Luxury on the water

Louis-Vuitton-Marina-Bay-Singapore-external-signage-115When Louis Vuitton chairman and CEO, Bernard Arnault, first saw the plans for the massive harbourside Marina Bay Sands multi-purpose resort in downtown Singapore he was impressed by two futuristic, multi-storey buildings constructed as ‘islands’ in front of the shopping and convention centres.

When told they were planned as galleries or exhibition spaces, Arnault said he wanted one of them – exclusively and permanently for his brand.

Long, complex negotiations ensued. And the result is without doubt one of Louis Vuitton’s most fascinating retail executions: a literal island in the sea, connected by a three metre long underwater tunnel from The Shoppes at Marina Bay and a small external walkway linking the store with a private wharf where, yes, one or two customers have tied up and disembarked for a spot of luxury shopping.

Louis Vuitton Marina Bay Singapore interior birdeseye 2

We should point out that Singapore has not lost an exhibition space through Louis Vuitton’s brazen ambition – the walkway hosts an ever changing range of art and fashion exhibitions.

And to be fair, the entire experience inside this Louis Vuitton store is more like a gallery than a shop, cleverly themed with a nautical feel, from stairways to the funnel-shaped eyewear display cabinet, and even a secluded outdoor deck.

Louis Vuitton Marina Bay Singapore the deck 115

The Singapore Maison, one of an exclusive collection of oversized stores which Louis Vuitton describes as “immersive brand temples”, starts inside the Marina Bay shopping centre with a two-storey retail space easily as large as its average sized luxury mall-based store.

Fittingly, the entrance is opposite the doors of the neighbouring casino’s VIP room.

“You’d think this is the store, but it’s only the entrance,” explains Pierre-Olivier Rolland, the store’s manager.

Louis Vuitton SG Interior Manager 115

Pride of place here is an elegant black leather handbag with pink trim. The Capucines bag sells for S$7600 ($A6700). It’s hard to say which fact stuns the most: the price tag or the fact that this store alone sells three to five of them every day in any of 13 different styles.

The bag is named after the Rue des Capucines in Paris, where Louis Vuitton opened his first store in 1854.

Louis Vuitton Marina Bay Singapore Capucines bag 115

The entrance area of the store, in the mall proper, includes a watch room, a relatively new category for LV, featuring its standard range and exceptional offers.

“Watches are still a well kept secret, but collectors are slowly discovering us. We don’t have the tradition in watches that we have in our trunks.”

Louis Vuitton Marina Bay SG watch room 115

He leads the Westfield Asian Express Retail Study Tour group through the tunnel, this month home to a compelling exhibition of products, old and new, which feature in a new book of Louis Vuitton’s fashion photography.

Up an escalator two floors back above the harbour lies a light flooded, distinctly ocean themed two floor showroom of women’s and men’s fashion.

When you arrive in the centre of the room you can see why the average customer spends a couple of hours in the store.

Louis Vuitton Marina Bay Singapore Interior birdseye 115

“No one here is in a hurry,” says Oliver. “You’re either here on holiday or you’ve got the day off.”

Louis Vuitton Maison Marina Bay boasts one of the largest collections of Louis Vuitton products in the world.

Trunks are a case in point. Only a few models of the square classic box-like suitcase can be seen on display, but behind the scenes there are more.

“We don’t sell a lot of them,” concedes Oliver. “They’re for people with private planes or yachts.”

Indeed, these are not the type of luggage anyone would want to entrust to the ‘care’ of your average airport baggage handler. If you do buy one, the store has two skilled painters on hand to carefully apply your initials and personalise it.

Louis Vuitton Marina Bay Singapore Interior 115 4

Meanwhile, the ‘mini trunk’ is proving hugely popular this season – a handbag shaped like a trunk, which has especially caught the imagination of the younger generation.

If you are the sort of customer with your own private jet or super yacht, or perhaps a recognisable celebrity, Louis Vuitton Maison has a surprise in store. On the upper mezzanine floor there is a triangular glass mirror which, at the push of a discretely hidden button, slides away to reveal a full sized VIP lounge where you can relax, away from the public eye, while store staff bring you products to peruse.

Louis Vuitton Marina Bay Singapore lounge and menswear 115

Outside the mezzanine level is a full sized verandah, resembling the deck of a cruise ship, with wooden planking, reclining sofas, and a stunning view of the Singapore financial centre across the bay.

Louis Vuitton often hosts invited guests to what is a perfect vantage point for fireworks displays and other events on the bay.

The Singapore Maison is one of a growing number of breathtaking luxury showcases in the Asia region (Dunhill on Shanghai’s Huaihai Rd is another example). There is a reason the super luxury brands are investing big money in such gallery spaces, as Chris Sanderson, co-founder of The Future Laboratory, told Financial Times three years ago when the Marina Bay store opened.

“A large number of people will stay in a store if there’s more of an experiential element. If they stay longer, there’s a greater propensity to spend. It’s absolutely proven.”


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