Louis Vuitton's "slow" road back to prestige

Vicuna wool, lotus flowers and a $2.56 billion acquisition. That's either the antidote to "fast fashion" or a desperate grab for snob appeal.

Raw material for LVMH sweaters. A vicuna near Ecuador's majestic Mt. Chimborazo.

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Louis Vuitton is trying to take the slow road back to its dominance as a luxury retail brand, riding the back of a llama-like animal and a $2.56 billion acquisition.

As I noted recently, the French vendor of elite handbags, clothing, jewelry and champagne has lost some of its shine. While it is still the world's number one luxury brand, it has given up luster to rivals like Prada and Gucci.

Luster is everything in the allure of the luxury world, so LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (the full name-dropping moniker of the company) is doing what it can to polish up.

Its latest move: It's spending $2.56 billion to acquire 80 percent of Loro Piana, an exclusive Italian textile firm and clothier that hails from near Lake Como, a place where George Clooney hangs out.

Loro Piana represents the opposite of the "fast fashion" trend epitomized by the likes of Zara and H&M. As BloombergBusinessweek noted, you could call it "slow fashion."

It deals in materials like vicuna wool, which comes from a South American llama cousin that yields the fine fibers only every two or three years - hardly the in-today out-tomorrow vision of a Zara shop. Likewise, Loro sells a $6,000 sports coat made from Myanmar's lotus flowers.

An LVMH executive called Lora Piana, "one of the most elitist brands in the world."

The weird world of luxury fashion is one of the few places where you can say something like that proudly and without blinking an eye.

Is this indeed the slow road back to brand domination, or is it a desperate attempt at snob appeal?

Photo from David Torres Costales via Wikimeda.

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