When I mentioned the opening of the Louis Vuitton UK flagship to D (aka Mr Disneyrollergirl) on Tuesday, he didn’t hide his disdain. “I’ve seen it. I passed it yesterday, it looks like something out of Dubai airport via Stanstead. Deeply tacky,” was his damning assessment. He may have curled his lip.
The Louis Vuitton Maison is the most expensive luxury goods shop ever opened in London. Yves Carcelle, worldwide boss of the brand won’t put a figure on it but speculative guesses suggest at least £30million was spent on this temple to consumerism. And yes, it does score high on the glitz-o-meter. This 1500 square meter space boasts a watch shop, a sunglasses shop, a lit-up glass staircase and an entire wall of vintage suitcases – and that’s just a wee part of the ground floor. To highlight Vuitton’s relationship with contemporary art, there are priceless artworks by the likes of Gilbert & George, Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons. For the opening, Brit artist Michael Landy has been commissioned to create a mad sculpture that draws doodles and cuts up credit cards. All around are dotted mini piles of art tomes and there is even an art bookshop in the middle of the first floor (but sadly an embargo meant no photos).
Next to the bookshop is a small exhibition space which currently houses a Katie Grand-curated arrangement of mannequins wearing a ‘greatest hits’ mish-mash of Marc Jacobs for Vuitton outfits, complete with bags on their heads, ho ho! Actually, the fun factor is the best bit about the store. “I said, ‘I’d like to make a store that when you went in you wouldn’t mind spending half a day in there, rather than getting the bag and getting out’,” architect Peter Marino told the Evening Standard. “If people are nice enough to come in, you owe them a good time. Why go shopping if it’s not fun, glamorous, different?” By the way, the store design is all Marino’s work, Marc Jacobs doesn’t get involved in shop-fits.
From the humorous Louis Vuitton planets orbiting an area devoted to logo hair clips and bangles, to the mechanical sliding shelves that play peekaboo with handbags and scarves, to Murakami’s martian sculpture, there are plenty of playful elements that bring a bit of wit to the serious business of luxury. They certainly help to make luxury accessible, as do the offer of affordable knick knacks from keyrings, to sunglasses, to a £5 George Orwell paperback sold in the ‘librarie’. The store opens tomorrow. Tacky or not, the customers are sure to flock.
The wall of vintage trunks
I had to delete my bookshop photos but I found this one on a blog. There are all manner of art and photography books including some of my favourite artists – Elizabeth Peyton, Martin Parr, Bridget Riley, Tim Noble and Sue Webster
UPDATE: Watch the sliding wall in action!