With the recent news of luxury fashion houses Gucci and Burberry being awarded damages for copying and counterfeit goods, other luxury brands are keen to keep their aspirational, gleaming images intact. It is precisely the luxury consumer,willing to pay between £800 and £4000 for a leather bag, whom the fashion houses want to stay in favour with.
Image is therefore is everything, and the plethora of fake goods on the market, from double G logo bags to Louis Vuitton's monogrammed leathergoods, is proving that some of these, especially bags, are becoming too common. Luxury houses need to keep a sense of mystery surrounding their brands, and key to this is limiting availability of product, or at least giving the idea that the consumer has purchased a unique product that cannot be bought by everyone.
LVMH in particular is taking exceptional care to protect the the Louis Vuitton image, says Reuters. As the group's most lucrative brand, accounting for 45 percent of operating profit, the company is trying to counter the image that the LV monogram is both too common and easily copied. In recent seasons the brand has added to its offer bespoke leather bags that cost two or three times more than the standard 800 euro Louis Vuitton bag,
Hermes has long been the frontrunner in maintaining its luxurious image. The brand retains an aura of rare exclusivity by having long waiting lists, like its 4,000 euro Kelly bag, and charging up to 100,000 euros for a snakeskin coat. Much of Hermes's leather goods are still handmade, justifying the waiting lists and also price tags for small items such as wallets and key rings.
To stay aspirational, LVMH does not put Louis Vuitton products on sale. Nor does Hermes. LVMH is also careful about its store expansion - none were opened in 2011 - aware that the brand would suffer from too much visibility. Instead, the company prefers to increase the shopfloor space at its existing boutiques, which now number 461 stores in 50 countries.
Even as the megastores lure thousands of shoppers and browsers, Louis Vuitton has a personal shopping service and separate "salons" or sales quarters, so wealthy spenders don't have to be on the shopfloor with the general public. It is here that they buy the luxurious custom bags that the rest of us can only dream of.
Image: Louis Vuitton Speedy Bag