Buro 24/7 goes behind the scenes at a historical Louis Vuitton workshop
Tailor made in Paris
In a quiet and quite industrial suburb of Paris on the left bank sits one of the first ever Louis Vuitton workshops, where the brand began to produce travel chests and bags, as well as the bespoke, exotic and sometimes bizarre requests of customers. It's a far cry from the new dawn displayed by the label last month.
Outside grows a beautiful garden, and a little way behind – the workshop where everything happens.
On arrival, Buro 24/7 is led to the second floor of the house to have tea and be entertained in an almost makeshift museum with the brand's historical rarities; a chest-bed from 1905, that belonged to Pietro Savorgnan di Brazzà during French colonial times - for example.
There is also a huge stained-glass window with floral decoration, hiding prying eyes from what is happening inside. However through it, the outside world is very clear.
The room we are guided to is a cosy lounge with a fireplace and seating area where the majority of guests are served, such as film director and part time Louis Vuitton collaborator Sofia Coppola.
After the grand entrance, it's time to venture into the studio. It starts with a traditional carpenter's shop, where manufactured skeleton frames of wooden future trunks reside. Looking at the conventional workshop tools; nails, hammers and plywood sheets makes it difficult to imagine the luxury luggage that costs tens of thousands of dollars, which they are instrumental in creating. In the corner are vintage chests – with directions to dimensions that are still observed today.
The French-speaking workers here work quietly and we are told that the wooden luggage structures are made up of two types of wood – poplar and Gabon. Poplar is lightweight and flexible, and therefore suitable as a starting point for the chests. Gabon then makes up the frame, as it is low humidity and will not expand with time, allowing the chest to preserve its original dimensions.
We are told that the workshop will make almost anything that is requested by clients, "we undertake to fulfil almost any customer's whim, but we do not accept orders for coffins," the workers explain, "either for humans or animals. Although we often receive such requests."
Cleanliness and organisation is key in the bustling space, as well as a clear allocation of responsibilities, some craftsmen knock together the skeleton frames, others treat the leathers, and some sew. Some have been here since 1975, as indicated by their pockets, where each has a similarly embroidered four-digit figure.
"we undertake to fulfil almost any customer's whim, but we do not accept orders for coffins"
Soon we are taken on a tour of the vault of leathers. There is an incredible amount of them - all different colours and types, including the signature and proprietary 'Epi leather'. The department that deals with bags made from crocodile, python, lizard and other exotic skins occupies a separate floor entirely.
In general, you could say that time stopped here in this one Parisian space - the feeling of the current century we live in completely disappears as soon as you set foot inside. This is especially true when two recently finished, old-world looking monogrammed chests that are about to be sent to a client sweep by, stacked and held by two craftsmen. Everything here is done by human hand. Everything.
And the most surprising thing of all? These people at the small urban factory really and truly love what they do, each a passionate perfectionist they dedicate time and heart to create beautiful pieces of art - be it a tiny purse or a huge box-chest wardrobe.