7x7 Exclusive: The Making of a Louis Vuitton Bag


Louis Vuitton just opened the lacquered doors of its first West Coast made-to-order handbag salon in Union Square. So, of course, we had to check it out.

At the plush, appointment-only Salon Haute Maroquinerie within the Louis Vuitton Union Square store, there are five handbags in a wall-sized, cerused oak case. They glow like jewels, in smoky lavender, watermelon, orange and coral. Monica Savini, my fetching bag expert, breaks my trance, offers me a coffee, and we get started.

What are we here to do exactly? Create a one-of-a-kind bag from the finest materials in the world, of course. There are 80,000 possible combinations. That means there's a lot of work ahead of us. Step one? Choose a bag.

Here are your options:

1. Milaris. The name combines Milan and Paris. It was created for the first Salon H.M. in Milan in 2011. The bag is boxy, and is wider at the top than the bottom, in a modern way.

2. Neo Steamer. It's modeled after LV’s iconic steamer bags, which ladies of decades past would hang outside the door on a ship with soiled linens inside. It’s mid-century in style, and dead classic.

3. Triangle. Originally designed by Grandma Vuitton for her knitting needles in 1934.

4. Locket. This is a versatile zippered tote, which goes both ways—for men or for women.

5. Noé. The classic drawstring bucket. Get this: It was initially special-ordered by a customer in 1932 to carry five bottles of champagne.

(All but the Noé are available exclusively in the Salons H.M. Bag snobs take note: San Francisco's Salon is only the third in the USA and the fourth in North America.)

The Milaris captures my fancy. It's the most modern of the group. Size wise, I prefer a small bag, so the Petit Milaris it is.

Step two: Choose the exterior. Out of an LV steamer trunk up to my ribs, Monica pulls binders filled with swatches of the softest lamb, bright crocodile, and subdued pebbled leather. There's also a palette of exquisite colors, all with French names. While I love color, when it comes to this bag, I want it to be forever and go with everything: Noir. And crocodile.

Step three: The lining. There is goat and lambskin. I choose a dark green called Vert Foret in lamb (which is softer and slightly more expensive).

Step four: The hardware. The silver appeals (it's so clean), but I know when I see a five figure bag with silver hardware, she looks so under-dressed. Like she left the house in her underwear. That is not what I have in mind. I go with gold.

Step five: The monogram. When choosing every detail in a bag, why not go all the way? Name inside? Yes. I choose my initials, stamped into the leather in gold type.

Step six: Monica enters my choices into an iPad, and the dream bag comes to life. (Also, the iPad is very detail oriented and prompts us to choose between three types of crocodile—I choose Porosus, which is whiter between the scales.) Monica clicks through—I swoon over the page with the Vert Foret (forest green) lining revealed in sublime virtual reality. We land at the final page with a price tag (the cost of a luxury SUV) and the delivery date, which is exactly one year from now.

Curious to know how another option would compare, I choose the same bag shape in Pistachio pebbled leather with Cassis lining. Also, stunning. A fraction of the price, and arrives in five months (late November). Just in time for Christmas! Ahem.

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