Earlier this week it was unveiled that Louis Vuitton “Made in Italy” branded shoes are in fact, the products of a little town in the region of Transylvania in Romania – Famed for vampire mythology, it’s not quite the setting for luxury craftsmanship we had in our minds.
For a wealthy, fashion enthusiast, the picture of a highly skilled, Venetian shoe-maker expending hours of work on fine detailing in an Italian atelier would merit a premium price tag for a pair of designer shoes. It’s not rare to see LV footwear selling anywhere between £500 and £1,200, depending on the style and type. Yet instead, literally more than one thousand miles away from where their labels would suggest, Louis Vuitton heels, boots, sandals and sneakers are being mass produced in a low wage, third world country before only the soles are fitted in Italy.
Perhaps selfishly, the news feels disappointing. As an aspiring owner, my initial thoughts sprung to that of deception. Italians are known for leather, and China and the Middle East, beautifully embroidered silks. Many clothing companies recognise that consumers are influenced by these geographical links to luxury goods and will select what they purchase based on their perception of where’s best for what. In other words, the location where the materials are sourced and the garments and shoes manufactured matter just as much as the actual style.
When I moved to Paris to pursue my studies of the French language for a year, one of my greatest pleasures was in being stopped by Parisian women on the street (who are unquestionably the epitome of effortless style and grace) and being asked where my coat was from. A sandy, stone-coloured Chelsea trench, I beamed when I answered “Burberry”. I was proud to adorn a staple that is quintessentially British and to not only have their approval but to be dressed everyday in what was desirable to haute couture-blooded French fashionistas.
So while I still do like a Louis Vuitton shoe and applaud that the plant in Transylvania goes some way to bolster the local economy – it creates a presumed hundreds of jobs and provides small communities with a livelihood – the same sense of aspiration and/or national pride I assign to these “Made in…” items, with the knowledge that they’re not really, is certainly lost.