Wardrobe: Marine Corps

There is a whiff of battle in the air at Louis Vuitton. “When we are at war, we cannot talk about the strategy,” Patrick Vuitton says with the conviction of a plotting general, referring to the crackdown on phony Vuitton products. “But we have a large intelligence department working to control the counterfeit business.”

He is holding court at the Louis Vuitton Museum in Asnieres, France, where the notion of a knockoff Vuitton bag seems as intangible as the smoke that dissipates from Monsieur Vuitton’s exquisitely crafted pipe. Patrick, a fifth-generation member of the Vuitton family and acting ambassador of the brand, puffs away thoughtfully while surrounded by Vuitton artifacts from the late 19th century. The museum, located in the Vuitton family house, built in 1869, showcases pieces collected by Gaston-Louis Vuitton from 1900 to 1950. Next door is the first Vuitton workshop, which began producing trunks and bags in 1859. Today the workshop and its squadron of craftsmen continue to fulfill special one-of-a-kind orders, including a trunk designed to store 1,000 cigars and a long, zippered case made to hold a single red rose.

Louis Vuitton’s commitment to authenticity and quality carries through to the latest Louis Vuitton Cup collection, the company’s fourth produced in conjunction with the America’s Cup yachting competition. Inspired by athletics and the nautical world, the Cup collection comprises limited edition clothing and accessories that are designed to do more than simply look good. The collection’s traditional cashmere-and-wool pea jackets are contrasted by bright windbreakers made of a high-tech Teflon-cotton that provides a waterproof finish and resistance to oily stains. The Genesta, an adjustable travel bag with wheels, was inspired by the bags used for storing sails.

Still, the standout of the Cup collection is the LV 277, the flagship of Vuitton’s sleek new Tambour watch line. The automatic chronograph will be produced in a numbered series of only 277—a figure derived from the Swiss-made caliber’s 277 components, the same number as the first automatic chronograph movement released in 1969. The LV 277’s sporty marine elegance is backed by a 50-hour power reserve movement that is certified by the Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres (COSC), the official Swiss chronometer control board. A transparent sapphire crystal porthole on the back provides a view of the watch’s works.

The LV 277 marks the first watch to carry the Louis Vuitton name, but then again, the Cup collection has traditionally served as a testing ground for new ideas, such as the brushed aluminum buckles used on the collection’s bags. Blending time-honored craftsmanship with innovation has long been a mission of the brand, says Vuitton. “The history of Louis Vuitton has always combined tradition with modernity.”

The Louis Vuitton Cup collection is available exclusively through Louis Vuitton stores from September 2002 through March 2003. 866.VUITTON

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