MANILA — All roads, flooded or otherwise, led to Louis Vuitton last Friday as the luxury giant marked the reopening of its flagship store in the swanky Greenbelt 4 shopping arcade in the central business district of Makati.
Local social heavyweights were welcomed by Jean-Baptiste Debains, president of Louis-Vuitton Asia-Pacific, to the newly expanded store, which features a façade inspired by the house’s signature pattern. The multi-level store has expansive areas for travel, leather accessories, a section for men and a section for women, not to mention a special wall showcasing the brand’s Rare & Exceptional pieces. There is also a private salon.
The invitations to the reopening cocktails and the private after-party were much sought after among Manila’s hip and fashionable set. Guests were transported to a Whitespace, a venue that was made to look like an airport runway. A set of Louis Vuitton trunk doors flanked the entrance, which guests walked through as they entered a whimsical “World of Flight”, reinforcing the brand’s strong affinity with luxury travel and adventure. Inside, the venue was filled with hot air balloons and vintage model airplanes set against the cool ambience of clear blue skies. The DJ booth, in fact, seemed perched on a cloud floating above the dance floor.
The store’s reopening underlined Louis Vuitton’s confidence in the Philippine luxury retail market. “We are very proud of the expanded Louis Vuitton store in the Philippines,” said Debains. “Our business in the Philippines has grown year after year since we opened at the Greenbelt in 2003. This expansion allows us to even better welcome our guests and showcase in the best way, the quality and variety of our products.”
Not everyone was all that eager to party. One prominent personality, Carlos Celdran, who conducts tours of Manila with the flair of a performance artist — one of his tours is called “Living La Vida Imelda” in reference to the infamous former first lady Imelda Marcos, declined the invitation, saying on his Facebook status that he says “thank you to the folks of Louis Vuitton for the invite to your flagship launch in Manila. But sorry, after all the poverty & problems that I’ve been seeing and dealing with for the past few weeks, it just doesn’t feel right to go at this point. But good luck with the launch, I look forward to the pictures.”
Celdran did point out in a later comment that he was not condemning luxury per se. “I think LV opening up in Manila is a good economic indicator of the consuming power of the country. But until that consuming power is spread out more equitably, I don’t think I’ll feel right going luxe for now.” ￼￼