Benoit-Louis Vuitton: I am a real person
LIFE & STYLE - Millet M. Mananquil (The Philippine Star) - June 26, 2013 - 12:00am

The first question people ask him is this: “Are you really a Vuitton?”, as if checking the authenticity of a handbag.

And the second question is: “Can you give me a discount?”

Benoit-Louis Vuitton, a dashingly handsome and lovable 6’2” Frenchman, only 35 years old, is the great-great-great grandson of Louis Vuitton who founded the luxury leather goods company in 1854.

His grandfather, Claude-Louis Vuitton, oversaw the production of leather goods in Asnieres, France where the oldest LV workshop is located. His father, Patrick-Louis Vuitton, is currently in charge of leather goods.

“I make sure my father is not my boss,” smiles Benoit, “because I do things my way.”

And what is Benoit’s way? “I respect the tradition, the history and the heritage of the brand, while at the same time bringing in modernity.”

You can say that Benoit is Louis Vuitton’s brand ambassador of this brand that was born and reared in a genteel, Old World era. You can also say he is the rock star of this 159-year-old luxury brand that has managed to stay so timeless, desirable and hip in this modern world. You can say he is a creator and an innovator.

“Yes, I am a real person. I like using a watch, for instance, that is comfortable and easy.”

Benoit’s innovative ideas are seen in the watches that LV started producing 10 years ago, when he officially joined the accessories division (which includes watches) of the family company. 

After finishing a BBA in Marketing and Management at the American Business School in Paris, Benoit traveled the world. He worked as an intern in Paris, London and Tokyo for Louis Vuitton and Chaumet (a sister company of LV) and moved to New York in 2003 where he worked at LV in New York as accessories manager.

He eventually became watches manager and his main project was developing LV’s line of personalized watches.  Personalized, as we know, is the new black in luxury brands. Though it was never a new thing in Vuitton where its products — from handbags to luggage — are personalized with the owner’s initials engraved on leather.

Yes, Benoit says, LV is the only brand that can claim to have personalized watches. “Other brands offer different colors of straps, maybe. But in our personalized Tourbillon watch, the customer can choose the stones (rubies, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds) to be set into the movement. He can also choose the letter or personal element to form the center wheel bridge, plus the metal of the case and hands (platinum, or yellow, pink or white gold),” Benoit explains. The customer can also choose from among the leathers and canvases that will cover the watch’s treasure chest case. There are over 50 colors and material combinations to choose from.

The price range of LV watches? Although the entry level is P150,000, the personalized range can cost anywhere between 2M and 14.9M pesos. The watch you ordered will be delivered in one year.

Won’t the waiting time discourage customers from buying the personalized watch? 

“That’s the idea,” he replies. “Vuitton is about the spirit of travel and the LV customer is the aesthete who travels a lot, favors a watch of his own liking and character, and he or she probably will be the only one with such design. Production is limited and all watches are numbered.”

At the Sala where Benoit met with lifestyle editors over delicious lunch personally designed by chef Colin Mackay, Benoit proudly wore the first watch made by LV with distinct features for personalizing — the Tambour Minute Repeater. It is a dual-time watch where you need to see the local time and to hear the home time. You listen to the chimes that will tell you the home time. “It rings where my heart beats, “ Benoit once said in an interview. Benoit likes watches that reflect a person’s character.     

You can see that he shows his own character by the hip accessories he himself wears. He is clad in Vuitton from head to foot, that’s for sure, carrying an LV Epi bag with his initials discreetly etched on the luggage tag. On his right wrist, he wears his favorite LV watch. On his left wrist, he wears a thin brown leather strip with a Jewelmer pearl (“LV Philippines’ welcome gift to me, they know me well”), plus a tiny jade stone from Thailand.

He also wears a very tiny ring on his right hand. “Is that a wedding ring?” we ask. “More or less,” he smiles evasively.

An example of his concept of a beautiful woman? “I recently saw this fresh, almost perfect face — Sarah Biasini, the daughter of (actress) Romy Schneider. She is a natural beauty.” 

Natural beauty is important to Benoit. 

And so is physical fitness (“I pity those people who still smoke”). Benoit is into running, swimming and horseback riding in order to maintain his ideal 80-kilogram weight. He joined a full marathon in Paris and finished it in four hours and 23 minutes. Not bad considering he lacked training and it was his first time to join one. 

Then a friend (a friend whose wife left him) forced Benoit  to run with him in  a Barcelona full marathon where he did 4:06. Quite an improvement. And still again, his fat friend coaxed him to join the Paris-Versailles run of about 23 kilometers. His fat friend, who had begun losing weight, could run back to Paris, while he, feeling exhausted, rode in the car of a friend back to Paris. Lesson learned: It pays to run.

Benoit makes it a point to run regularly, preferably in the countryside where he loves to spend weekends. He acknowledges the role of social media in the modern world, but personally, he has time only to be on Facebook, but only with a small circle of 400 closest friends and family.

Though he can easily choose the latest products of LV, Benoit still prefers to use the two-wheel LV luggage that was first launched some 10 years ago (LV now has four-wheel luggage). “I like my old luggage because it’s light, it’s black and really discreet.”

“See the watch I am wearing, you won’t see that it’s special until you see the details up close,” Benoit says proudly of his creation.

“Every generation brings in something. So I bring in the personalized timepieces of LV.”

What is the best advice his father has given him?

“My best advice to myself is not to talk about work with my father,” Benoit smiles. “My father sometimes jokes me: ‘You don’t know how to make a bag.’  And I tell him: ‘You don’t know how to make a watch’.”

While he considers himself fortunate for being his own man in his own department, his older brother Pierre-Louis works under their father in the leather department. “Well, we all have our own tasks to do.”

He grew up in the Asnieres factory till he was six, and as a child, Benoit loved collecting watches and saving money during summer to buy a new timepiece. Does he collect vintage Vuitton?

“I only have one vintage item made before 1896 and it was a gift from my father,” he says. Vintage collections, though, can be viewed at the LV museum where people can enter by invitation.

Though obsessed with introducing modernity to the family brand, Benoit has a high respect for its history and heritage. Two years ago, he found an old piece of luggage owned by his father in their countryside home. “It was a shame looking at it, it was not in good condition. I couldn’t leave it alone. I cleaned it and had it restored properly.”

See, that’s how Benoit is. He really is a Vuitton.

* * *

Louis Vuitton is located at Greenbelt 4, Ayala Center, Makati with tel. 857-3604

The author’s new e-mail address is

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