SPORTING blazingly obvious brand logos is outlawed in the discerning fashionista’s rulebook. And yet the power of the iconic LV monogram has always managed to prove an exception to this rule, and today reaches it a crescendo as the flagship Louis Vuitton “maison” opens on New Bond Street, following a week of glorious publicity and one of the splashiest, most extravagant parties in fashion history.
The success story of Louis Vuitton, the biggest luxury brand in the world, tells a very different story to the hand-wringing one concerned with London’s financial peril. On one hand, investors are taking their cash elsewhere because of punitive taxes, and brains are draining to Hong Kong and Switzerland; meanwhile the most luxurious brands in the world are going from strength to strength in the capital.
Mark Henderson, director of Walpole, the luxury market consultancy, says: “The opening of this flagship store was a huge affirmation of the importance of London as a luxury centre. The area between Savile Row, Bond Street and Mount Street is the best in the world for luxury shopping.”
So while the City might be feeling a pinch and breathing in for a double dip, Bond Street is in its prime. “The rents are at record levels at the moment on Bond Street, and there’s nothing free whatsoever. Spending in the West End is drastically up on last year at this time. China is still a tremendous engine, and the States are picking up. Savile Row has been doing some fabulous trunk shows in the States – some have been the best ever.”
Henderson believes the success of brands such as Vuitton are about a migration to quality over a long period of time: such that the “luxury business has been getting stronger and stronger and stronger. If you track back 20 years, there has been constant growth,” he says. Indeed, the notion of quality and craftsmanship is a huge seller – LV’s recent ad campaign has traded actresses with pouty red lips for studious seamstresses lovingly stitching pockets.
But in a sea of mega Mulberrys, Pradas, Guccis and the rest, what is it about Louis Vuitton that has made it the supreme king of New Bond Street? “It cleverly juggles exclusivity with mass appeal. It’s got carefully controlled distribution, and presents products beautifully. Shopping at a “maison” is an experience,” says Henderson.
It’s also about history – “the brand has worked very very hard over a long period to establish its fame,” he says. Indeed – the first London outpost of LV was 1900; the brand was founded in 1854.
Tara Nash-King, founder of fashion brokerage Chic & Seek (www.chic andseek.com), says her stock of second hand Vuitton has always flown off the shelves. “This week I’ve sold out of Louis Vuitton,” she says. “People love it; they love the classic monogram style, it always sells out. It has such a good reputation for quality and a very high standard of quality control. Some people prefer something understated, but this is a status symbol, an immediate kind of sign of who you are. In this case, the bigger the logo, the better.”