What could be more fitting as a symbol of rebirth in the City of Light, than a golden sun streaming spiralling metal rays? That’s the resplendent installation that Louis Vuitton visual creative director Faye Mcleod conceived for the façade of the maison’s new Peter Marino-designed Paris flagship. The store, which opens today, is spread across two historic hôtel particuliers – designed in 1714 by Versailles architect Jules Hardouin- Mansart – and is located in the Place Vendôme, where the young founder of the storied house first opened his trunk shop 160 years ago.
It’s a space that reflects the evolution of a house, which began as a specialist luggage supplier to aristocrats, including the Empress Eugénie de Montijo. The new two-storey boutique boasts not just leather goods, textiles, fragrance, jewellery and men’s and women’s ready to wear, but also its first savoir-faire corner, and its only dedicated home for its Objets Nomades collection of travel-inspired products. Each light-filled floor is connected by a staircase carved from 18th-century stone, complete with sleek glass balustrades, suspended by stainless steel cables.
The original Vendôme Column was torn down in 1871, and re-erected in 1874 in the centre of the Place Vendôme. © Neurdein Roger-Viollet
‘I thought I would juxtapose a modern aesthetic to everything within the walls and restore as beautifully and faithfully as possible the exterior,’ Marino explains of the space’s design elements. ‘The balance between modern and old, is for me, what Paris is all about’.
This duality, too, is a reflection of Louis Vuitton. Nodding to its rich heritage, two of the maison’s most notable trunks are on display: a Library Trunk, ordered in 1933 by the Hollywood screenwriter Mrs W, and the 1917 Steamer Trunk, owned by Mr O, an admired Parisian jeweller. And what could be more symbolic of the brand’s future than the creation of an exclusive version of its Tambour Moon Tourbillon Volant ‘Poinçon de Genève’ timepiece, made with 296 diamonds on its movement and case.
Archival material includes one of Louis Vuitton’s original addresses on Rue des Capucines, near the Place Vendôme. © Archives Louis Vuitton Malletier
Light was an essential element of Marino’s design, which features extensive windows and doors which encourage the space to feel airy and exuberant. ‘The ultramodern insertions bring an element of transparency, increasing the flow of natural light within the space,’ he says. ‘We filled in what was a courtyard between the two townhouses – now a double-height space with a skylight introducing daylight from above.’
These features illuminate not just clothes and accessories, but a collection of over 30 works by 22 different artists curated by Marino himself. Stacks of colourful spheres by the artist Annie Morris line the staircases and a 2015 portrait of a young Louis Vuitton by Yan Pei-Ming hangs omnisciently in the accessories space. The space also features custom light sculptures by Philippe Anthonioz, and other works by artists including Stephen Sprouse, Laurent Grasso and Gregor Hildebrandt. ‘Their purpose is to make you smile, and enjoy yourself,’ Marino says.
Despite the store’s grand Place Vendôme location (one which also boasts other Marino-commissioned flagships by Chanel and Dior), the intention of the space is not to overwhelm, but welcome. ‘The whole concept is that we call it the Louis Vuitton Maison. “The House of Vuitton” in this case is very fitting within the classic Parisian townhouses. This is intended to make the visitors feel at home,’ Marino says. 'On entering one should feel excited and expectant, and on leaving, happy and uplifted.’