This is how Louis Vuitton makes its exotic leather bags

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For decades, Louis Vuitton artisans have honed their unique skills in elevating exotic leather to new heights of sophistication, all also sourced from responsible sources.

Exotic leathers (python, shagreen, lizard, ostrich, crocodile) have a natural appeal, although it is crocodilian leather that claims the ultimate in superiority. It is prized for its unparalleled versatility and chic appearance and is considered the most valuable and exclusive leather. Over the decades, the craftsmen of Louis Vuitton have gradually taken this exceptional material to new heights.

All exotic skins used by Louis Vuitton are sourced responsibly from species protected by the Washington Convention, also known as CITES. All the tanneries working with Louis Vuitton respect these international guidelines guaranteeing 100% traceability and animal welfare remains at the heart of the Maison’s crocodile creations.

Capucines BB Sahara Gold crafted in precious crocodilian leather, lined with luxurious goatskin leather and featuring sparkling metal hardware. (Photo: Louis Vuitton)

The creative process

The process of creating a single bag is complex, with a procedure totaling 350 different steps. From skin selection to the final product, thorough care and attention is essential at every step. As soon as the skin is tanned, the Maison only selects the crème de la crème. It is at this stage that the fate of each skin is determined. Experienced craftsmen decide which bag style, color and surface finish best highlight the beauty of the skin by complementing the patterns on a natural scale.

Finding the most suitable exotic skins for each bag is a long and arduous process. In addition, a single handbag requires between three and five separate and comparable skins. Each segment is selected to achieve a scale pattern continuity at the intersection where the edges of each bag meet. Investing in extra care is a priority to ensure that the color and luster of each surface accurately matches.

Louis Vuitton exotic leather
Small Tie Dye Trunk Indigo. (Photo: Louis Vuitton)

In addition, it takes between 6 and 10 weeks to tan exotic skin. Then it takes an additional six weeks to color, nourish with oils and polish the surface of the leather to achieve the desired final finish before the bag making process can begin. Without a doubt, the creation of these uniquely constructed assets requires all of the House’s legendary know-how.

In terms of technique, Louis Vuitton is dedicated to exploring new and contemporary methods for better colors and treatments, while perfecting the art of consistency. For example, adjusting color recipes until the resulting hues are the right tone and depth. On average, it takes 15 odd trials to produce the perfect dye recipe.

Currently, the Maison’s exotic bags are available in a permanent range of 33 specially formulated colors, with additional choices offered depending on the season. No other luxury home offers such an expansive crocodile color palette.

Louis Vuitton exotic leather
BB Pink Spinel nasturtiums. (Photo: Louis Vuitton)

The final touch

In terms of finishes, Louis Vuitton exotic skins are available in three classic alternatives, namely gloss, matte and high gloss. The creation of a shiny crocodile bag is achieved by the action of polishing a semi-precious agate stone on the surface of the skin. The pressure combined with the heat generated by this mechanical action magnifies the natural radiance of the skin without the aid of varnish. The stone used in this rigorous hand polishing process must be polished every other day to keep its surface perfectly smooth.

For an elegant matte finish, the skin is softened for a long time by hand before being polished with a roller of wool felt which gives a sober and satin sheen. Meanwhile, the high-gloss finish offers a fascinating balance of matte and luster, full of suppleness. To do this, the craftsman begins the process of obtaining a matte finish and then nourishes the leather with oils in preparation for the plating step, which adds shine to the surface. The use of heat and pressure intensifies the reflection capacity of the skin, without altering its soft texture.

Louis Vuitton exotic leather
Santorini Blue Twist. (Photo: Louis Vuitton)

Season selections

Occasionally, Louis Vuitton offers seasonal finishes intended to surprise and delight connoisseurs of exotic leathers. For example, recent seasons have seen the emergence of pearl gold leaf and Fusion – brushed, hand-painted lines of color to create a subtle effect of optional side stripes. Not afraid to innovate, the House is also embarking on radically daring treatments that push the exoticism for the contemporary landscape.

Among the distinctive finishes unique to Louis Vuitton is the raku treatment that emulates crackle enamel on Japanese pottery. On exotic skin, this inventive method highlights the contrast between the natural scales and their contours. Another example is the matte shou-sugi-ban technique, in which the skin treatment mimics the charred and bubbled surface of traditional Japanese wood.

The traditional tie-dye technique, heavily influenced by the Japanese art form of shibori, is another striking treatment that has become an iconic Louis Vuitton style. These meticulous methods explore different craft traditions to enhance the natural beauty of hides while using modern materials and new techniques that lay the foundation for the future of craftsmanship.

Popular styles within the exotic bag collection include Capucines, Petite Malle, Twist, City Streamer and Petite Boîte Chapeau. Whatever design suits you, Louis Vuitton’s bold new direction in exotic leather goods combines color, expert construction and unconventional graphic effects to make each bag a unique work of art and a lifelong companion.

This story first appeared on Prestige Online Malaysia.

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