The New Store of Louis Vuitton in Shanghai

What I glean about the nature of luxury from my yesterday visit to the new Louis Vuitton store at Shanghai’s Plaza 66 at the West Nanjing Road is a mixture of the appeal of the retro accessories, contemporary interior design and leisurely travel imagery. Basically, our present sense of self that these depictions intensify, fictionalize and glamorize does not appear to extend any further than the invention of railroads that, one one hand, brought distant locations within reasonable temporal and financial reach to the wider public and, on the other, made international travel much more comfortable than at any other point in time.

In other words, our sense of luxury may well have been born in the nineteenth century as world literature, daily press, international languages, world fairs and panoramic displays gave the sense of the exotic, stimulating and addictive pleasures to increasingly wide social circles. One only needs to think of tea, sugar, and coffee to understand that whole social worlds continue to be built around what only a tiny elite seemed to be able to afford. Even though Louis Vuitton bags, ties and suitcases are far from becoming consumer items of broad swaths of population, the images of trains, hotels and landscapes have long stopped being a preserve of the monied classes.

In Shanghai, there does seem to be a dynamics of emulation of Paris that is not only present in the architectural memory of this city, but also affecting the transformation of downtown urban districts into neo-classical shopping arcades, gourmet restaurants and chic neighborhoods. The presence of global fashion brands on premiere pedestrian boulevards, shopping thoroughfares, and freshly built floors of luxury shopping malls indicates the aspiration of Shanghai not only to be a place where international design, perfume and fashion makers would clamor to open their boutique outposts, but also to find its own style that would put it apart from other global cities.


Cite this article as: Pablo Markin, "The New Store of Louis Vuitton in Shanghai," in Sociology, Modernity, Art, July 27, 2012, http://sma.hypotheses.org/23.

Avant Propos

Ce blog va présenter mes réflexions sur les travaux de Werner Sombart et les rapports avec ses discussions du capitalisme, le luxe et les villes. Je vais prendre pour une lecture attentive et prolongée une édition allemande du livre de Sombart traitant de ce sujet.

De plus, je vais présenter mes réflexions sur les relations entre l’art, le luxe et les villes que des endroits comme Macao, Singapour et Hong Kong représentent. Étant donné que Macao est un hotspot de premier plan des jeux d’argent au niveau mondial, il m’a amené à réfléchir que, tandis que Las Vegas était un point de départ pour une théorisation du postmodernisme, Macao ou Macau peut être représentatif d’un développement similaire. Seulement, cette fois je réfléchis à Macao comme un site de consommation de luxe, puisque la plupart de ses profits des casinos proviennent de clients VIP. Même si le jeu n’est pas la première association qui vient à l’esprit quand le luxe est concernée, les casinos économiquement parlant ne appartiennent qu’à une sphère plus large de la consommation que seules les personnes au sein d’une tranche de revenu particulier peut se permettre. En d’autres termes, le luxe est un phénomène essentiellement économique.

À cet égard, les connexions entre le capitalisme, le luxe et les villes ne sont pas aussi trivial que cela puisse paraître. Surtout, je réfléchis sur les différences entre la thèse sur le capitalisme que Max Weber a proféré et des souches parallèles sur cette pensée-la, tels que ceux de Georg Simmel et, éventuellement, Siegfried Kracauer.

Sans doute, dans le contexte, il est l’œuvre énigmatique de Walter Benjamin auquel je vais peut-être avoir un recours dans le processus de travail sur ce blog. Aussi, je vais faire des efforts pour garder ce blog trilingue: anglais, allemand et français avec l’aide de Google Translate et mes éditions de résultats ultérieurs.

Opening Remarks

This blog will present my reflections on the work of Werner Sombart dealing with his discussions of capitalism, luxury and cities. I will take for a close and extended perusal a German edition of Sombart’s book dealing with this topic.

As well, I will present my reflections on the relationships between art, luxury and cities that places like Macao, Singapore and Hong Kong represent. Given that Macau is a globally prominent gambling hotspot, it started me thinking that whereas Las Vegas was a starting point for a theorization of postmodernism, Macao or Macau can be representative a similar development. Only this time I reflect on Macau as a site of luxury consumption, since most of its profits from casinos derive from VIP-customers. Even though gambling is not the first association that comes to mind when luxury is concerned, economically speaking casinos do belong to a larger sphere of consumption that only persons within a particular income bracket can afford. In other words, luxury is primarily an economic phenomenon.

In this respect, connections between capitalism, luxury and cities are not as trivial as it might seem. Especially, I am reflecting on the differences between the thesis on capitalism that Max Weber proffered and parallel strains on thought, such as those of Georg Simmel and, possibly, Siegfried Kracauer.

No doubt, in the background there is the enigmatic oeuvre of Walter Benjamin that I may or may not have a recourse to in the process of working on this blog. Also, I will make efforts to keep this blog tri-lingual: English, German and French.

Sociology, Modernity, Art

This blog will collect my research notes on texts that deal with social theory, modernity, and art. I will focus on spaces, objects and representations that deal with modernity. Additionally, I will attempt to trace connections of these topics to art, experience and texts that should illustrate, specify and present these topics.