Fancy a new piece of Louis Vuitton luggage with a custom portrait of your teacup poodle on it?
Head over to South Coast Plaza, where a full-time, in-store artist will now paint it for you with a smile — and for free.
The iconic brand is amping up its stake in Orange County with a long-awaited expansion and redesign of its store at the luxury shopping center. It opened to the public Wednesday.
“If there’s a glimpse of what the future could hold for luxury boutiques, the newly redesigned Louis Vuitton is it,” said Debra Gunn Downing, spokeswoman for South Coast Plaza. “From the site-specific art to exclusive merchandise, the company has created an immersive shopping and cultural experience that cannot be found online — a brilliant move.”
Now the largest single-level Louis Vuitton retail floor in the Americas, the Costa Mesa space is the brainchild of architect Peter Marino, who combined a modern Southern California aesthetic with the brand’s historic French roots. Marino also created Louis Vuitton’s Paris Place Vendôme, Soho, N.Y., and Los Angeles stores.
The Orange County region and its clientele have long-held cachet with Louis Vuitton, which has had a presence at South Coast Plaza, the West Coast’s largest shopping center, since 1986.
At a sneak preview Tuesday, Louis Vuitton representatives showed off the redesigned, 14,000-square-foot space.
The airy, modern space evokes the region’s climate and sensibilities, including a 27-foot custom surfboard designed by Peter Dayton that hangs above the “Men’s Universe” area. Works by Damien Hirst, Farhad Moshiri and other celebrated artists decorate the walls.
“We always work to select artwork that represents different countries and continents,” Marino said in a news release. “Louis Vuitton is a very forward-thinking company when it comes to its engagement with the art world and thinks globally.”
As a first-in-the-United-States touch, the floor above the store is being converted into an atelier where guests will be able to watch Louis Vuitton artisans as they craft new products and restore pieces brought in by customers.
This in-house service will only be available to Costa Mesa patrons. Even shoppers at the brand’s Fifth Avenue store in New York must have their handbags and luggage sent offsite for repair.
In addition, a full-time artist will personalize hard-sided travel pieces with custom, hand-painted artwork. The service is complimentary with purchase. There are less than a handful of such painters across the United States, representatives said.
The redesigned store’s facade is made of copper and glass. Twisting carbon fiber shelving brings to mind the high speed of modern travel. Three skylights sliced into the ceiling fill the store with natural light. A closed-door, VIP salon is tucked into a corner.
The store’s modern styling also is a nod to the fashion house’s new men’s artistic director, streetwear designer Virgil Abloh (also known as Kanye West’s personal creative director).
Abloh, the first African American to take the role at the company, launched his inaugural spring 2019 menswear collection last month to considerable fanfare. It featured mesh tops, iridescent duffel bags, a silver leather poncho and white “dad” sneakers. Within one day, street culture was elevated to global couture, and a worldwide clamor for the products began.
The Costa Mesa store’s men’s section is extensive. The store also carries a full range of Louis Vuitton ready-to-wear apparel, leather goods, shoes, accessories and fragrances, including the newly launched men’s fragrance collection.
While it is generally rare for Louis Vuitton to sell store-exclusive products, the South Coast Plaza location offers many pieces that were designed expressly for it. Metallic leopard print Capucines Mini, gold-sequined Petite Malle, and gold lizard Twist bags are joined by a crocodile version of the Christopher backpack.
In shoes, exclusive items include the women’s chunky-heeled Star Trail Monogram Ankle Boot with de rigeur patches, while for men, the Trocadero Richelieu sneaker will be available in signature Epi leathers and rabbit fur.
Ready-to-wear pieces that are only available in Costa Mesa include a women’s skater dress, men’s Split Hand LV sweater, and a satin warm-up shirt. In jewelry, the Diamond Blossom XL medallion will be available exclusively at the South Coast Plaza store until its October 2018 launch.
The location is also the only Louis Vuitton store in Southern California to permanently offer about 25 items from the Objets Nomades home collection, which is designed in keeping with the brand’s heritage as a luggage designer for European aristocracy. The collection of handmade pieces, all designed to be portable, was inspired by Victorian-era British explorers.
The origami-reminiscent leather Tabouret camp stool by Atelier Oï, available in a range of bright colors, folds flat. With its carrying strap, it is as easily transported as a briefcase. The frosted Murano glass Bell Lamp by Barber & Osgerby, the designers of the 2012 Olympic torch, is solar powered (with an option for USB charging) and also has a leather handle.
The Campana Brothers’ Bomboca Sofa is equal parts jigsaw puzzle and seating arrangement. Eight individual cushions can detach from the modular, cloud-like sofa’s leather “shell.”