Choosing a highly personalised handbag should not be a speedy process. In this case, appointments are made for two hours at the Haute Maroquinerie, which LouisVuitton has quietly introduced at its New Bond Street maison as a slightly moreaccessible alternative to the super-exclusive privilege of ordering a bag designedfrom scratch. The only hint of this service in the main store is a selection ofdiscreet bags in individual vitrines. Customers are ushered to a lift that whisks them to The Apartment on the secondfloor, and into a luxurious room with blond sofa, low table and walls of whatappear to be walk-in wardrobes.
The presentation is part of the theatre of making such an illustrious purchase. Clients are made to feel comfortable and are supplied with refreshments – thenthe wardrobes are thrown open to reveal a vast selection of whole skins and stacks of colour samples. Examining and feeling the skinsis encouraged, as is trying different combinations and standing in front of ahuge mirror while holding each of the five bag styles (two new and threeVuitton classics; Milaris in second picture) in up to three sizes. The smallest can also be made in exoticskins. Trained advice is on hand at every turn, which is useful when there areeight leathers and 27 colours, along with the outer skin and lining, hardware colour, personalembossing colour and wording to be selected. Though not a bespoke service in the purest sense, with about 80,000 possiblecombinations it is highlyunlikely that a Haute Maroquinerie creation will be replicated by anyone else.
Such precious items will become a lifelong part of some customers’ wardrobes, so no obvious logos or seasonal details are chosen. Many pick classic styles, but often do so in bright hues or to match aparticular outfit. However, colours have been carefully devised so that anexcruciating clash between exterior and lining is almost impossible to achieve,and there is always tactful advice to hand. Some clients, unable to decide, opt formore than one.
Each bag is handmade in Vuitton’s historic workshop at Asnièresin Paris (parts awaiting assembly in first picture), where a specialist craftsman makes each stage. It takes fivemonths for non-exotic skin bags and up to a year for exotic-skin orders. Prices start at £5,000.
The whole experienceis so fascinating, it’s tempting to book twice to truly take it all in. Or,simply, to buy another handbag.