ASA Ruling on Louis Vuitton UK Ltd
Louis Vuitton UK Ltd
160 New Bond Street
26 May 2010
Number of complaints:
Ogilvy & Mather Ltd
Two national press ads for Louis Vuitton:
a. The first ad featured a photograph of a woman stitching the handle of a handbag. Text underneath stated "THE SEAMSTRESS WITH LINEN THREAD AND BEESWAX. A needle, linen thread, beeswax and infinite patience protect each overstitch from humidity and the passage of time. One could say that a Louis Vuitton bag is a collection of details. But with so much attention lavished on every one, should we only call them details?"
b. The second ad featured a photograph of a woman creating the folds of a wallet. Text underneath stated "THE YOUNG WOMAN AND THE TINY FOLDS. In everything from Louis Vuitton, there are elements that cannot be fully explained. What secret little gestures do our craftsmen discretely pass on? How do we blend innate skill and inherent prowess? Or how can five tiny folds lengthen the life of a wallet? Let's allow these mysteries to hang in the air. Time will provide the answers".
Three complainants challenged whether the ads misleadingly implied that Louis Vuitton products were made by hand.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Louis Vuitton UK Ltd (Louis Vuitton) said the images in the ads were a homage to the craftsmanship which was carried out every day by Louis Vuitton's artisans. They explained that their artisans were trained over many years to be able to carry out the various activities involved in the creation of one of their accessories.
They said the images were posed by models in order not to show favouritism to any particular employee and the images were coloured, lit and styled to make them pleasing to the reader. They also said that the pince device featured in ad (a) was an older version and the real ones were now made of metal, but ultimately they believed the images accurately reflected what took place in their workshops. They said the models in the ads were instructed on technique and posture by Louis Vuitton artisans during the photo shoots to ensure accuracy.
Louis Vuitton said they had 200 employees working on different aspects of their products in each workshop; there were over 100 stages of production for each individual leather bag and wallet and their manufacture was not automated. They said that the ads did not seek to show all the tools that were used in their workshops and that hand sewing-machines were also used in the making of both the products featured in the ad.
Louis Vuitton submitted training documents which showed some of the processes involved in making handbags and purses. They also submitted step-by-step guides for the manufacture of two other products, which also showed the amount of time that was spent on each stage. They said those documents illustrated that their employees were not assembling pre-packed pieces, but were taking individual handcrafted and hand-sewn parts through a range of hand-made stages to reach a final item. Louis Vuitton said that, as a successful international business many of their processes were documented. However, because traditional skills remained a feature that was largely passed on within the atelier they were unable to provide more documentation.
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. They believed that the use of hand sewing machines and the associated tasks were part and parcel of what would be expected to amount to "handmade" in the 21st century. They said it would not be against public expectation for a handmade product to be produced within an industrial setting, although they did not regard their workshops as industrial in nature. They provided photographs of their workshops to illustrate this.
The ASA noted that the images were stylised interpretations of real stages of the production process of both of the items featured. However, we considered that consumers would interpret the image of a woman using a needle and thread to stitch the handle of a bag in ad (a), alongside the claim "... infinite patience protects each overstitch ... One could say that a Louis Vuitton bag is a collection of fine details. But with so much attention lavished on every one, should we only call them details?" to mean that Louis Vuitton bags were hand stitched.
We also considered that the image of a woman handcrafting a wallet using a basic manual tool in ad (b), alongside the claim "In everything from Louis Vuitton, there are elements that cannot be fully explained. What secret little gestures do our craftsmen discreetly pass on? How do we blend innate skill and inherent prowess" would be understood by consumers to mean that Louis Vuitton products were handcrafted, throughout most or all of the entire production process.
We noted that Louis Vuitton had provided training materials and tables which outlined the manufacturing processes for some items. We noted from that documentation that various handcrafting techniques were used as were sewing machines. However, we also noted that we had not seen documentation that detailed the entire production process for Louis Vuitton products or that showed the proportion of their manufacture that was carried out by hand or by machine. 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 ads breached CAP Code clauses 7.1 and 7.2 (Truthfulness).
The ads must not appear again in their current form.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)