After a year-long renovation, Louis Vuitton's flagship store at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way in Beverly Hills has finished unpacking its signature monogrammed steamer trunks – both literally and figuratively – and is set to officially open its doors to the public on Saturday.
The French luxury brand has its roots in the luggage-making trade and there are ample reminders of that heritage throughout the Peter Marino designed space. Chief among them the feeling that, thanks to the blond wood floors, brown, geometric-patterned carpets and fitting room walls lined in honest-to-goodness woven leather, one was inside a three-story version of one of its sturdy pieces of luggage.
While the interior is a nod to the past, the exterior of the store feels firmly rooted in the future; the three-layer facade consists of louver-like stainless steel ribbons over glass over squares of white fabric, which manages to both create an indoor/outdoor feeling and evoke the aesthetic of the brand's new creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere.
Anyone who has darkened the doorstep of the pre-renovation space will immediately notice the comparatively open feel, partly a result of all the natural light and partly thanks to the long, linear staircase that runs in a straight line along the boutique's north wall from the first to third floor. Beverly Hills has no shortage of impressive staircases, to be sure, but this may be the first one that includes handrails wrapped completely in Vuitton's super-soft leather.
Another thing you'll notice – returning shopper or not – is the artwork that pays homage to Southern California. Just inside the front door is a 10-foot-tall, bright pink, mixed-media sculpture ("Fkilz," 2012) by L.A.-based artist Aaron Curry. Just to the right of the front door suspended from the ceiling in the three-story-tall window that forms the northeast corner of the boutique is Peter Rogiers' "Ghostwriter," a tangle of stainless steel and aluminum reminiscent of a Santa Ana tossed palm tree.
Merchandise-wise, the first floor showcases a collection of "rare and exceptional" pieces including bags and accessories made from exotic skins (ostrich, crocodile and lizard) as well as one of the exclusive-to-Rodeo offerings; a version of the label's Chain Louise purse with a geometric silver-color inlay in the LV monogram clasp that references the metal ribbons that wrap the store.
Also housed on the first floor are the brand's core Monogram collection and travel bags (complete with a machine that can hot-stamp a customer's initials into an item on the spot) and, in recognition to the store's Hollywood adjacency, a glass display case containing a stack of leather-bound luggage whimsically emblazoned with rhinos, zebras, gazelles and palm trees -- all custom pieces created for Wes Anderson's 2007 film, "The Darjeeling Limited."
The highlight of the first floor is the Haute Maroquinerie ("high leather goods") area, a custom women's handbag program offered in Southern California for the first time (and in only four other U.S. boutiques). Customers choose one of five bag silhouettes displayed on the wall (including the Lockit, the Milaris and the Noé) and customize the credit limit out of it by picking the skin, the color, the hardware, the tag color and the like – from swatch books and samples shelved neatly in nearby steamer trunk lined in purple suede. The bags, which are made in Louis Vuitton's oldest atelier, have a turnaround time of six months to a year.
The second floor is home to the men's offerings, which currently includes the Kim Jones' designed spring 2015 collection, as well as timepieces, made-to-order shoes and belts, and a selection of writing implements, notebooks, inkwells and stationery. There's also a sitting area appointed in vintage Midcentury Modern furniture and more art -- including a specially commissioned ceramic and porcelain piece by Mark Hagen that riffs on the Maison's checkerboard Damier print.
The top floor belongs to the women's footwear and apparel, the latter currently consisting of a curated assortment of Ghesquiere's first Cruise collection for the house, though next week the store will host the exclusive worldwide launch of the spring 2015 women's ready-to-wear collection.
The most noteworthy part of the third floor may be the least noticeable – unless you're part of the VIP set. It's a salon the size of a Staples Center luxury suite that's curtained from view and boasts its own sitting area, dressing room and glass floor-to-ceiling doors that open onto an expansive terrace with a view of the Hollywood sign in the distance.
Given the myriad ways the renovation pays homage to the store's SoCal setting, it's a fitting takeaway image -- almost as if the word "Hollywood" had been customed hot-stamped into the hillside at the behest of the brand.
Louis Vuitton, 295 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills (310) 859-0457. Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.