Rumblings inside the House of Vuitton are being heard once again. A short while ago, news broke of Louis Vuitton discontinuing all three sizes of their extremely popular toiletry pouch bag- sending the internet into a frenzy. A best seller, people couldn’t understand why the brand would suddenly axe these pieces, but sources are starting to confirm what we’ve been wondering all along…
The Standard Setters
In the realm of high-class handbags, the “grande dame” of all houses is Hermès. Priding themselves as the pinnacle of excellence and craftsmanship, the house has set the standard of exclusivity and prestige. Recently, Pursebop reported on the reasons why Hermés classics, the Birkin and Kelly, are the priciest and most sought after bags on the market. The brand’s clever marketing, coupled with their selective demand and limited supply strategy, have elevated their bags to “holy grail status.” With very few Birkins and Kellys produced in comparison to the number of people wanting them, Hermès has made bone-dry a market that craves saturation. Saturation and surplus, however, diminish the allure and “magic” behind a hard-to-get item, and paint a brand as “commonplace”- something Hermès is not looking to be anytime soon.
Our business is about creating desire…
-Axel Dumas, CEO Hermes
In an attempt to follow suite, another brand seeks to elevate its level of exclusivity by simply outpricing the majority of the consumer market. Chanel has consistently announced price increases targeting their most popular items. A medium classic flap now comes with a price tag of almost $8,000- a price simply out of reach for many. However, by keeping it out of the hands of the masses, and awarding it to the hands of a few, Chanel is inching towards the concept of hyper-exclusivity pioneered by Hermès.
What About Vuitton?
In the game of high prices and low quantity, where does Louis Vuitton fall? Not one to shy away from price increases and stock shortages, the house has decided to embark upon their own path to reinvention. Louis Vuitton no longer want to be considered an entry-level or starter handbag line. The house is on a mission to reposition themselves in the luxury market and revamp their image. How will they do this? By no longer catering to popularity, but prestige.
Editor’s note: Oct 1st, 2021:
Read: Could We Be Seeing a Louis Vuitton Price Increase October 1st?
Sources have revealed to us an upheaval in Louis Vuitton’s product line- the main target being their monogram canvas items. In fact, the toiletry pouch is rumoured as the first of many canvas pieces set to be discontinued. One might wonder, without the classic monogram print that skyrocketed the brand to popularity, what will Vuitton have to offer?
Although monogram canvas may have been Vuitton’s initial claim to fame, could it have evolved over time to be their potential downfall? Monogram bags are not leather at all, but rather, a coated canvas. As a result, not only are they cheaper to make, but cheaper to buy.
Compared to their leather goods, Louis Vuitton’s canvas bags cost less and are more accessible. When a good or service is easily accessible, it becomes more prevalent in society- counteracting the fundamental basis of luxury goods in that they are meant to be hard to get. To add insult to injury, not only are a large number of people able to score a Vuitton canvas bag, but the popularity of the same has made it one of the most counterfeited prints and style today.
For Louis Vuitton, this is not good news. The transition from shortage to surplus of active consumer goods is an undesirable by-product of popularity. To be popular in the black-market, however, is even more detrimental. These are issues that devalue a brand and its image. Louis Vuitton has now altered their strategy to be in complete defence of the very market they seek to serve. Although they want consumers to purchase their bags, Louis Vuitton wants to be the only purveyor of these products. To simply be one of the sellers of a monogram canvas bag defeats the purpose of being a luxury retailer. In simpler terms, if you want a Louis Vuitton bag, the brand’s boutique should be the only place you can get one from. The house needs to protect their brand and maintain the aura of luxury and exclusivity- can they do this with leather?
A.L.E: All Leather Everything
Traditionally, leather items not only cost more to make, but more to buy as well. This is what Louis Vuitton may want. Rather than having everyone able to access their more affordable canvas items, the brand is looking to “up-the-ante” by outpricing many of their aspirational consumers’ budgets. When goods become more expensive, quantity demanded at a higher price point decreases. The item is more difficult to access and less common. Leather goods achieve this and contribute to Vuitton’s mission to become a more exclusive brand.
In fact, the push toward leather goods is stronger now than ever. Many in our community have pointed out that storefronts are almost all stacked with epileather and empreinte leather goods without a canvas bag in sight. Moreover, keen-eyed shoppers have noticed sales associates advocating for leather items more than traditional canvas.
The Capucines Question
Something very interesting to note is how Vuitton’s Capucines range plays into all this. In fact, let us quickly revert back to Hermès for some background. Hermès makes known all aspects of the creation of their popular bags like the Birkin. From types of leather, to sourcing practises, to the exact process followed by artisans to put one together. This is what Hermès is known for and what makes them the standard to which all other brands are compared.
Vuitton’s exotic Capucines have their own, exclusive landing page on the brand’s website. Here, LVMH’s standards for crocodile skin, animal conservation and welfare are outlined in addition to how each bag is crafted by “one artisan using 300 entirely hand executed movements.” Is this a sign that Louis Vuitton is looking to move in the direction of ultrafine artisanal crafted goods? Could this be an attempt to further distance themselves from simple coated canvas?
Will It Work?
Louis Vuitton’s vision to revitalize and rebrand itself is yet to fully unfold. However, will getting rid of something so beloved as monogram canvas truly be the key to elevating the brand beyond its current state? What will be interesting to see is if other brands follow Vuitton’s example. Who might be next to ditch their canvas material?
Is Louis Vuitton marking the end of the canvas print bag as we know it and is the toiletry pouch just the beginning? Could this be another sign of the brand’s move to focus on leather goods? What will consumers think of yet another strategy targeted at canvas pieces? How will all these things play out and where will it leave Louis Vuitton within the context of the luxury market?