Somewhere between the flash-sale websites and pop-up shops, we became impossible to please. Shopping used to be three dimensional. You had to enter a space to participate and then rely on patience if things didn’t go according to plan. Digital has altered that contract, putting us closer to everything while distancing us from why we desired it in the first place. We long for new discoveries but feel inconvenienced when we have to pursue them.
All of this falls into the evolving realm of brand experience, as luxury makers and purveyors look to hold our attention. This is what made Louis Vuitton’s recent and very limited special engagement, Maison Beverly Hills, such an intriguing proposal. For 13 days in May, the French house created a by-appointment-only experience set in a contemporary residence by Nile Niami and architect Paul McClean. It was a gathering of the company’s classic trunks, women’s collection, furs, fragrance, and game pieces. The Malle Artiste trunk—a decadent number featuring an easel, a folding stool, canvas shelving, and room for paints and supplies—was one of two items that had never been shown before. Several artisans were on-site, imparting a privileged peek at the company’s art in process.
L.A. is always a willing accomplice to myth-building, but this house—all sunlight and staggering views—was an inspired choice for another reason. From the swimming pool to the glass-encased wine cellar, the space was equal to—but also provided a striking backdrop for—the main attraction: Objets Nomades, the company’s collection of furniture and design.
Fashion has often flirted with interiors, but Louis Vuitton wasn’t just making eyes. The company invited a group of serious designers—Marcel Wanders, Atelier Oï, India Mahdavi, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Patricia Urquiola—to perfect the translation from fashion to furnishings. “What interests me most about designing for Louis Vuitton is what the brand has stood for all these years: differentiated sophistication,” says Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, whose leather Diamond screen and Lounge and Lune chairs were showcased throughout the house.
A total of 19 limited editions from Objets Nomades and Les Petits Nomades—the decor and accessories range—were poised in this residential setting, where guests could wander, touch, and purchase. Given that the home collection is typically seen only at major design events like Salone del Mobile in Milan or in select boutiques, this was a rare chance to engage with the designs in a practical way—how blue is that Cocoon swing chair? How does a family of Tabouret stools look gathered around a table, and how does it feel to sit on them? “The era of e-commerce is over,” says Armand Louis, cofounder of Atelier Oï. “Today, proximity is in order. Personal relationships instead of anonymity.”
Viewing furniture outside of a showroom or boutique is so uncommon that it’s almost revolutionary. Louis Vuitton understands the power that a good interior exerts; the brand has commissioned elite architect Peter Marino to design and embolden several of its stores (the most recent one opened this summer in Costa Mesa, Calif.).
At the luxury furniture level, interiors are as important as the pieces they host. “When I create something for people to physically use, I start with the human form,” says Wanders. “I consider how the body is shaped and how the design will connect with their spirit. I also consider the spatial orientation of the interior setting. What kind of room will it be set within? What mood can it create by itself? Placing the Lune chair and Lounge chair into a memorable interior allows them to be seen as seamless appointments that complete the experience—or redefine it. I could not think of a better way to display the style and allure of these pieces.”
As an immersive environment, Maison Beverly Hills elevated the private boutique experience. It also affirmed an eternal design truth: Context is everything.