It would not be an exaggeration to call Louis Vuitton Malletier’s CEO and chairman, Yves Carcelle, a master at turning around fortunes. It was his successful turnaround of French textile brand Descamps that caught the attention of Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of the Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) Group. That was in 1990, and it was in the same year that Carcelle’s successful journey with Louis Vuitton started. In the last 15 years, Carcelle has catapulted the luggage-making company to one of the world’s most sought after luxury-brand houses. by bringing in new designers to spiff up Vuitton’s styling and expand the product line, among other things.Last year, Louis Vuitton contributed nearly 30% to LVMH’s $10.8 billion (about Rs47,520 crore) sales and more than 80% to its $1.4 billion operating profits. In an exclusive interview with Campaign , Carcelle talks about the evolution of the luxury market, India and trends globally.
How has the market evolved since you joined the luxury conglomerate over one-and-a-half decades ago?
In 1854, Louis Vuitton set up as a trunk maker in Paris, where his unique savoir faire established his products as the standard against which others were judged. Today, Louis Vuitton encompasses a full range of luxury products, including special orders, trunks, luggage and travel bags, handbags and small leather goods. With the arrival of Marc Jacobs in 1997, Louis Vuitton also began to offer ready-to-wear clothes and shoes, and accessories including watches, jewellery and sunglasses. When we opened in China in 1992, people asked: “Why do you come here? We don’t understand luxury.” My answer was: “No, your culture is sophisticated. And one day, soon, you will be the biggest market in the world.” The world is changing and so are people’s aspirations. As a result, the luxury goods industry is enjoying clear growth.
How important are the emerging luxury markets for you? How has the Indian experience been since you first set up shop here?
Some emerging markets for luxury products have a strong potential. We have 15 stores in China, two in Russia and two in India. Controlling our store network enables us to offer utmost quality of ambience and service, but it also allows us to know our clients better. We also opened our first stores in a few countries in 2006—one each in Ukraine, Hungary, Norway—and have plans to open stores in Cyprus, Qatar or Panama later this year.
We were one of the first luxury houses to open a store in India in 2003. As a result, we benefit from a solid reputation and have an ambitious long-term expansion plan. Even though we are hampered by the lack of availability of the right kind of retail environment, it is clear that we see further growth in the two key cities where we already have stores. We will soon open our third store in India, our second in Delhi. I believe India has phenomenal potential and growth has been exceptional. In fact, the volume of business in India is proportionately larger than when we started in China! Habits have changed: Earlier, people in India only invested in gold, today they also invest in accessories.
What are the global luxury trends?
By definition, luxury embodies strong values of craftsmanship, creativity and emotion. It is also an experience. We want to offer a unique experience to our clients, who can embrace the entire Louis Vuitton universe in one place. This is the case with our Maison on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. The Maison Louis Vuitton is a truly unique concept that combines luxury, leisure, art and culture. I think it represents a new luxury trend in retail.