Kathryn Romeyn Kathryn Romeyn | September 17, 2019 | Style & Beauty
Louis Vuitton’s heritage of fine craftsmanship and customization continues to thrive at South Coast Plaza, a destination so valued, the luxury label opened its first-ever North American atelier on its penthouse level.
Louis Vuitton devotees can enjoy a front-row view of the French fashion house’s storied handcraftsmanship at its sole atelier in the Americas at South Coast Plaza.
In 1859, when French leather goods house Louis Vuitton (louisvuitton.com) was merely 5 years old, and its founder, Louis Vuitton the man, sought a new workshop to handcraft his exquisite and already popular trunks, he chose Ansières, then a petite Seine-side village on the outskirts of Paris. Today, that atelier is still the heartbeat of the heritage label, home to its precise production of bespoke handbags, trunks and luggage in poplar, beech and okoume woods, lovingly coated by master artisans in its signature monogrammed skins.
Hard-side pieces can be handpainted on-site at Louis Vuitton’s South Coast Plaza boutique.
But it’s not the sole Louis Vuitton location that “speaks to all of our senses—including the sense of smell,” says Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke. There’s another space where the storied luxury house knew an atelier would both thrive and be highly coveted. And it’s not in a village—it’s in Costa Mesa. “You smell the wax of the thread. You smell the leather. You smell the glue. You smell the parts of a handbag, which you don’t typically [get to] do,” says Burke of the brand’s first stateside atelier. The beautifully appointed space hovers on SCP’s penthouse level above the freshly redesigned and expanded Louis Vuitton boutique, reimagined in ultramodern, California-inspired glamour by architect extraordinaire Peter Marino. It represents not only the largest single-level retail floor in the Americas, but also the singular place a client in this country can have their favorite trunk or handbag carefully repaired on-site by specially trained artisans, experts in the nuts and bolts—in this case nails, glue and malletage—of each timeless piece.
Offered in extremely limited quantities, the new Capucines BB City Bag in Black Ink is available at LV’s SCP boutique
These sorts of destinations are extremely rare, but Louis Vuitton has a well-established history in the Plaza that harks back to the ’80s, and felt its extraordinarily loyal local clientele deserved another opportunity for privatized attention and elevated service. It’s worth noting that pieces brought here in person are finished in about half of the typical time—if it’s not repaired on the spot, that is. Restoration is the main intent in the bijou workshop where shoppers—even those without a monogrammed duffel in need of a new zipper or a Noé with a too-worn strap or buckle—may glimpse the intricate, time-honored process.
Painters begin with handsketches of the requested piece
But that’s not the only thing giving this shop extra sheen. There’s also the opportunity to personalize pieces with the utmost customization. What’s better than a monogrammed Malle Courier trunk, you ask? A Malle Courier trunk handpainted by a Vuitton-trained artist with vibrant vignettes commemorating your Italian honeymoon or a rendering of your puppy. South Coast Plaza’s dedicated hand painter creates these works of art in the boutique itself after working closely with the client to confirm that her custom drawing represents exactly what they want the hard-sided piece to portray. (Head below the atelier in the main boutique to watch her bring these dreamy pieces to life with each stroke of a finely tuned paintbrush.)
Artisans at the penthouse-level atelier in Costa Mesa.
For instant gratification, there’s also the hot-stamp machine, which allows for embossed decoration on a number of pieces—think a wave representing the Orange County store, a zodiac sign, animals, fruits or special lettering. On-the-spot possibilities include engraving onto perfume bottles (which can also be refilled on-site). And clients who are more patient may also snag a monogrammed Speedy or any soft-sided handbag with “stickers” that are actually silk-screened onto the canvas itself. How’s that for savoir-faire?
Photography by: louis vuitton