Wednesday, June 17, 2009

LoVe Louis Vuitton

Without a doubt, Louis Vuitton is the dominant fashion brand of the world today, generating more money in sales than any other brand in the luxury market. Louis Vuitton was founded in 1854 in Paris by Monsieur Louis Vuitton, who was a master trunk-maker for members of the French aristocracy. While he started out with one single shop on the Rue des Capucines, Vuitton’s merchandise became so popular that only five years later he was able to start expanding his business, purchasing land throughout France in order to set up workshops where his products could be manufactured. He worked with his son, Georges Vuitton, who designed the famous monogram canvas in 1896 and then registered it as the company trademark in 1905. This monogram logo now adorns a variety of Louis Vuitton products, from bags to belts to neckties and has become synonymous with the brand itself. Even as monarchies began to crumble, Louis Vuitton continued to expand as more and more people wished to buy into the dream of luxurious living. War in Europe hurt Vuitton immensely however, and little was done in terms of growth until the early 1980’s, when Henry Racamier (son-in-law of Renée Vuitton) took over and began vertically integrating the company. He opened Vuitton-owned and operated boutiques, effectively cutting out the middleman and increasing profit margins by 40 percent. In 1984, Vuitton went public on the Paris Bourse and the New York Stock Exchange, and the company’s sales had reached $143 million, turning the once small, family-owned business into a global corporate giant.
While Racamier brought Vuitton onto the world stage, the current Chairman of LVMH, Bernard Arnault, is responsible for making the brand what it is today. After a hostile acquisition of the company in April 1990, Arnault began revamping the company’s image – recreating the old notions of luxury travel and reinvigorating the design side of the company. Louis Vuitton quickly evolved from a luggage company into a fashion company, which produces everything from ready-to-wear clothing for men and women, to accessories such as wallets, sunglasses, scarves, and jewelry. Creative Director of Vuitton, and currently the world’s most celebrated designer, Marc Jacobs says that the brand’s image today is all about “mass-produced luxury. Vuitton is a status symbol. It’s not about hiding the logo. It’s about being a bit of a show-off.” This notion of mass-produced luxury and recognizable status has become intertwined with the brand, and is largely responsible for keeping Louis Vuitton so successful throughout the years, despite whatever downturns might be occurring in the economy at the time.

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