Tuesday, August 26, 2008

LV's so me

Travel in style with luxury luggage you can personalise. That’s what Louis Vuitton’s Special Orders service is all about, writes CHEONG PHIN. TRAVEL, it’s said, broadens the mind. At Louis Vuitton, it broadens the gamut of “travel companions made to special order” for aesthetes who spend a great deal of their life on the road. And what better way to introduce the glorious tradition of their “Special Orders” to the media than the brand’s first-ever television commercial (launched earlier this year), which pays homage to the core values of the business of Louis Vuitton — respecting the spirit and art of travel. The stunning visuals of the 90-second spot make an emotional connection about the meaning of a journey which is, in the end, life itself. Founded in 1854 by apprentice trunk-maker Louis Vuitton in Paris, the company has designed and produced some unique and exceptional travel items during the course of transportation’s history, from steamers to private jets. Its tradition of seeing to travellers’ comfort has been a priority since the days when the young Vuitton created the first watertight flat-topped trunk that could accommodate the increasing need for space among travellers. A sample of LV luggage from its museum collection was showcased recently at the Louis Vuitton boutique in Starhill Gallery, Kuala Lumpur. Sprawling across the entrance of the store was the legendary foldout camp bed trunk designed by Louis and Georges Vuitton in the 1870s for French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, whose expeditions to Africa were made comfortable with the extra-long bed and its horse hair mattress. The compact trunk in signature Damier canvas is easy to transport and still available today. Other notable pieces include the Malle pique-nique or picnic trunks created in 1913 to carry everything necessary for a lunch break outdoors as car travel developed. Each compartment is designed to fit the shape of the object within as a shock absorber during travel — a salute to the original creativity of the young Vuitton as the favourite layetier-emballeur or packer to Empress Eugenie of France. The sound, functional design of a guitar case from 1967 is another item on display. For a guitarist, his instrument must be protected like a precious item. The skilful craftsmen at Louis Vuitton demonstrated their savoir-faire by creating a monogram-covered guitar case with a green interior crafted with wood and canvas to fit the instrument without damaging it. Available by appointment only, the Special Orders service is divided into two categories: Made-to-Order and Custom-Made. All special orders are hand-made in the historical Louis Vuitton workshop in Asnières on the outskirts of Paris by about 185 skilful artisans under the strict guidance of Patrick-Louis Vuitton, a member of the fifth-generation of the founding family, who is himself a trained and talented craftsman. Monique Girault, a Special Order specialist from Asnières, was here to explain the special order process. She said with the aid of an interpreter that “Made-to-Order" is a service that allows variations on selected items from our permanent collection that includes bags and trunks, whereby customers can personalise their items with a different material for the exterior and a dissimilar lining to make the item their own.” Today, computer technology is used to help customers visualise what they want. They can see how the LV Ellipse, for example, will look like in Damier checks instead of its signature Monogram skin, together with a menu of lining options, as demonstrated by Robin Koh from LV Client Relations Management. The orders can take up to six months to make and be delivered to your doorstep. “Custom-Made orders, on the other hand, are items which fully test the mettle of our craftsmen. These are unique one-offs, the products of our customers’ wild imaginations,” said Girault. “The most important requirement for us is that it must respect the spirit of travel. If it is not for holding and transporting a customer’s belongings, it is not a Louis Vuitton product,” she stressed, citing a rare case when they rejected the request of a customer wanting LV to decorate the interior of his sports car in signature Canvas. As an alternative, they politely offered to custom-make suitcases to fit the trunk of the car. About 450 Custom-Made orders are executed annually in Asnières with each made by a single expert craftsman over a period of eight months. The process starts from detailed sketches and the item gradually takes shape through elaborate prototypes before the final crafting of the agreed design. Price isn’t a concern for this particular class of customers that include members of royalty, world leaders, couturiers and movie stars like Grace Kelly, Jean Patou and Sharon Stone. Karl Lagerfeld once commissioned a case for his ever-growing collection of iPods. Among the contents of luggage created by LV are couture gowns, safes, watches, computers, entertainment gadgets, chess sets, mahjong sets and even a secretaire trunk to hold a chair and drawers made for a marchioness in 1927. But the most memorable of all orders, concur Girault and Koh, is a tiny trunk made to carry a businessman’s precious rubber duck called Willy. This fondly nicknamed “Willy Trunk” may be laughable but it also proves that the traditional Special Orders service offered by Louis Vuitton devises ingenious ways to help its customers satisfy a specific need, express their individuality, or realise a fantasy — as long as they are related to the art of travel. Make an appointment with Koh at the KL Louis Vuitton boutique in Starhill Gallery, if you want to make your Special Order. For the actual article click here.

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