By Julie Herbel, Global MBA student - Germany
During our stay in Singapore, we had the opportunity to visit Louis Vuitton’s first Island Maison at the Marina Bay Sands where Guillaume Lhopiteau, the Global Store Manager, welcomed us.
The store sits on the waterfront and has a unique architectural and retail experience concept, which distinguishes it from all other Louis Vuitton stores. The luxury brand asked architect Moshe Safdie and designer Peter Marino to design the store. Inspired by nautical interiors, the architect-designer team delivered a magnificent three-story glass pavilion surrounded by water offering different environments at each level.
There are three ways to enter the store: by the Marina Bay Sands mall through the Louis Vuitton bookstore and a tunnel that leads to the center of the store, by an outdoor bridge linking the store to the promenade or by boat (!) at the Louis Vuitton pier. Our journey started in the bookstore which offers a selection of books about art, design, cooking, travel, fashion and, obviously, about Louis Vuitton itself. The books are carefully chosen and many of them cannot be found in regular distribution channels.
The bookstore is linked on its left to the jewelry and watch department by a spiral staircase, which shelters a colorful mural by Ruben Toledo. The Cuban illustrator has been working with Louis Vuitton since the late 1990’s illustrating its city guides. In perfect harmony with the eternal traveler image Louis Vuitton is projecting, the mural is dedicated to the theme of travel. Displaying artwork inside the retail area reflects the luxury brand’s deep interest in art. It also facilitates the immersion of the customer in a very unique atmosphere.
Upstairs, the jewelry and watch department seems like a private area with low ceilings and dimmed lights. The department opens up on the second floor of the mall but has no door towards the exterior. Guillaume Lhopiteau explained that the store didn’t want to create any barriers towards the walk-in customers.
Back on the first floor we followed a large corridor with a moving walkway, which takes the customer to the escalator or “travelator” as the store likes to call it, which again takes the “traveler” to the heart of the store: the men and women’s universe. Works of art are on display all along the corridor and the curated exhibitions change every few weeks.
On the second floor, the escalator takes the customer either to the men’s universe on the left or the women’s universe on the right. Both spaces present very different ambiances. The men’s universe is highly inspired by nautical spaces. The ceilings are lower than in the women’s department, the lights are dimmed and the mood is very similar to what you can experience under a boat’s deck: the wooden floors and walls are similar to those used for sailing ships. The dark brown color of the wood adds to the intimacy men usually want to have while shopping, explains Guillaume Lhopiteau. Women on the contrary like to be seen while shopping. Therefore, the space dedicated to them is not only brighter with its gigantic windows offering an incredible view of the Marina Bay, the ceiling is also about 10m high. Under that ceiling a 15m x 8m wooden installation by Richard Deacon (winner of the Turner Prize in 1987) is floating. The sculpture is inspired by the surface of the water and strongly enhances the feel of being on a yacht especially from the mezzanine point of view.
The mezzanine hosts more menswear and accessories. But to create the ultimate seafaring feel, the mezzanine also gives passage to the outdoor “deck” offering a view on the harbor, which left most of us speechless. The deck or loggia presents the possibility to sit and relax while having a drink.
The experience of walking through this store is unique. And apart from all the other things we learned about the company that day, one thing lingers in my mind: the importance of the ambiance a luxury brand is creating. Louis Vuitton is never short of selling dreams, but this particular store sells along with its prestigious goods a dazzling retreat on a luxury cruiser.