As another example of the French-Southern California style connection, Paris-based luxury brand Louis Vuitton’s revamped and expanded space at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa combines a sense of California cool (courtesy of the store’s bright art and airiness) with joie de vivre.
The 14,000-square-foot boutique includes 8,000 square feet of retail space — it’s Vuitton’s largest single-level retail floor in the Americas — and features an open-floor plan, which allows shoppers to quickly float from one room to the next.
“It’s very apropos for California,” said Michael Burke, Louis Vuitton’s chairman and chief executive. He flew in from Paris to host a dinner and an in-store celebration, which was held late last month and attracted social media personalities such as Devon Lee Carlson and Rachel Nguyen. About the store, Burke said, “It’s a very special place in the world.”
Louis Vuitton has had a presence at the Orange County shopping center for 32 years. Brand executives decided to redesign the space to accommodate the label’s many categories, such as ready-to-wear, leather goods, shoes, accessories, textiles, watches, fine jewelry, fragrance, publishing and home.
As a nod to the design house’s craftsmanship, architect Peter Marino used delicate materials such as handcrafted woven leather for the modern space. Additionally, Marino commissioned one-of-a-kind pieces from renowned artists including Damien Hirst, Peter Dayton, Anselm Reyle, Aaron Curry, Richard Misrach, Serge Alain Nitegeka, Polly Apfelbaum, Gerard Kuijpers and Farhad Moshiri.
“The cultural context is very important in how we design stores,” Burke said of the renovation, which took eight months to complete. “We really wanted to have a sense of space, a sense of lightness, a sense of epicness.” With that in mind, the first floor of the store features three skylights, which required structural re-framing of the shopping center’s roof. “Of course, South Coast Plaza told us it was impossible. And we don’t accept impossible, so we designed the store five times,” Burke said. “It’s our only store in the world that has blue sky inside the store.”
Most notably, a second floor features the brand’s first-ever in-store atelier, where three artisans craft and repair handbags and personalize items. “It speaks to the senses,” Burke said of the atelier. “It’s not an intellectual approach. It’s very basic. It speaks to all of our senses — including the sense of smell. … 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. You have to go to a factory to smell it.”
The store also has a full-time artist on hand for personalizing services such as hand-painting, hot stamping and engraving. Additionally, the store has a number of exclusive pieces created especially for South Coast Plaza shoppers. Among them are a metallic leopard-print Capucines handbag as well as the women’s Star Trail Monogram ankle boot with patches. Limited-edition items from the brand’s Objets Nomades collection are also on display and available, including Humberto and Fernando Campana’s cocoon chair and Bomboca Sofa as well as Raw Edges’ Concertina folding chairs and tables, Atelier Oï’s tabouret stools and Barber & Osgerby’s bell lamp.
Louis Vuitton’s more-accessible home goods line, Les Petits Nomades, will be available at the South Coast Plaza store starting Oct. 19. The collection of decorative objects — think vases, bowls and mirrors — was created with popular contemporary designers Patricia Urquiola, Marcel Wanders and the Campana brothers.
“There is no monopoly of design at Louis Vuitton,” Burke said of the brand’s many offerings. “There are different design influences. And if it’s done properly, they are reinforcing each other. ... It’s easier to have one pencil, one notepad, one sketch, and everybody follows that. That’s a somewhat fascist approach. At Louis Vuitton, we don’t think that should be applied to design.”
Following a cocktail party inside the store, some of Louis Vuitton’s clients ventured to Newport Beach’s Pelican Hill, where they sipped Dom Pérignon while viewing the resort’s immaculate greens. That was before a three-course seated dinner of kale salads, Alaskan halibut and chocolate mousse and an after-party.
Burke said he was thrilled with the turnout. “I love seeing the store full of clients,” he said. “It’s validation of what we do. It takes a lot of work. When you see people push the door and smile and stop and admire and touch and feel, it’s a good return on the time we invest.”