the support of the local authorities, like France does for example.
The change in legislation in Switzerland has been also very helpful. When you enter the country and wear something fake, it has become a crime, there is no more tolerance, it is not for personal use anymore. That has helped a lot.
How different in terms of products are the sales in the European countries that you supervise?
Leather is the strongest category in every country. That is what clients are expecting when the enter the world of Louis Vuitton. Russia is more about ready-to-wear and shoes, and the explanation is very easy. Since 1997, Marc Jacobs has been designing the house’s prêt-à-porter collection. Ten years ago, when we entered the Russian market, we did it with the complete range of clothing, shoes and leather. For Russian clients, Vuitton is fashion. Whereas for example, in Switzerland, where we entered 30 years ago, it is still more about the trunks, the monogram and less ready-to-wear. Here in Switzerland, we have 8 stores, but only two of them are selling the ready-to-wear line, Geneva and Zurich. This will change now…
Why are Louis Vuitton products never going on sale?
There are two parts of the sale. Obviously the one, when you are benefitting from it, but there is also the other side, when you are not happy with it because you bought something full price and a week later you see it marked down on sale.
For us, we are not going to do it as we value the work that is done by the artisans in our ateliers. By going on sale, it is like taking something off from these values.
Of course, it is a more challenging way of managing the business. You have to have restrictions and not make everything available everywhere. Louis Vuitton is managing its level of production versus what is sold in a very efficient way. We have people in charge that are giving the most specific attention to the level of what is sold and in which country, in which sizes and so on. They are following the stores, the buying and the collection and are monitoring the sales on a daily basis. If something is not selling well in one shop, it will be moved to another one where the demand is high for it.
What is Switzerland’s bestselling product?
There is something totally special. The Zurich store has got the highest sales worldwide of the Noé bag (see above).
The story of the Noé bag is very interesting. It was a special order for a customer to carry champagne bottles. The construction of the bag was so clever, that it has become one of our bestsellers.
Great news for the Zurich customers and of course all others worldwide. The Noé bag will be launched in some amazing new colours for this summer (as you can see in this sneak preview above).
I have heard some rumors about an upcoming Louis Vuitton perfume? Is it true?
Yes, there is one project that we have started to work on, to build our atelier in Grasse. It is foreseen to be launched in the beginning of 2014. We have thrown in many ideas, but it is to early to say it is going to be a feminine or masculine perfume but one thing is for sure, it is going to be unique.
Thank you, Mr Eggs, for this wonderful interview!
If you are interested to know what I was wearing for the event, here is my look. I combined different Louis Vuitton items from different seasons to create a “winter resort” outfit with a touch of cocktail allure.
Knitted dress with sequined belt from the S/S 2011 runway collection, fur necklace and earmuffs (F/W 2010), boots (F/W 2009), long black coat with golden trimmings and oversized leopard-printed fur collar (F/W 2005) and my beloved personalized Sac Louis.
Spotted in the window: The beautiful bi-colour fur vest in a new interesting combination.
In the other window, a Christmas Trunk, limited to three pieces worldwide, filled with the most exquisite ornaments showed the know-how and magic of the Maison’s special orders.
After the cocktail reception in the new store, we went on a very romantic coach journey in a horse-drawn carriage covered with Louis Vuitton blankets with a little bit of snow falling from the sky. We arrived at a beautifully decorated cowshed where we were spoilt to a gourmet menu.
A huge thank you to the whole Louis Vuitton team for this very special time in Gstaad! I have enjoyed every single minute of it!