Objects of Desire

Bespoke, customised, personalised, made-to-order, ready-to-measure products... Doors open on a confidential world of exclusive and unique products: the ultra luxe products!

By: Veronique Poles, Luxury & Fashion Consultant

Posted on: April 10, 2011

Bespoke, customized, personalized, made-to-order, ready-to-measure products… Doors open on a confidential world of exclusive and unique products: the ultra luxe products!

Special orders are no longer confined to crowned heads, Maharajas, Nawabs and even stars of the film industry. As long as you have a sum to spend, and the right talent to make your dreams come true, nothing is over-the-top.

Going beyond and away from products that are common or something that most people can afford, collectors and ultra-rich are becoming more thrilled by products and services that they can get through ‘special orders’.

A special order gives a new dimension and intellectual meaning to the money spent: a sign of power, taste and affluence. Special orders have different layers and levels to it – starting with an already existing product and modifying the leather or canvas to make it unique. Many customers want products designed for a specific use – like a hard-sided piece to keep their shoes or a special bag for their dogs while travelling, or a tea pot case, and so on. The next level is of special orders demanded to express the customer’s tastes and individuality – like getting the interiors of a yacht or jet done specially. Of course, as you climb up the ladder, the time required to complete it increases as well. It a question of patience, as you probably will have to wait couple of months since many hours will be spent on creating your order according to its complexity.

To give an example, few years back, a kabuki stage actor wanted a suitcase to store his make-up products. Patrick Louis Vuitton spent three sessions in the changing room of this actor, just to observe the gestures and rites demanded for the make up of the products, in order to better understand all the needs and requirement to get the perfect suitable suitcase. It was then followed by few months to make the suitcase.

A special order is the quintessence of luxury. Focusing on extreme personalization, it’s a revival of the authentic values of a luxury company, its very specific and unique know-how, selection of the best and most beautiful materials, innovative design and supreme sophistication in all the details. The dimensions are focused on high quality, design, aesthetic, functionality, craftsmanship – in short, the ‘Artisans’ dimensions.

From fashion to watches, to perfume, leather goods, jewellery, most of the famous luxury companies have not only sumptuous creations to seduce the ultra-rich (limited editions or even ultra-limited products like Chanel or Yves St Laurent’s crocodile skin shopping bag), but they also develop intensively their ‘special orders’ department and workshop where individual dreams become true.

Louis Vuitton has a schedule of more than 400 special orders per year coming from every where in the world - made 60% by hand by 170 craftsmen, for whom nothing is impossible.Every demand is unique and has an emotional connection between the customer and the brand, as the high degree of customisation involves the end-user in the production of the good. The list of exceptional orders is endless in each ‘luxury house’. Some of them are unusual like Karl Lagerfeld, who ordered LV to create a suitcase for his collection of iPods!
Scott Campbell, the favourite tattoo artist of Marc Jacobs, ordered a suitcase for his instruments. An unnamed client once ordered a suitcase for a cake!

Louis Vuitton trunks have travelled through time and boundaries. A wonderful exhibition took place in Paris from the October 13, 2010 to February 27, 2011, where the most mythic trunks were displayed, along with more than 800 documents explaining the unusual and fascinating stories of some of them. A fabulous book was launched too based on the exhibition.
For the great happiness of one of their customers fond of Champagne, Hermès designed a mat crocodile skin trunk, with 24 silver cups and a tray (made by Puiforcat), and two champagne crystal glasses and a crystal Champagne bucket (made by Saint Louis).
One watch collector contacted Piaget for his 51 watches and Piaget designed an exceptional trunk in leather and brass where 15 out of the 51 watches are in illuminated alcoves. The trunk comes also with a folding shelf with a mirror for trying on, several drawers for the collector’s tools, and a mini travel trunk for three watches

Fifteen years back, when I was working for Waterman Company, I realized the power of personalized orders in contrast with democratized products in the business of luxury. During one training session, I came to know about the various techniques available to personalize and customize a pen. I got the biggest figures for Waterman Company for their luxury segment in France. I was the only one offering those personalized touches and consequently, customers were more than happy and loyal to the brand.

Then working for Louis Vuitton Malletier, Paris, I had the great pleasure to collaborate with Patrick Louis Vuitton, Director of Special Orders department and descendant of Louis Vuitton. I learned a lot about the history of the company and I was quite often at LV’s workshop and museum in Asnières. Patrick Louis Vuitton was inexhaustible and tireless when speaking on the art of travel, realizations from his workshop, the spirit of special orders and the pleasure of drawing plans.

In a natural way, when I moved to New York to collaborate with Louis Vuitton N.A., I implemented a catalogue on special orders and monogrammed orders. The response was amazing!

Back to France as the store manager for a luxury store, the taste for exclusive and unique products was more than ever in my mind. I started collaborating with luxury brands for personalized orders, and also started exploring many other options with different craftsmen in Paris. I was quick to make customers aware of the customized services available and was flooded with unusual orders either from foreign customers, or customers from embassies and banks.

When I moved to India, I was suddenly in the mother country of special orders! Indians have always had tailors, family jewellers…they have always been used to have people making everything to order for them.

Yes, India is a big market for luxury brands, but we also know that international luxury brands will take few more years to be able to offer across different cities of India the same choices that are available in Paris, Milan, New York.

I do believe and bet on the huge opportunity for special orders and more personalized products. They will grow faster and will fulfil the immense desire of exclusivity expected by Indians willing to pay for hand-made and exclusive products.

Based on my passion for special orders and in collaboration with LuxuryFacts, we have decided to introduce a new column on special orders, unique and exclusive products. Each issue will be like a journey through the discovery of talents at your service. We will interview and present companies/designers with a special orders department, or those who only specialize in exclusive products.

But not only the most famous ones - we will also unearth others, more unknown gems for you as well.

To inaugurate the subject, for this exceptional first anniversary issue, we have decided to start with two iconic luxury companies - Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin.

Veronique Poles is a freelance fashion and luxury consultant based inMumbai, with more than 15 years of extensive experience with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Givenchy and Waterman/Gillete Pen Company just to mention a few. Bespoke creations, however, are her first love. For LuxuryFacts, she unveils some of the best kept secrets in the sphere of ‘word of mouth landmarks’ for connoisseurs of products with substance. They are greatest creations made by artisans of excellence and guardians of tradition, who work with passion for detail and quality to make your dreams come true. 

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