On an unseasonably cold night last January, VIPs and global media gathered at the Amanyangyun Resort on the outskirts of Shanghai. The luxury property played host to a historic unveiling: the first commercial collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Hennessy.
France’s premier fashion house and cognac’s largest producer banded together to form the LVMH conglomerate in 1987. So, by some measures, this was an event more than 30 years in the making. With sales from both brands observing a marked uptick in China, on the eve of the New Year, it was a particularly auspicious time for synergy.
The curtain lifted to reveal a piece of bespoke craftsmanship worthy of the wait: The Paradis Impérial Trunk Created by Louis Vuitton. When it becomes available this spring, the travel case and bar will retail for a staggering 273,000.
Why the lofty sticker price? For starters, this ultimate status symbol is handcrafted to order in France, adorned in the highest-grade leather, bearing the brand’s trademark monogram pattern. Standing 1.5 meters long, the trunk opens to reveal four magnum-sized crystal decanters of Paradis Impérial — Hennessy’s most exclusive release. It features eau-de-vie aged for more than a century in French oak, sourced from one of the oldest barrelhouses in the world. Estimated value per bottle: 6,000. Artist Arik Levy redesigned the crystal earlier this year, evoking a graceful sensuality, and marked by a faceted veneer and broad feminine shoulders.
“The presentation affects your senses,” explains Levy. “The precision that it’s engineered with brings that same perception to the quality of the liquid itself.” Levy also played a part in arranging the trunk’s interior layout. The set showcases crystal stemware with its own special housing and a smaller Nomad Case, which safely secures a single magnum for extended travel.
Accessories were also inspired by Hennessy’s eighth generation Master Blender, Renaud Fillioux de Gironde. They include the tools used by his Tasting Committee, a quality control panel that meets every morning in the company’s cognac headquarters to sample eau-de-vie. Levy incorporated these elements into what he calls the "tasting ritual." “When you pour yourself, you become the master of ceremony,’” he says. “You are the extension of the Master Blender’s work.”
That it would debut in Shanghai is hardly by chance. This part of China promises to be a prime market for the lavish collaboration. Even in the wake of a state-sponsored crackdown on gift giving, the country imported more than 24.2 million bottles in 2018 — making it the world’s third largest consumer of the spirit.
For Louis Vuitton, China has grown into its largest consumer base. Rapid expansion within the country helped propel sales by more than 13 percent in the first quarter of 2018. And Shanghai is home to the largest of China’s 50 Vuitton Maisons — a four-storey flagship in Plaza 66, one of China’s most successful luxury shopping malls.
Emboldened by figures from the last three months of 2018, LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault recently told investors, “We are confident for 2019, which got off to a good start, but we’re not in control of the global environment.” Finally bringing together its two most visible brands is one way for the company to assume a more proactive approach. And by launching in China, it’s making an appeal to a new generation of ultra high-end consumers. More than ever, that younger demographic is inspired by luxury and liquor. And so, in fact, this particular product might prove to be the perfect storm.
Still, they’ll need quite the gust of wind to bring a quarter million dollar piece of luggage to shore. If this sort of aspiration is beyond your grasp, consider the standalone Nomad Case, which sells for a relatively modest 84,000, or perhaps a standard bottle of Paradis Impérial, in the new Levy-designed bottle, for only 3,000. It’s almost a steal.