Did Vuitton Engage in a Little Fakery, Too?

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton has zero tolerance for companies that manufacture and sell fake goods. The Paris-based luxury group works with law-enforcement authorities to shut down counterfeiting operations in China, and has won court rulings against eBay for selling fake copies of Vuitton bags, Dior sunglasses, and other items.

But now British regulators have accused LVMH of engaging in a bit of fakery itself. On May 26, the country’s Advertising Standards Authority banned two recent Louis Vuitton advertisements, saying they left a “misleading” impression that the company’s products were handmade.

The ads, the subject of a Europe Insight blog post last December, depict Vuitton handbags and other items being fashioned by workers using hand tools and needle and thread. In fact, most Vuitton products are largely machine-produced—something I have witnessed firsthand in a Vuitton factory. The British truth-in-advertising agency opened an investigation after three consumers complained about the ads.

In its ruling, the agency said that Vuitton didn’t deny using sewing machines in its workshops. “They said that hand sewing machines were used for some aspects of items because they were more secure and necessary for strength, accuracy and durability,” the agency said. However, the company provided no documentation to the agency about the proportion of work done by hand. “Because we had not seen evidence that demonstrated the extent to which Louis Vuitton products were made by hand, we concluded that the ads were misleading,” the agency said.

LVMH, in a statement, said the ruling was not “about the truth of the claim, but whether there was sufficient documentation available to prove to the ASA the ‘extent to which LV products are made by hand.’ ” LVMH says the ad campaign has now ended.

Don’t expect Vuitton customers to rise up in anger over this issue. Reader comments on the earlier Europe Insight blog post were divided between those who thought the ads were dishonest, and those who thought the company was, as one reader put it, simply “celebrating craftsmanship and skill. What’s wrong with that?”

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