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A report by British newspaper The Guardian has alleged that Louis Vuitton’s luxury footwear labelled as ‘Made in Italy’ are, in fact, secretly produced in Romania.
The factories, mainly based in Transylvania, are said to manufacture everything apart from the soles; the shoes are then sent to Italy and France for finishing. Louis Vuitton’s workshop in Venice, Italy, is said to market the footwear as having been made with “ancestral savoir-faire” in a region “revered for its fine shoe craftsmanship”. Final consumer price tags can vary from €565 to over €2,000.
The identities of the factories have been kept secret and there is no mention of the brand on the outside, just ‘Somarest’, a little-known LVMH subsidiary. Contacted by media, LVMH has rejected the claims. However, The Guardian reporters, who allegedly succeeded to enter one of the buildings, claim the Louis Vuitton brand is omnipresent inside through logos, a gallery of handbags showcased behind glass cases and an iconic trunk of the brand in the middle of a room.
According to the report, LVMH established its first factory in Romania in 2002 to benefit from low labour costs. Production at the Somarest site is estimated to have increased 70% since 2007 to around 100,000 pairs annually. A spokeswoman for the factory eventually agreed to discuss further details with The Guardian and said senior managers are French and the materials are imported from France. Once the footwear is shipped to France or Italy, it benefits from the “made in France” or “made in Italy” label in accordance with EU law, which stipulates that for goods produced in more than one country, the country of origin is the one where the items underwent “the last, substantial, economically justified processing”. Since the soles are added after they are exported, Louis Vuitton’s shoes can be labelled accordingly.
She also said Louis Vuitton’s factories in Romania, which employ around 734 people, give workers weekends off, pay for overtime and use non-toxic chemicals. Most workers are trained on site. The French brand, which is said to have expanded in the 1980s to cater to a growing middle-class market, has had to lower production costs to keep profits high.
Source: The Guardian