Meet the Artisans: LVMH Fires New Shot in Luxury Marketing War

Source: LVMH, Les Journées Particulières

PARIS, France — LVMH will throw open the doors of its Louis Vuitton workshops and Hennessy cognac cellars at the weekend in the latest salvo of an advertising war among luxury groups to show off the craftsmanship behind their brands.

Starting on Saturday, the world’s top luxury group by sales and market value will also offer behind-the-scenes tours of Christian Dior’s salons, Guerlain’s perfume plant outside Paris and Fendi leather shoe and handbag workshops in Italy.

The initiative, running for the second time after attracting more than 100,000 visitors in 2011, is the brainchild of Antoine Arnault, head of luxury shoe brand Berluti and the son of Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chief executive and founder.

Purveyors of luxury goods have been stepping up their efforts in recent years to portray their goods as “hand-made” in an attempt to justify their high prices and address consumers’ growing interest in the origins of the products they buy.

Analysts say the sourcing and manufacture of goods have increasingly become a concern for customers, following a scandal over mislabeled horse meat in Europe and the deaths of more than 1,100 people in April in the collapse of a Bangladeshi textile factory that supplied some Western retailers.

“Sophisticated consumers from emerging markets pay more and more attention to where things are made and how they are made because they want products which are really exclusive and with a level of quality and craftsmanship which justify their high pricing,” said Mario Ortelli, luxury goods analyst at Bernstein.

Western brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci have long exploited that trend, with ad campaigns typically featuring sepia-toned photographs of artisans lovingly stitching bags or shoes.

Now they are going a step further by inviting customers to watch the craftsmen at work.

ARTISAN CORNER

Gucci last week held an ‘artisan corner’ at Bloomingdale’s department store in New York where customers could see craftsmen hand-stitch bags, assemble bamboo handles and hand-emboss buyers’ initials. The brand says it has held over 100 similar events around the world since 2009.

“Brands seek to reassure consumers on the origins of their products and on the way in which they are made,” said Thomas Chauvet, European luxury goods analyst at Citi Research.

Hermes is conducting a worldwide tour of its artisans to present their “savoir faire” in silk scarf printing, handbag stitching or crafting of fine jewellery. Under the name “Festival of crafts,” it started such events in 2011 in malls, public places, galleries and museums.

Its show attracted 40,000 visitors at the Saatchi Gallery in London in May and is due to travel to Toronto’s Design Exchange, Canada’s design museum, in October. It will stop off en route at sites such as Plaza 66 shopping mall in Shanghai and Haus der Kunst museum in Munich.

The battle of artisans is part of a rivalry that sharpened in 2010 when LVMH revealed it had taken a stake in Hermes.

Months later, in 2011, Hermes chose “contemporary artisan” as the annual theme for its collection – part of a campaign to portray itself as a house of craftsmen while presenting LVMH as a powerful industrial group.

Hermes is involved in several legal battles against LVMH, which has built up a 22.6 percent stake in the maker of 500-euro printed scarves and 30,000-euro python Birkin bags. Last month, the French stock market regulator AMF called for the maximum fine to be imposed on LVMH for failing to disclose the maneuvering involved in accumulating its holding.

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3 comments

  1. Interesting to notice that some luxury brands want to reassure the customers regarding the origin of their products. Will they organize trips to some very foreign countries? Will they re-open the workshops that they closed? Will they redesign their workshop from lean manufacturing to real craft?? Showing beautiful pictures in sepia colors is not enough for many of us to believe that their creations are real creations from their country of origin. In a world where many people are cheating about their business, luxury brands are just creating some fog to amuse the people. Be really reassured that they do not want to reduce their profits, this is merely simple marketing for the masses.When visiting some workshops just ask questions about the reality of their craft, of the craftmen they employ, and check the number of craftmen that should be employed if they were really craft companies…

    JC LAR from Zurich, 25, Switzerland
  2. If the luxury fashion brands will open their workshop for real it will be great, this could be a challenge to enter in a more slow fashion culture.
    As Wowcracy already does.

    Barbara Mercier from Giaveno, Piedmont, Italy
  3. luxury companies need to keep the balance between mass-produced and hand-made products.
    These exhibitions are good but not enough, They can do a lot at the retail shops as well by showing and educating customers about their products.
    Recently I had interviews in Harrods and Selfridges, and i was disappointed about their sales-people and managers lack of knowledge about their luxury products in which they are trying to sell.
    I am wondering why some luxury brands leaves their control of their shops at the hand of the department stores.
    Some luxury brands keep the quality of their products high but most of the luxury brands cut the corners and self-damage their brand and naturally after a while sales go down.
    Communication, communication and communication about the brands are the keys to retain the customers and add new ones

    pierre garroudi from London, London, United Kingdom