Louis Vuitton, the globally sought after ultimate status brand, “manages to combine mass production with a highly aspirational image” (Haig 2006, p.137). The company was started in France in the mid-nineteenth century by Louis Vuitton, a carpenter’s son, who became renowned for his luggage, bags, and accessories for the wealthy. Creating a revolution like travel, Vuitton established a new era of modernity. However, with a decline in the glamour of travel, the company diversified into high-fashion clothing, jewelry, shoes, and watches. Significantly, brand weakening due to product diversification has been avoided, with a focus on strengthening the brand name.
Thesis Statement: The purpose of this paper is to analyze Louis Vuitton’s high fashion collections for Autumn Winter 2009 (AW09) and Spring Summer 2010 (SS10) and to investigate the supply chain and production processes of the company.
Besides advertising through celebrity endorsement and sports sponsorship, Louis Vuitton’s success is attributed to the control it maintains overall its operations from creative design to distribution. This ensures not only a commitment to quality (New York Magazine 1985) but also its high operating margins of around 45 percent as compared to those of its closest competitors. Marc Jacobs is Louis Vuitton’s high profile designer.
Louis Vuitton’s AW09/ SS10: Range Plan and Fabric Selection
At the Paris fashion week, Louis Vuitton’s Autumn-Winter 2009 (AW09) and Spring Summer 2010 (SS10) collections depicted designer Marc Jacobs’ blending of various influences. Olde world appeal was combined with “a little bit of French fancy, a sprinkling of 80s bad taste and a Playboy bunny” look (O’Neill 2009). The fabrics used were mainly cashmere, wool, silk, satin, lame velvet, fox fur, taffeta, embroidered panne velvet, re-embroidered printed textiles, leather, and diaphanous tulle (Fall Winter 2009).
Figure 1. Louis Vuitton’s AW09 Collection: Paris Fashion Week
In Figure 1. above, the mixed influences are visible, and the clothes range from the “sublimely wearable” (O’Neill 2009) to the “gorgeously unusual to the not so delightfully strange.” The collection is divided into groups based on different colors. The black apparel was most appealing, and the touches of color at the sashes added to the beauty of the dresses. The oversized shoulders lent an unusual but attractive look and the use of sheer fabric in some of the garments added to the feminine appeal.
Figure 2. Louis Vuitton’s AW09 Collection: Paris Fashion Week
In figure 2. above, a couple of the garments in beige or nude tones are seen. The range in this shade was found to be the most reliable outfits, with “cute bubble skirts” (O’Neill 2009), while the oversized double-breasted jacket in the image at the left appeared attractive. The coral highlights in the enormous pink taffeta bow on the head was the right color combination, adding to the appeal of the outfit. The nude range of clothing was the subtlest in the entire collection, with feminine lines and a pretty presentation on the whole. The accessories such as the shoulder bag in nude embossed leather and the white metal and resin hair stick completed the look, along with the knee-length black boots.
Like the green, black and nude shades above, the blue range had an 80s look, while the bold reds depicted power dressing; the attractive coats, however, did not have the flow that was found in the other color groups. The painted prints were also worth taking note of, with perfect details and intricately cut cuffs and collars. The bunny ears and thigh-high lace-up boots did not, however, add to the otherwise very wearable look. Some of the outfits in the entire collection were winners.
The Spring Summer 2010 (SS10) collection displayed at the Paris Fashion Week was dominated by the Afro-wig worn with all the outfits.
Figure 3. Louis Vuitton’s SS10 Collection: Paris Fashion Week
(Vogue Blog 2009)
In Figure 3. above, the row of models in the SS10 collection sport the wild look, with over-sized Afro wigs composed of five mini hairs stitched together, raccoon tails attached to monogrammed purses, and furry heeled clogs and toggles on the feet. Enormous faded denim knapsacks, The entire look achieved the over-the-top feel that was intended by the designer. The garments are a combination of hip-style cycling shorts and dresses, hunting, and fishing-tackle jackets (Vogue Blog 2009). Tweed jackets had big patch pockets, similar to safari jackets.
