In a two-night celebration that took over Beirut last week, the historic luxury goods house Louis Vuitton opened its first boutique in the Lebanese capital, with eyes set on expanding business to Egypt within the coming years.
Many celebrities attended the event, including Christian Louboutin, Catherine Deneuve, Lebanese actress and director Nadine Labaki, and Haifa Wehbe.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Denis Pietton, the French Ambassador to Lebanon, also attended the opening. Chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton Yves Carcelle hosted the event as well as a press conference earlier in the day in the breathtakingly beautiful store located on 103 Allenby Street in downtown Beirut.
The press conference was somewhat emotional. Carcelle expressed the close relationship between France and Lebanon, and the inextricable historical and social links between the two countries.
The connotations of history here are many: the boutique’s location is in a district stamped with Beirut’s memories of civil strife. Today, the beautiful façade of the store pays homage to the creative renaissance and booming reconstruction of the city; pieces inside pay tribute to Lebanon’s current pool of talent.
The store’s interior follows the architectural concept of famed luxury stores architect Peter Marino’s designs for the Louis Vuitton boutiques of the Champs-Elysées in Paris and recently renovated boutique on New Bond Street in London.
Soft, muted shades of beige and brown in the form of marble flooring and Aniegre wooden panels dominate the interior, against which leather goods, luggage, accessories, sunglasses and shoes stand out. Metal grills pull one’s view upwards; composed of the brand’s iconic monogram flower, the décor reflects the motif of the wooden latticework mashrabiya hinting ever so subtly at the city’s Arab heritage, explained Carcelle.
A beautiful collection of vintage trunks and luggage has been permanently set in the boutique, “as is traditional in every Louis Vuitton boutique,” Damien Vernet, general manager of the brand’s Middle East and India Operations, told Daily News Egypt. A special trunk was made to contain the original film reels of Nadine Labaki’s hit movie Caramel.
But the pièce de résistance was the artwork entitled “Partir et Revenir’” (Leaving and Returning) in the store’s display windows, by the widely-recognized Lebanese artist Marwan Rechmaoui. An allegory on travel inspired by Homer, it not only reflects the origins of the house as the purveyor of luxury travel, but also reflected the nature of the Lebanese people who systematically leave Lebanon only (more often than not) to return once more.
Louis Vuttion also announced during the press conference that their latest city guide would feature Beirut, set for publication in October.
When Vernet was asked by Daily News Egypt about the possibility of a similar venture in Egypt, he replied, “The Egyptian market has been on our mind for some time and we are in the process of looking for a suitable location. We are planning on perhaps opening within the coming two to three years.”
The store’s interior is understatedly elegant. (Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton)
Catherine Deneuve and Nadine Labaki at the opening of the Louis Vuitton boutique in Beirut. (Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton)