Nobody needs to spell the rage that an LV monogram is in today's fashion and luxury obsessed world. Working silently behind all this, on more supreme projects, is Patrick-Louis Vuitton - a descendant of Louis Vuitton and director for special orders. We converse and put forward some never-before asked questions in front of him!
By: Veronique Poles
Posted on: April 10, 2011
Catching Patrick-Louis Vuitton for a tête-à-tête is not an easy task. A master, a colleague, a friend, and most importantly a person I highly respect and look up to, he is the epitome of special orders in the luxury world today. Indeed, the great grandson of THE Louis Vuitton who started his eponymous label 160 years back in 1854, Patrick is the director for custom-made designs at Louis Vuitton.
Representing the fifth generation of the Vuitton family, Patrick was on vacation and busy entertaining his grandson – the seventh generation of the family - when I insisted on interviewing him. Being the gentleman that he is, he consented for an interview, and in no time, I found myself in his plush office.
It’s always magic being in his office. Full of souvenirs in the four corners of the room, with the smell of the many different kinds of leathers, his office is like a museum in itself. Surrounded by Patrick’s personal objects, the interview begins on a good omen. It is a proof of the creativity, innovation, and passion for craftsmanship and noble materials that runs in his blood – not that I needed a proof!
Patrick entered the company in 1973. For more than 20 years, he climbed up through the ranks crafting hand-finished luggage, before getting into manufacturing and finally being given the title of head of special orders that he retains to this day.
Patrick spends his time between the Louis Vuitton workshop and consultations with private clients. Examples abound about the gems he has created for many-a-wealthy client – but naming them is a strict no-no!
Impeccably suited up, Patrick graciously sat down for a quick chat, which was to this effect:
Veronique Poles: How do you feel being the scion of the most iconic luxury brand in the world – powerful or humble?
Patrick-Louis Vuitton: In some ways, it’s a kind of pride, which requires a lot of strictness, as you have to do better than your ancestors!
VP: Were there ever expectations from you by your forefathers on how to handle the business, or were you given absolute freedom to function your way?
PLV: There was a know-how transferred by my ancestors on the ‘making’ of luggage with the aim of always doing better and in best quality always too!
VP: Being solely responsible for special orders and custom-made designs, the job must be challenging with each project, right?
PLV: Yes! Making a customer’s dreams and desires true also means making a luggage which will be useful, convenient and aesthetic, and at the same time, matching the image of the Louis Vuitton brand
VP: Have you got some weird or funny requests by customers? Any interesting stories you can tell us?
PLV: (He smiles) No, extravaganza is not at all our area. But I should say that what is extravagant or weird, is the product that we make travel through our trunks. For example, think about a violin that we will be able to make travel!
VP: Celebrities love Louis Vuitton, and vice-versa as well. However, how important are celebrities for Louis Vuitton and for a luxury business generally?
PLV: All the customers are King and all the Kings are our customers!
VP: From wanting to be a vet to a luxury luggage crafter, was the change gradual, or forced?
PLV: In fact it’s a gradual and progressive change, but with a very careful consideration.
VP: What is your personal favourite Louis Vuitton luggage piece? And why do you like it?
PLV: (He smiles!) Every single creation is an additional ‘child’ in the big family of travel. By definition, a mother will not love one of her children more than the other one. She loves all her children!
In 37 years of working at Louis Vuitton, we have more than 250 creations per year, with each one having its own particular story! All that is expressed in a wonderful book launched last November, remarkably illustrated, and called ‘100 Malles, La Légence Louis Vuitton’.
VP: Do you get celebrity / royal orders from India?
PLV: Yes! But as a principle, we never give names!
VP: What is your impression of the Indian market? India has not yet achieved its full potential. When do you vision it will?
PLV: India is a promising market and in a full revival.
VP: Do you create the luggage pieces yourself for your high-profile clients?
PLV: Yes! In fact, I meet the customer in the store for the first contact meeting. I then sketch the luggage according to the specifications given during this meeting. Then we meet again and come to a compromise between the customer’s desires and from my side, the technical and aesthetic requirements. After this discussion we start making sketches with more technical details. Oh right now, in the pipeline, I know I will have to go to Peking in May for some special orders.
VP: What is more important – history or innovation?
PLV: Both! One does not work without the other. Tradition and innovation are part of the success of Louis Vuitton, and you will find them in all LV creations.
VP: What do you love the most about your job?
PLV: CREATION! And the making of a luggage or trunk. Every week, I spend 2-3 days in the workshop at Asnières just to see the trunks being made.
VP: Many new luxury brands are coming up in the industry today. Any advice to them from a heritage, successful brand?
PLV: Ah ah ah! Don’t expect me to give advice to other brands!
VP: What is luxury for you?
PLV: Luxury is sensual, something very personal. It’s like the sensuality coming from some beautiful materials. And yes, it’s also time!
VP: Patrick, when will we meet to have a coffee at the Taj Mahal hotel next to the swimming pool? I have been teasing you on coming to India for four years now!
PLV smiles, yet again, mysteriously!