As seen in Figure 4. below, plenty of outerwear and parkas in neutral shades were used, which is unusual for summer wear. These were teamed with pleated gym-style skirts and mini skirts in “clear sparkly stretchy nets and cycling shorts” (Grazia 2009).
Figure 4. Louis Vuitton’s SS10 Collection: Paris Fashion Week
Figure 4. above displays the clog sole shoes with small heels, and trimmings of tassels and little pom-poms.
The company’s control over all its functions facilitates Louis Vuitton’s unique high-
the wire balancing act, sustaining its prestige and image as a luxury brand while mass marketing its products. The original LV logo provides immediate social significance with its power to command people’s attention. Despite mass marketing, the brand’s high status is “enforced through carefully targeted advertising in high-end publications and selective distribution” (Haig 2006, p.140).
The supply chain cannot be organized in a conventional manner if optimal outcomes are to be achieved. According to Dussauge and Moatti (2008), the Louis Vuitton case has to be tackled using a segmented approach to supply chain management. This means differentiating between functional and innovative products, consequently setting up a physically efficient process for the former, and a market-responsive process for the latter to obtain significantly beneficial results.
According to i2 (2004), the main challenges faced by Louis Vuitton were: a requirement for a better supply of finished products in stores, increased accuracy in sales forecasting, managing greater complexity of supply chain due to increasing number of product lines, and support for the expansion of the company’s stores. The solutions implemented to meet these challenges were: the initiation of global supply chain review, taking into account the organizational processes and technology, creating new forecasting systems at the zonal and central levels, and establishing new planning processes. The results of these actions for improving the logistical operations were: increased in-store availability of products, more accurate sales forecasts on a global basis, provision of support for the company’s expansion, and its more complex supply chain.
According to IBM (2005), changing business conditions compel organizations to find innovative ways of planning and allocating their human capital according to future projects to be implemented. Greater efficiency and flexibility in labor-scheduling activities are being facilitated by new technologies in today’s business world.
Louis Vuitton in North America successfully reduced costs, and focused staff and managerial time and attention on customers “by upgrading its labor-scheduling practices” (IBM 2005, p.5). By integrating this with human resources, customer counting, and point of sales technology, Louis Vuitton achieved more excellent staff attendance on customers during higher traffic periods in the company’s outlets. This has also resulted in a lowering of costs related to manual data entry for payroll processing by 50 percent, besides significantly reducing the time taken by managers to perform payroll and labor-scheduling tasks. In the timing, planning, and implementation of fashion shows and other related events, the company employs similar strategies to ensure maximum allocation of resources for the event, with efficient and flexible labor scheduling.
Distribution of Products at Louis Vuitton
As an environmentally conscious and socially responsible organization, some actions are undertaken by Louis Vuitton in the company’s operations and transportation of products to its various outlets located all over the globe. The company has increased the proportion of leather goods transported by sea, which is 40 times less polluting than air transport. It could save expenditure on intermediate packaging for transport from workshop to stores, and similarly eliminated the need for 20 tonnes of plastic and its consequent environmental hazard, by not using plastic wrappings for finished products ready for delivery. Instead, eco-labeled paper is in use for all packaging. New lighting concepts have been introduced in newly opened stores, thus saving 30% of energy. Significantly, the education and training of employees have improved operations to a great extent (Environment 2007). Moreover, to speed up processes in order to adequately meet the demand for the products, Louis Vuitton has started using modern methods as in factory lines (Passariello 2006).
This paper has highlighted Louis Vuitton’s Autumn-Winter 2009 (AW09) and Spring Summer 2010 (SS10) high fashion collections. The company’s supply chain and production processes have been examined with respect to range, fabric selection, logistics, timing plans, and the distribution map of the products. It is concluded that the company’s limiting itself to its outlets for the sale of its products, and maintaining a robust independent functioning are significant contributors to Louis Vuitton’s sustainability and success, with its increasing presence all over the globe.
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