LOUIS Vuitton fans will soon have another outlet for their luxury fix besides the current one at Takashimaya.
A new store will open at Ion Orchard, the mall above Orchard MRT station slated to open next year.
Life! got the exclusive confirmation from LV president Yves Carcelle when he was in town to ink the deal last week.
'We had significant growth in Singapore last year,' he says of the decision to expand the brand's presence here. 'The whole city is undergoing a rebirth and there is an excitement coming back into the retail scene.'
The diversification of the tourism industry is one reason for the retail renaissance, he believes.
'Fifteen years ago, it was mainly Japanese tourists driving the luxury industry here. Today, there are visitors from many more countries, including mainland China.'
The Ion Orchard boutique will join Louis Vuitton's current count of four stores in Singapore.
Of these, only the Takashimaya and Ion Orchard stores stock all the product lines from the luxury French label, from ready-to-wear to accessories.
The two-level Ion Orchard boutique will be one of the mall's anchor tenants, with a facade in Orchard Road.
The Takashimaya store will also undergo renovations to double its size to a 10,500 sq ft duplex with a new facade and interior design by mid-2009.
Mr Carcelle, 59, is not worried that these two stores will cannibalise each other.
For one thing, the designs of the two outlets will differ. The signatures of what he calls 'the Louis Vuitton universe' - the display of the iconic trunks as well as the latest products - will remain, but 'with the same vocabulary, we can write several different poems'.
'Ideally, we would have preferred the new store to be further away.
'On the other hand, Singapore is known for Orchard Road and there are many Louis Vuitton stores in other cities that are in close proximity. We have found that people like to have the choice.'
The pumped-up presence in Singapore is merely the tip of the iceberg for the brand's 2008 expansion plans worldwide.
Founded in 1854 by a luggage manufacturer who gave the company his name, it became the label of choice for European aristocrats and Hollywood royalty.
In 1987, it merged with champagne manufacturer Moet et Chandon and brandy maker Hennessy to form the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, which is today led by French mogul Bernard Arnault.
Louis Vuitton is the undisputed leader of the luxury industry, with 390 stores worldwide and an estimated annual sales revenue of US$3.72 billion (S$5.3 billion), according to Paris-based fashion journalist Dana Thomas.
SECRET OF SUCCESS: LV president Yves Carcelle says the secret to creating the French brand's bestsellers is in coming up with the best possible product that will last for generations.
And aggressive expansion is as much a hallmark of its contemporary identity as its coveted monograms.
This year, new stores will be launched in emerging markets like India, Russia and, of course, China, which will see seven new stores in addition to the existing 18.
With expansion, however, comes a problem unique to luxury goods companies: When products become ubiquitous, the label is in danger of losing that crucial aura of exclusivity.
'I consider it a positive evolution that more people in more countries can now afford luxury goods,' says Mr Carcelle. 'I don't regret the passing of the 19th century, when only a little group could buy these things.'
To counter the potential dilution of its luxe credibility, the brand continues to cater to special custom orders from the top end of the luxe consumer market.
And, thanks to house designer Marc Jacobs, its trendier products riff playfully on century-old Louis Vuitton iconography like the monogram canvas launched in 1896.
The results have been nothing short of spectacular, with accessories designed in collaboration with artists like Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami and, most recently, Richard Prince leading the It Bag brigade.
'People always ask me, how do we create a bestseller? We just aim to create the best possible product that will last for several generations,' Mr Carcelle says. 'Marc is fascinated by the history of the company, he is inspired permanently by the past.'
In addition to completely controlling the distribution of its products - Louis Vuitton products are sold only in its boutiques - the label also takes a 'zero tolerance' stance towards counterfeiting. It has a network of 200 trademark agents, investigators and lawyers helping to conduct thousands of raids every year to seize fake LV goods.
'Counterfeiting feeds on an underground economy that often uses child labour and finances other criminal activities. It's not that innocent.'