Beneath the rafters, the workers in Louis Vuitton’s jewellery workshop enjoy a glorious view of the Place Vendôme, the Parisian square that is the global epicentre of fine jewellery.
There is Van Cleef & Arpels to the left, there is Chaumet to the right, and Cartier, Bulgari, Chanel and Boucheron are among the other fine jewellers scattered like so many diamonds around the octagonal square.
While many of the maisons have a history at Place Vendôme spanning more than a century, Louis Vuitton is a relatively recent arrival, hanging out its shingle in 2012 in a move to become a true player in the fine jewellery market.
“To be at Place Vendôme is a must for high jewellery,” says Hamdi Chatti, vice-president of jewellery and watches at Louis Vuitton.
“When we decided to open a store dedicated to jewellery it had to be at Place Vendôme because you can recruit all of the amazing jewellers from there for your workshop; they will never leave because of the prestige of being based there.”
On a scorching summer’s day in Paris, the sleek and contemporary Louis Vuitton store offers a welcome respite from the heat. While inventive window displays downstairs invite passers-by to discover the riches within the Peter Marino-designed destination, upstairs Louis Vuitton has revived the original artisan workshops of the revamped 17th-century townhouse to accommodate its craftspeople.
“It gives clients the opportunity to visit the boutique, then discuss with the workshop creating custom elements, in the same location,” Chatti says.
Although Louis Vuitton only began making fine jewellery in 2009, the brand now offers a full range of adornments spanning necklaces, rings, brooches, bracelets and more. The new Conquête collection unveiled during the haute couture shows in July is inspired by exotic flowers and, as ever, incorporates the maison’s signature V and monogram flower with lashings of colourful precious stones and glittering diamonds.
“Our starting point is always the best coloured stones and there is always a subtle signature within our collection to say that it is Vuitton,” says Chatti.
Luxury fashion brands are increasingly taking a stake in the high jewellery and watch world, with Dior and Chanel among the others with high jewellery boutiques on Place Vendôme. It’s easy to see the logic: high jewellery is a prestigious area with which to boost their brand image while further bolstering their bottom line and reinforcing their pre-eminent positioning. Whether you require a ruby and diamond necklace, a leather backpack, a fragrance or a pair of shoes, high jewellery is simply another addition to the lifestyle portfolio proposed by luxury brands to their customers.
“We have moments in life where you want to wear beautiful jewellery to a party, or when you need to have a Speedy bag to race from places as easily as possible,” Chatti says.
“Of course there is a matter of how much we can afford in life, but high jewellery is a part of that whole offer that we are creating.”