Majority of the market will always be drawn to a Louis Vuitton store for its entry-level logo canvas bags. But with news that luxury brands’ handbag business is suffering versus middle-end brands, the French malletier looks bent on reaffirming its luxury status by boosting its bespoke service, introduced just a couple of years ago.
For a limited period, Louis Vuitton’s Haute Maroquinerie caravan is in Manila to present its personalized service to VIP clients. After all, for this exclusive market, even the most expensive item on the retail floor sometimes just won’t cut it.
Haute Maroquinerie is the leather goods equivalent of haute couture, explains Angela Poblador-Antonio, assistant manager of the Louis Vuitton boutique in Greenbelt 4. The service is available year-round only in select Louis Vuitton Maisons around the world; the closest to the Philippines is in Hong Kong.
On its Manila jaunt, the brand presented Haute Maroquinerie only to key clients (you need to call for an appointment to view the presentation, until April 6 only; tel. 7560637). This is the penultimate in luxury for the house; you get to build the bag of your dreams from a selection of styles and skins, linings and hardware. You can personalize it, even more with your name stamped inside.
The bespoke service has five bag styles to choose from. There are three classic shapes: the structural-shaped Lockit, which was first created in 1958; the drawstring style Noe, designed in 1932 to carry five champagne bottles; and the Triangle, designed in 1934 for a Vuitton grandmother to hold her knitting threads.
There are also two new shapes: the Neo Steamer, inspired by mid-century steamer bags, and the Milaris, a boxy but supple bag named after Milan and Paris.
Though you will be presented with an iPad app on which you can customize your purse, you will also be shown the material selections, housed in a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk, the multicolor leathers neatly piled in drawers and binders.
There are 27 colors to choose from, three leather families of eight exceptional leathers, of varied grains and finishes, as well as two types of crocodile skins. You can also choose between lamb and goat skin for the lining. The hardware can be gold or palladium. We’re told there are 80,000 possible combinations.
Unlike its famous canvas purses, there are no loud logos or distinguishing marks in the bespoke style, save for a discreet embossed “Louis Vuitton Paris,” for instance, on the front flap of the Milaris, and the padlocks.
How would people know then that it’s a Louis Vuitton purse? This is a question that was often raised at presentations, we’re told. The response: “You will know.” At that level of luxury, you don’t need a logo to proclaim that that purse in the crook of your arm is extra-special. You’re paying for both the craftsmanship and the heritage of the malletier.
The orders are sent to the Louis Vuitton workshop in Asnieres outside Paris. It takes about six months (for regular leather) to a year (for the exotics) for delivery, a true test of the EQ of wealthy Filipino clients.
Poblador-Antonio says they’ve received offers to buy the samples in the caravan, bids that were gently declined. If you’re paying at least half a million pesos for a purse (and up to about P2 million for the crocodile skins), the clients were told, you might as well get one that’s completely brand new and made to your specifications—with your name stamped on it.
PHOTOS BY LEO SABANGAN