The new Louis Vuitton store in London boasts three mighty floors, plus a top apartment where special customers are ushered in. When you enter the premises, which you will able to do from tomorrow Friday, you are greeted by the smell of quality. It's everywhere you turn; the building, staff, interiors and, of course, the products. We already knew what levels of luxury Louis Vuitton are capable of reaching, but this new 'Maison', as it's referred to, ups the ante - not only in London but for the rest of the world. And it isn't only the clothes and accessories that will blow you away. There's an amazing array of art that would make the most avid art collector envious. Jeff Koon, Damien Hirst and Gilbert & George, to mention but a few, makes the store a cultural joy to visit.
Moving drawers, floating Louis Vuitton planets, a Katie Grand curated Vuitton parade and a book shop covering all the literal ground between Walter Benjamin's art theory and Don McCullin's war photography are only a few of the things that will keep customers entertained. That's without even starting on the first floor women's wear, a ground floor full of hand bags and accessories, and the men's collection in the basement. Someone who's had a pretty big hand in making all of this happen over the past 18 months is Louis Vuitton's Vice President Pietro Beccari, who kindly sat down with Dazed Digital for a few minutes to talk about this new chapter in Louis Vuitton's long history with London...
Dazed Digital: This refurbishment is an amazing statement of intent when it comes to Louis Vuitton's relationship to London. What role do you think London plays in worldwide fashion?
Pietro Beccari: London plays an amazing role in fashion. It’s not an English city, it’s a city of the world, just like New York and Paris, and our relationship with London is very old: our first store outside France was in London’s Oxford Street 1885.
DD: If anything, London is famous for young, exciting and avant-garde fashion - what is Louis Vuitton's role in that style environment?
Pietro Beccari: There is a little a bit of everything for everyone in here. We mix tradition and modernity. For us, it’s a natural but powerful mix. Our brand roots are so strong that we can play around. At the end o f the day, both mature and young customer can discover something.
DD: How would you describe the core values of Louis Vuitton, what's the brand's USP?
Pietro Beccari: I recently had lunch with Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter, and he was telling me that he sees Louis Vuitton as a life style, not only a brand. We offer a world of Louis Vuitton, touching on art, books, fashion, sport, so it is difficult to mention one USP. Graydon said that the only other brand that influences contemporary culture in the same way is Apple, which is a great compliment. We inspire with our lifestyle, not only our products.
DD: You have great art collaborators in the store - what's the relation between art and fashion for Louis Vuitton?
Pietro Beccari: Marc always says we are doing nothing else but reinventing what our ancestors did. The Vuitton family was friends with impressionist painters and bought their art, which was outrageous a the time. Our recent collaborations with Stephen Sprouse, Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami are all examples of what was done in the past. And except for product collaborations we also work with art in our shop windows.
DD: You have also worked with FIFA on designing the travel case for the World Cup trophy. How does Louis Vuitton fit into such a sporty and athletic environment?
Pietro Beccari: We are perhaps more associated with sailing through the Louis Vuitton Cup. But we have worked with football stars before, like Maradona, Zidane and Pelé. In this case the angle was that we are experts of packaging and shipping, and making sure that the most precious things travel in secure elegance. That’s what we bring to the FIFA collaboration because, for the next two months, what is more precious to the world than the trophy?
DD: Who do you think will win the World Cup?
Pietro Beccari: Spain or England, maybe?
DD: You have an amazing selection of people as the face of your campaign - everyone from Andre Agassi to Keith Richards - how do you choose them?
Pietro Beccari: It’s a celebration of great personalities and encounters in life. We sit down with a couple bottles of wine and think about who we want to work with and try to figure out who most fits with the brand.
DD: The one that stood out the most for me was Mikhail Gorbachev. How did that come about?
Pietro Beccari: I met him in Geneva, I still remember the encounter. He said ‘no’ first, but he changed his mind in the spirit of celebrating life. He agreed on the condition that he was photographed in front of the Berlin Wall, because it had changed his life and that of many others. It’s maybe our most impressive campaign.
DD: I always think there's a sense of understated luxury and beauty in a Louis Vuitton collection - did you take the same approach when designing the store interiors?
Pietro Beccari: There is a parallel in the sense of obsession for quality and materials. An obsession for details characterise both, a certain degree of simplicity and pureness.
DD: You have worked with the architect Peter Marino on the New Bond Street store - what brought you two together?
Pietro Beccari: Peter understands luxury and he manages to translate that sense of luxury to the stores he has worked with, through the artists, pieces and materials he chooses to work.
DD: There have been a clear focus on Eastern markets in the last years across the fashion market, does this new store signal the return of LV's mighty fashion force to Europe?
Pietro Beccari: We never abandoned Europe, because that’s where the luxury world was born and belong. This store doesn’t counter balance our presence in Asia because both are important.
DD: Any favourite rooms, details or artworks in the store?
Pietro Beccari: I especially like the light and roominess in the upstairs Apartment for special customers, and there's an amazing Jeff Koon piece there as well...
Louis Vuitton, 17-18 New Bond Street, W1, London. Open to the public from Friday 28 May, 2010. Read Dazed Digital's store launch piece HERE and an article on LV's Young Arts Project HERE