In an industry that revolves around trends and change, there are few names in fashion considered to be timeless. Established in 1854, luxury retail giant Louis Vuitton has always been known as one of the most innovative, elegant, and iconic brands to exist. Initially targeted at middle aged high class women, the 33 billion dollar company has drastically broadened their consumer target and reach. In the last decade, Louis Vuitton engaged in various business strategies to become more accessible and appealing to a younger generation. While evolving and reforming, though, the major fashion house is uniquely able to preserve its classic and historic allure.
Louis Vuitton’s success story began when he was only sixteen years old. The aspiring designer traveled to Paris to work as an apprentice for a trunk master. At the time, horse-drawn carriages, trains, and boats were the main modes of transportation. Luggage was handled roughly and travelers’ belongings were often damaged. With this in mind, Vuitton designed the first flat-topped trunk. Among the round topped trunks that could not be stacked or stowed carefully, this was revolutionary. The new, highly valued craftsman was sought out by the empress of France, quickly providing him with an elite and wealthy clientele. The business grew from functional traveling trunks to fashionable handbags, leather goods, jewelry, shoes, watches, and perfume—all showcasing the renowned Louis Vuitton monogram. Sporting the signature florets and repetitious LVs was –and still is– a major symbol of status, power, and class.
Recognized as a luxurious and sophisticated brand for 166 years, how did Louis Vuitton ultimately fall into the hands of a younger audience? To put it simply: collaboration, creativity, and celebrity networking. Back in 2017, Louis Vuitton released a limited collaboration with the young American skateboarding brand, Supreme. By selling classic merchandise with Supreme’s red and white box logo branding, Louis Vuitton reached a new target market while simultaneously providing their loyal customers with something fresh and exciting. Louis Vuitton’s revenue increased by 21% to $18.9 billion after the collaboration.
In March of 2018, Louis Vuitton appointed Virgil Abloh, chief executive officer of Off-White, as its first black Men’s Wear Artistic Director. From DJing for Travis Scott, serving as a creative consultant for Kanye West, and interning at Fendi, Abloh was the most influential and ingenious artist for the job. Upon taking his new position, the designer stated that “I find the heritage and creative integrity of Louis Vuitton are key inspirations and will look to reference them both while drawing parallels to modern times.” Abloh’s ‘street cred’ and contemporary vision has taken Louis Vuitton to a new level. While always staying true to the iconic LV logo, he incorporates more color and innovation into the brand, like rainbow chains and prism bags. Abloh’s aesthetic also naturally appeals to young people. According to a report by Complex Networks, Louis Vuitton saw a 16% increase in revenue during the first financial period of 2019, one year after Abloh’s appointment. Louis Vuitton’s Spring-Summer 2021 Men’s Collection, currently showcased at a pop-up in Miami’s Design District, has been a huge attraction. Photos of the red-hot bold display, completely conceptualized by Abloh, have been flooding Instagram. Even more exciting than Louis Vuitton’s updated look is having a black designer at the top of it all.
Not only has Abloh reinvented traditional LV designs and its storefront appeal, he has also introduced the classic brand to the social media realm. Under Abloh’s helm, the company launched LV TV in 2019, a Youtube series that features behind-the-scenes content orchestrated by its celebrity brand ambassadors. LV TV invited young Youtube stars like Emma Chamberlain and the Dolan twins to its recent fashion shows in Paris, instantly streaming exclusive content alongside the popular influencers. This tactic enabled millions of teenagers and millennials to not only see the glamour of Louis Vuitton, but to want to purchase it as well. Emma Chamberlain’s Paris fashion week vlog–completely organized by Louis Vuitton–received over 13 million views from a predominant fanbase of 18-24 year olds.
Some may argue that by intertwining luxury fashion and young streetwear to keep up with trends, Louis Vuitton sacrifices its initial target market: its oldest and most loyal consumers. However, pivoting and adapting to refine a business is essential to maintaining success as a multi-generational brand. With dozens of styles in its repertoire, Louis Vuitton is able to appeal to all tastes and ages, ensuring a bright future with the modern consumer. Although “timeless” is directly defined as “unaffected by the passage of time,” brands must evolve and keep up with what’s happening in the world to stay on top. Louis Vuitton’s creative efforts to progress are part of the reason why it is acceptable to sport the same Neverfull tote as my grandma– mine just might be an electric pink.