Cover Louis Vuitton’s leather workshop at Rochambeau Ranch in Texas (Photo: Olivier Pilcher)

In Louis Vuitton Manufactures, the maison reveals how it is keeping the spirit of luxury alive by championing craft, innovation and the human connection

In the image-conscious times that we live in, luxury fashion is often defined by a single thing: a logo. But the world of luxury was never meant to be two-dimensional; it could be experienced in, say, the touch of an exotic leather handbag, or the shapely fit of a pair of shoes. French luxury maison Louis Vuitton offers a window into that world through its new book, Louis Vuitton Manufactures.

Across 400 pages filled with exclusive photographs, the tome traces the maison’s heritage of craftsmanship and innovation, from the very first luggage bag by Monsieur Vuitton to the panoply of leather goods, fragrances, watches, jewellery and clothing, that the multibillion-dollar brand is built on today.

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“Fundamentally, it’s not about luggage, it’s about innovation,” says Michael Burke, chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, on what lies at the heart of the 168-year-old brand. “Innovation came before luggage. The reason why Louis went into business himself was because he wanted to innovate and create something different than what was on the market.”

He expounds: “What makes Louis Vuitton so special is that we really strive and achieve excellence everywhere. You can be, and need to be, excellent in many different trades.”

Louis Vuitton Manufactures maps out how the brand has achieved its ambition with ateliers all over the world. “We don’t take into consideration the location,” says Burke. “It is where the pool of talent is, talent that gets transmitted from generation to generation. The best watchmakers are in and around Geneva, the best tanneries are outside Florence, the high-end shoe manufacturers are around the Veneto region, and silk businesses are around Como. That’s how talent gets transmitted. That hub of excellence is where things happen, and that’s where we locate our workshops.”

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That’s not to say that the French luxury brand forgets its roots. Louis Vuitton’s jewellery atelier has a home at the historic Place Vendôme and the brand’s leather goods continue to be crafted in the Vendée.

“Had we not insisted on making the great majority of our leather goods in France 30 years ago, leather goods manufacturing would have moved to Italy, just like silk left Lyon and went to Como, and watchmaking left France and established itself in Switzerland,” says Burke.

Craft, of course, begins with the hands, and it’s the scores of the maison’s skilled artisans that Louis Vuitton Manufactures truly celebrates in its pages. “We didn’t want to learn how to sell, we wanted to learn how to make first,” explains Burke. “So it was all about the craftsmen. They are people who love making stuff with their hands. They love every minute of it.”

In the same way that Louis Vuitton keeps the spirit of superior craftsmanship alive by weaving its traditional techniques into new creations, the brand finds its talented craftsmen in youths. “Twenty years ago, we had trouble finding them because kids did not believe that making things was a worthwhile gig,” says Burke. “Now, they say, ‘This is the best gig in town’, and they’re happy.”

Louis Vuitton Manufactures is now available in Louis Vuitton stores in Singapore, as well as on louisvuitton.com. There's also a collector's edition, limited to 500 copies, which comes in a poplar wood box. Below, take a look at more exclusive visuals from the book.

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