The brand, which is famous mostly due to its cult baggage items, is now gaining weight in shoe category. We went to the Louis Vuitton shoe factory located near Venice in order to understand what the competitors should expect, as Louis Vuitton is following them on the heels with its classic shoes and fashionable sneakers.
1. Launching of shoe production
Louis Vuitton shoe collection first appeared in 1998 and then was narrowed by women’s shoes only. In 2007 they started launching of some more shoe categories such as men’s classic shoes, moccasins, sneakers. By 2010 Louis Vuitton shoes had been sold in more than 300 brand stores all over the world.
2. Made in Italy
Louis Vuitton shoes are manufactured in Fiesso, which is not far from Venice. The brand has four main lines and four shoe workshops as well, named after classic bags and leather collections of the Louis Vuitton fashion house. Women’s shoes are manufactured in Alma, moccasins in Nomade, classic men’s shoes in Taiga and sneakers in Speedy.
3. Manual work
Usually, one pair of shoes goes through hands of 150 shoemakers, which perform about 115 operations before the box of shoes goes to the store.
Each pair of Louis Vuitton shoes is laced and packed manually.
Usually, factory workers are mature, hardworking people with many years of experience and sad eyes, having several kids and probably grandchildren. Here, in contrast to any other factory, work young and alert people. During hammering the heels they manage to smile at you not dropping the nails they skillfully keep between their teeth like true professionals. The workers are proud of the finished product and their work for a respectable brand with high-quality standards – that is why they work at Louis Vuitton manufacturing, but not at any other Italian shoe factory.
6. Interior of the factory
They are really proud of their workplace, and that is understandable. Manufacturing in Fiesso looks more like the museum of modern art than the factory. There are high ceilings, huge windows, a lot of light and a garden with shoes-shaped pieces of art right in the middle of the building.
There’s also a small library, which looks like the museum’s souvenir shop with the collection of books and a few archive sketches of memorable examples of shoes. Inspiring original sketches of Warhol and Kusama connected with fashion (and women’s feet) are hanging on the walls. By the way, among the books, you can find Jimmy Choo or any other brand’s album, and it’s not a mistake of the responsible personnel, but a sign of interest to the history of shoes fashion and respect for the competitors, which is rare for this industry.
Louis Vuitton shoes are foremost made manually. Robots are partly used only in sneakers production. The full circle of shoe production is out of their competence. Robots are named here after the Seven Kings of Rome. They fulfill only a few stages of shoe assembly. Leather scrubbing for better glue set and applying of glue on the sneakers’ heel is the robot’s called Numa Pompilius work. Then a girl called Barbara connects the sneakers with the glued heel and passes it to the next robot, which puts the item under the press machine and then passes it to the conveyor. Robots don’t need a lunch time but the one hour brake is recommended for mechanism’s proper operation.
8. Strength tests and quality control
Strength tests are a special issue on the factory. Everything is checked here: the way leather wrinkles, how its color changes depending on the runtime and temperature (shoes are placed into oven and heated, it undergoes the temperature shock during the temperature change from -20°C up to +20°C), how the heel changes when slides, how the shoe’s edge flexes when contacts with pants. Even glue is tested for frost resistance.
The shoes are tested not only by special equipment. For example, there is personnel which wears new model of shoes within 10 days to check whether it is comfortable or not.
If the shoes don’t pass at least one of the tests, the pair goes to further refinement, where the main reason, e.g. inappropriate material, is going to be changed.
9. Made to order shoes
2011 Louis Vuitton has launched its made to order men’s shoe service. Among the first who could make an order were customers of stores in Milan and Sidney.
10. Product customization
Mario, the head of made to order service, is boasting with the choice provided to the customer: 64 kinds of leather (8 types and 8 colors), 4 versions of the logo and several styles from smooth Ducale to brogue Rialto.
This article was prepared with help of gq.ru