Bravern Mall’s Louis Vuitton Store: A Showcase of Design and Innovation in Seattle

Founded in 1854, Louis Vuitton (LV) stands as the second oldest luxury brand, after Hermès (created in 1837) and ranks as one of the world’s most valuable luxury companies with operations in over fifty countries.

Louis Vuitton’s craftsmanship and commercial success, over its more than 160-year history, accounts for its commanding market presence, global influence, and distinctive brand power.

Louis Vuitton (1821-1892) began his career after a seventeen-year apprenticeship at the Atelier Maréchal in Paris, where he mastered the artisanal craft and specialized trade of designing and making customized boxes and trunks. In 1852, he became Empress Eugenie’s personal trunk maker and royal packer, and shortly thereafter, at the age of thirty-three, opened his own shop near Place Vendome called Louis Vuitton Malletier. In 1858, inspired by British trunk-maker H.J. Cave’s square designs, Louis Vuitton launched his own line of flat-top, rectangular, lightweight, and stackable trunks, made of durable and waterproof canvas, and designed for convenient stowage and travel.

By 1859, Louis Vuitton’s burgeoning business enabled him to expand his workshop operations as well as relocate his family residence to the Paris suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine, where the emblematic trunks are still made, and the founder’s landmark Art Nouveau villa stands. A museum space, built on the premises in 2015, houses La Galerie Louis Vuitton and showcases the brand’s most valued collectibles. 

The rise in popularity of Louis Vuitton’s innovative luggage spawned countless duplication. To counteract the trend, Louis Vuitton altered the design of his canvas, from the initial gray Trianon pattern (1858) to a Striped canvas (1876), and later to the well-known Damier checkerboard design (1888) bearing the trademark “marque L. Vuitton déposée“.

Upon his death, in 1892, his only child and son Georges Ferréol Vuitton (1857-1936) became his successor. During his forty-four-year tenure, Georges Vuitton introduced the French luxury brand to world markets, enhancing its design and security features. In 1886, Georges Vuitton invented and later patented the ingenious, unpickable brass Tumbler Lock, still in use today, and originally conceived to detract burglars from the allure of expensive Louis Vuitton luggage.

In 1896, in tribute to his father and to further curb counterfeit production, Georges Vuitton created the signature Monogram Canvas, a complex pattern of flowers, quatrefoils, and other shapes, interspersed with the intertwining LV initials which form the eponymous logo of the house. Notwithstanding the Monogram’s unique configuration, the brand, to this day, is one of the most counterfeited in the fashion world. Under Georges Vuitton’s leadership, the label’s product line was extended to include iconic handbag collections crafted for personal use and elegant wear. In 1913, the Louis Vuitton Building, reputed as the largest travel-goods store in the world at the time, was opened on avenue des Champs-Elysees. It has since been re-designed by the American architect, Eric Carlson, and re-opened in 2005.

In 1936, George’s eldest son, Gaston-Louis Vuitton (1883–1970) took over as head of the brand until his death in 1970, broadening the design and aesthetic appeal of its leather goods collections. A third generation Vuitton, he is perhaps best known for his avid curiosity and personal collection of hundreds of eclectic objects, accumulated over his lifetime. 

He was succeeded by his son-in-law, Henri Racamier (1912-2003) who remained at the helm of the prestigious family enterprise until his departure in 1990. An industrialist and financier, Racamier took the company public in 1984 and in June 1987, merged with France’s most prestigious and lucrative brands in fine spirits, Moët Hennessy, to form LVMH

Under the subsequent leadership of Bernard Arnault, the LVMH group grew to control over seventy brands under sixty subsidiaries and to become the undisputed, global leading force in luxury retail and the world’s largest conglomerate in the sector.  The non-profit branch of LVMH, the Louis Vuitton Foundation, designed by the American architect Frank Gehry and located in Paris’ historic Bois de Boulogne, is an art museum and cultural center which opened its doors to the public in October 2014. 

In 1990, the Vuitton’s family managerial control of the Louis Vuitton subsidiary came to an end, with Yves Carcelle (1948-2014) becoming the brand’s first non-family CEO and President. His strategic vision of a fully vertically integrated company, from product creation, to manufacturing, and distribution, steered the company towards total control of the brand. His aggressive expansion into all major capitals of the world, most notably Asian markets, doubled the number of boutiques. The LV building in Tokyo’s Ginza district, inaugurated in 2002, is among the label’s most prominent and lucrative flagships.

A pivotal hallmark of Carcelle’s 22-year tenure was the label’s new orientation towards fashion. The appointment of American designer, Marc Jacobs, as artistic director (1997-2013), ushered in a new era for the label. The first Prêt-à-Porter clothing line for men and women was introduced as well as limited edition collections of Vuitton bags, designed in collaboration with refined contemporary artists.

This revered tradition has recently culminated in the renewal of a previous collaboration with Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, whose signature polka dot motifs on Vuitton products proved sensational for the brand’s 2023 collection. Marc Jacobs was succeeded by Nicolas Ghesquière, former designer for Balenciaga, to take over women’s fashion (2013-present). Virgil Abloh, a trained architect, and connoisseur of street fashion was appointed creative director for menswear from 2018 until his death in 2021. He is succeeded by the celebrity singer and entrepreneur, Pharrell Williams, who stepped into the role in February 2023.

Following Yves Carcelle’s departure in 2012, Michael Burke became chief executive of Louis Vuitton, until he was succeeded by Dior’s CEOPietro Beccari, in 2023.

In its capacity as general contractor and construction manager, and in partnership with client architects, SAJO has recently completed a Louis Vuitton flagship at the Bravern, the prestigious outdoor shopping destination, located in Bellevue, Washington. The 8,000 square-foot, two-floor store, with its large façade and spacious interior designs, was executed over a 52-week period to the client’s satisfaction. SAJO’s previous experience with Louis Vuitton projects, in both Canada and the United States, had paved the way for yet another fruitful collaboration.

A legendary brand, Louis Vuitton is a symbol of timeless style and unmistakable cachet. Its magnetic appeal to its reams of celebrity ambassadors, elite clientele, and fashion enthusiasts, from around the world, has proved unwavering. 

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