A First Look Inside The Modern Brutalism Of Louis Vuitton’s New Store

Ever since 2004, Louis Vuitton has occupied a Grade II-listed Brutalist building in the middle of Sloane Street: the sort of space revered by those enamoured with post-war aesthetics, but not usually the rest. After all, cantilevered beneath an office block and nestled within imposing concrete surrounds is not necessarily where you’d expect to find a French maison renowned for its storied elegance – but, with the new renovation of its interior, this unlikely home has found a surprising relevance.

“People wanted us to move!” exclaims Louis Vuitton CEO Michael Burke, the day before its grand unveiling. “They said it’s ugly, that we need Victoriana or something. Let’s be honest, like Centre Point, like Beaubourg, this a building people love to hate.” Now, by hunting down its architectural plans and working with the surprising support of the local council (“a young guy – he’s with it and realised strict rules aren’t what’s necessary to save significant architecture”), Burke has pioneered a project to restore the building’s original ’60s features and thus the purity of its aesthetic. “It’s been like restoring a painting, or excavating a Roman bust,” he reflects of exposing its concrete beams, remodelling its staircase and uncovering a long-concealed skylight. After all, “We’re all about authenticity, craft and origins,” he says. “If we didn’t protect our own origin, the little details, we wouldn’t still be here.”

The idea of interrogating recent history to create something entirely modern is equally harmonious with the two designers whose work now inhabits the space. Nicolas Ghesquière – whose most recent collection was incidentally staged aside a recreation of the Pompidou Centre’s controversial Beaubourg exterior, and paid homage to the eclectic tribes who surrounded it in the ’80s – is renowned for his sci-fi femininity; Virgil Abloh’s vision, complete with its post-modern irony and digitally-savvy designs, is decidedly futuristic. “They each have one foot solidly embedded in the past and the other resolutely in the future. By doing that, they’re a step ahead, but of our time” says Burke. “It’s the same here.”

But, besides the magnetism of the storefront and the carefully-curated interior (some of the best Danish mid-century and ’60s Italian furniture is dotted about the place and a giant curtain, created by textile manufacturers Sekers, who first inhabited this space, acts as a brilliantly attractive privacy divider on the top floor), there is another reason Louis Vuitton customers might be flocking to Sloane Street in the coming months: its wealth of customisation services. While the shopfit is the brand’s first foray into entirely bespoke store design, here it is also offering a preview of its Rare & Exceptional service, where clients can fit and customise certain ready-to-wear pieces to their personal proclivities, alongside a customisable trainer service. Titled Now Yours, variations on the brand’s Run Away style can be stamped or printed with initials, as well as designed in a selection of different colours, materials and finishes. That’s the sort of offering that certainly appeals to a modern audience obsessed with unique product and limited-edition pieces – but “for a century, all we did was bespoke,” explains Burke. “Nobody walked out the shop with a trunk; you went into a store, ordered and then came back six months later. We were born with that, and now we’re really coming back to it.”

In summation, in this light-drenched space, amidst the mid-century décor dotted with artworks by Georges Breuil and Roger Capron alongside the extraordinarily modern designs of Ghesquière and Abloh, everything comes together with a curious harmony – and nobody is more delighted about that than Burke. “I love it,” he grins. “This is exactly what I envisioned. It’s a rebirth. This building was an ugly duckling, it had been mistreated for all these years… and now it’s a swan.” You can’t put it better than that – and you can imagine that handbags will fly off the shelves.


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