Louis Vuitton powered into Shanghai's iconic Bund last night, not merely to celebrate the 20th anniversary of LV in China, but to demonstrate how much mileage the brand still sees in the country's luxury market. The same fabulous custom-made carriage that arrived at the Louvre's Cour Carrée earlier this year was transported across two continents along the Trans-Siberian railway (as documented by The Selby),demonstrating just how far Vuitton will travel to give the likes of Chanel and Hermès a run for their top-tier clients' yuan.
Marc Jacobs masterminded a collection that played to two of the three main aspirations of wealthy Chinese—heritage and workmanship. Descending from the train, models wore this season's elongated silhouette in embroidered brocades and increasingly embellished fabrics, towering over the pint-sized porters who carried the luggage—handbags, portmanteaux, and suitcases made of rarities like python, crocodile, and mink. Afterward, actress Clémence Poésy gushed, "it had the same magic of a film set, when the train pulled in and the smoke." Alexa Chung was more direct: "Fucking phenomenal, it was amazing. There's only a few brands that get the opportunity to put on a full extravaganza. It's more like going to the theater." Perhaps 'rock show' is the best analogy. After the catwalk spectacle, Lana Del Rey performed.
But the runway show and concert were just part of the celebrations. On Wednesday, Chinese stars like Gong Li and Fan Bingbing and It girls, including Alexia Niedzielski and Poppy Delevingne toured the newly opened Louis Vuitton Maison, the largest store in China and 16th Maison worldwide. Guests were led through the Louis Vuitton Express exhibition, a nostalgic multimedia journey documenting the golden age of rail travel, before venturing into the four-story emporium. Then up an opulent gilded onyx staircase to a private "apartment" where only super-rich invitees are allowed. Catering to the third aspiration of the China-elite—exclusivity—here VVVIPs are offered "haute maroquinerie," the deluxe-luxe of leather crafts, to have their personal designs for shoes and bags custom made. As LV Chairman and CEO Yves Carcelle said, "The ultimate luxe is to commission rather than have a piece already made."
The train stops in Shanghai, but the brand's journey continues, with plans to open Maisons in Beijing, Hangzhou, Heifei, Shijiazhuang, and even Kazakhstan.