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Friday, May 7, 2010

A Speedy Recovery for Louis Vuitton?

I recently read an article in the May Wall Street Journal Magazine about designers that have been in existence for many years yet who have lost their core customer base.  Brands watered down by over-popularity.  Think Burberry, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton.  The article focused on Louis Vuitton, which has been making trunks, luggage, and bags since 1854.

Audrey Hepburn famously popularized LV in the 1960's with her chic Speedy 25. 

I remember being in elementary school in the 1980's and noticing my friend Molly's mom had a Louis Vuitton bag.  It was similar in style to this one. 

At that point, I didn't know much about LV or any other fancy designers.  But what I did know was that it was chic; it was stylish; and no one in my school would know what it was.  So I saved up my allowance (that took a LONG time!) and went to the Louis Vuitton boutique inside Belks (anyone else remember this?) and bought my first LV bag.  A pochette, for about $100.
I carried it for a few years before LV started popping up everywhere.  I think it was a combination of the booming economy as well as the sudden availability of counterfeit manufacturing facilities, but from the late 1990's until very recently, the world has been overrun with Louis Vuitton, both real and fake.  As the brand became more popular, prices increased dramatically.  And they never ever go on sale.  If a bag does not sell well, LV destroys it rather than putting it on sale.  I hope they destroyed this one:

I know quite a few people who kept track of price increases and would buy a few bags the day before an increase, "just to be safe."  LV bags weren't cheap to start with, but many of them tripled in price over a 10-15 year period.  But people kept buying them.  While studying abroad during college, my friends and I stocked up because the exchange rate made it so much cheaper in Europe.  What a crazy fascination we had with these bags.  They symbolized luxury, but everyone had them.  What about the expression that "Ubiquity is the antithesis of luxury"?

I think the worldwide obsession with LV culminated with the introduction of the Murakami line.

These colorful bags were knocked-off time and time again, and by that point, alot of people were getting sick of seeing the logos everywhere.  Real or fake, it was all you saw, and LV really started to lose its connotation with style or exclusivity. 

Over the past couple of years, the logo-obsession has seemed to die down.  Human rights groups have successfully campaigned against counterfeit bags, which are often produced by child laborers and workers in horrible conditions.  Due to the economy, the days of conspicuous consumption are over for many Americans.  I really don't see logos on every corner as in the past. 

The premise of the WSJ article is that the LV logo craze is over, so it's time to dust off those bags that have been sitting quietly on your closet shelf for a few years.  Enough time has passed that Louis Vuitton's intended purchasers are carrying their bags again.  The classic LV bag is once again chic.
What do you think?  If you have pushed LV to the side for the past few years, do you plan to start carrying it again soon?  Or is it too early?  Tell us your thoughts!


Honor said...

It's over for me with LV. Far too many knock offs! I read that it is the most knocked off label in the world. Personally, I love Goyard, which is just as old a brand, beautifully made, & far more exclusive! One can only purchase it in three cities in the world! (I think that's right!) I like it because it is timeless and lasts forever!

Betsy said...

I read that article in WSJ magazine too--it was really good. Great re-cap, and I agree--though I've never been a LV person myself, it certainly made me realize that the brand does have staying power. If Audrey carries it, then it's elegant!

Aimee said...

Over it.

Averill said...

Never bought a LV bag because I've never been very into logo bags -- but I totally agree that the market was oversaturated. Not just with LV but with Gucci, Coach, etc. And there was a huge increase in the price of luxury goods over the past decade or so that far outpaced inflation. Go back and watch old SATC episodes and here them talk about $300-$400 Manolos...similar shoes now would sell for far, far more.

Jeannine @ Small and Chic said...

I bought an Alma bag when I was a grad student in Boston and I felt very chic carrying it. But, at the end of the day, the material is pretty junky outside of the trim and hardware and over time, I've become really adverse to logos of any kind.

Now, a friend has a beautiful LV leather tote and that's a totally different story. It's beautiful...and logo free.

I'd Rather Be Holding a Mint Julep said...

I have about five LV bags/totes and, sadly, I don't see myself wearing them anytime in the near future. As soon as high school age girls start sporting the look, I have to take a step back. Over the past three years I've invested in Goyard (Vuitton was his apprentice and stole a lot of the techniques, and the quality is far superior). But now even that seems to be gaining too much popularity...

The Matters of Style Girls said...

Mint julep and Honor, I bought a red croiserie about 5 years ago and have loved it. You see the totes everywhere, but the other styles seem to be a little rarer.

Andrea said...

I disagree. Typically, the knock offs on the market are the traditional LV momogram bags. There are plenty of unique, high quality, beautiful LV bags that are created each season that are absolutely worth every penny. I own atleast 5 LV bags and they have lasted me for years and are true pieces of art as far as I'm concerned. Uh, I guess I reaaally love Louis Vuitton!! Lol

Chic Coles said...

I read that article too! I think the LV speedy is a beautiful bag but there are others that I would carry before buying that one.

pamela said...

Hi - I've never understood the fascination with bags that had logos all over them. People pay and arm and a leg for them, when the company should be paying you for free advertising! I prefer the Coach line, a little more understated.

Starfish and Sundresses said...

I've never bought a monogrammed LV exactly for the reasons already mentioned. I think I'd rather have a classic quilted Chanel. Even those have become a little too popular though! Have a great weekend!

Pemberley said...

I have an LV bucket bag. It's reliable, esp in the fall. I can spot a fake a mile away, which somehow makes me feel superior. On the other and when I see a huge oversized Louie or a backpack and I know it's real I think 'why did she spend THAT much money, silly girl' I'm a head case. I won't give mine up, but I won't do the white trendy thing either.

Sanity Fair said...

Wow - I really wish I had caught this article. Thanks for the summary! I just recently finished reading the book Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, which investigates in detail the increase in cost with brands, and decrease in quality (LV factories in china, for instance). Very interesting stuff. I also wrote last year about the absurd price inflation with manolo blahnik's shoes ( - and the subsequent difference in price between the real life shoes and the Sex and the City movie versions.
Personally, I'm not ready to dust off the LV logo yet - there are still so many fakes out there; it's been really cheapened, partly by the fakes, but also because LV is simply less discriminating with their brand (no longer handmade with the care and detail of, say, Hermes and Chanel).
-Sanity Fair

Lauren said...

I have a papillon that I carry anytime I'm wearing something requiring a brown bag. I don't have the LV logo, however, I have the check, which I prefer for its graphic appeal. the check is also less knocked-off. I've had it for about seven years and it looks awesome, despite carrying it very often. I didn't like all the "it" bags of the season that LV tried to make in the early 2000s; they were often extremely juvenile and extremely ugly.
All that being said, I will continue to carry the one I've got. I bought it because I loved the checkers and the shape. But I'm not going to go buy any more for a long time.

The goyard brand is less knocked-off, but it did have a LOT right after it first became available in the US. I visited NYC a few years ago and every street vendor had the goyard-style tote bags for sale.

dulci said...

in High School I scored a LV Speedy at an auction house for almost nothing (a wealthy woman had passed away and her goods were being sold off!)

Almost nobody knew about it then and now I almost never carry it. It's kinda a decorative object in my room!


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