Sometimes, the fashion industry can be extremely complicated to keep up with.
With a never-ending list of designer names and the constant state of evolution the industry faces, it can be difficult to keep pace with the ever-changing challenges of the business.
Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin are two French houses that have long been confused with one another. But, are Louis Vuitton and Louboutin the same? While both companies primarily focus on womenswear, these are two completely separate companies with very distinct brand DNAs and iconic products.
The Origins of Louis Vuitton
The 1830s brought wealth and economic expansion in both America and Europe, as the increase in trade routes, the mass production of railroads, and the Erie Canal all contributed to the fast-tracked globalization of the world. As passenger travel of the time was dominated by horse-drawn carriages, boats, and trains, baggage was normally handled without care. It was common for travelers with enough cash to turn to craftsmen to pack and protect their precious objects.
Having arrived in Paris in 1837 on foot as a 16-year-old, Louis Vuitton first apprenticed under Monsieur Maréchal where the young entrepreneur quickly established himself as a valuable asset. As this was the beginning of this highly specialized trade; designing boxes and trunks according to clients’ instructions was the beginning of his career in the artisanal industry. After years of hard work, Vuitton opened his own workshop at 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines.
Louis Vuitton: At present
With profit margins north of 30%, Louis Vuitton is one of the most profitable brands in the world according to Forbes. Based on Statistica data, Louis Vuitton as a brand was valued at approximately $14.86 billion USD, gaining +9.4% year on year since 2019. The company operates 460 stores in 50 countries.
Louis Vuitton has truly set its mark in the fashion world. Arguably, the brand hinges its success on its authentic Louis Vuitton leather and the use of other original vintage materials. The price tag doesn’t deter the loyal fans of this award-winning brand.
The Origins of Christian Louboutin
Christian Louboutin, is currently the world’s most recognizable shoe designer and the creator of the iconic red bottom footwear. But who is Christian Louboutin, really?
Born and raised in Paris, Louboutin was allegedly expelled from three schools on account of his lack of dedication towards his studies and excess attention to sketching shoes.
After escaping to Egypt and India as a teenager, Louboutin returned to Paris with a portfolio filled with heel designs. After approaching many major couture houses, he began his career with one of the world's most respected shoemakers, Charles Jourdan. After leaving Charles Jourdan, Louboutin worked for Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Roger Vivier as a freelance designer.
After founding his own company in 1991, the designer opened his first store in Paris in 1992 in which his iconic Italian hand-crafted red bottoms were very quickly welcomed by Hollywood actresses and Parisian fashion icons.
Christian Louboutin: At Present
The Louboutin brand has created a loyal fan base worldwide. While Louboutin is not as profitable as its competitor Louis Vuitton just yet, the brand has revolutionized the fashion industry in more ways than one. The brand was valued at $2.7 billion USD in March of 2021 (Marketwatch, 2021), and holds an impressive total of 150 Louboutin retail stores throughout 30 countries around the world.
Louis Vuitton Vs Christian Louboutin: Deep Dive
It’s really quite tough to compare the two French powerhouses. It’s like comparing apples to oranges! Both are wonderful and valued fruits, but at the end of the day, they are vastly different in terms of taste, texture, and nutritional value. The main differences between the two companies revolve around their corresponding product range, brand DNA, and Business models
Firstly, Louis Vuitton and Louboutin have vastly different product ranges, and the two houses thrive in different categories. On one hand, Louis Vuitton’s wide range of luxury goods has gained widespread popularity. The brand continues to specialize in luxury luggage, which is accurately aligned with the brand’s heritage, along with other leather goods such as handbags, and accessories. On the other hand, Louboutin focuses its efforts on the luxury footwear market along with licensed categories (beauty, fragrance, etc…).
Brand DNA & Target Market
Although both brands have impressive origin stories, Louboutin (1991) is a much younger brand in comparison to Louis Vuitton’s 1837.
Louis Vuitton's rich history has created an extremely strong corporate identity with its desired target audience. The brand’s ‘LV’ emblem paired with its iconic Japanese-inspired flower motif is a core identifier and dates back to the start of the company. This dynamic duo has created a synonymous connection to grandeur, comfort, and status with their demographic. Along with their well-known symbolism, the brand has stayed true to its identity of collaborating with a diverse set of artists who have elevated the brand.
Contrastingly, since being established in 1991 Christian Louboutin has always envisioned creating a safe space, “a shop, with nice shoes. That’s it.” (Louboutin, BoF 500 Interview, 2021). At its core, the brand’s focus is to "make a woman feel sexy, beautiful, to make her legs look as long as [Mr. Louboutin] can." Targeting an upper high-income demographic, the brand combines quality, glamor, and a boutique shopping experience to help compliment its consumer’s life with a splash of drama. Imagery plays a substantial role in the reputation of Louboutin, and the style names of each individual shoe adds to the exceptional value of the product range.
Pronunciation for these brands may get confusing for some non-french speakers. To clarify, Louboutin is pronounced LOO-buh-TAAN, while Louis Vuitton is pronounced LOOO-ee (pause) vuh-TAAN.
Louis Vuitton positions their products in a strategically exclusive way, refining its reputation over time. In order to attract, nurture and retain clients, Vuitton maintains a value-based pricing strategy. Rather than focusing on the costs of manufacturing and material quantity, their prices are based on their product's aesthetic, trendiness, and psychological value. With an average price range of approximately $1,100 - $6,000 USD, Vuitton provides high emotional value to its client base, in turn creating a loyal ‘LV’ tribe.
Louboutin on the other hand takes quite a different route. At an approximate price range of $695 - $6,000 USD, the brand applies a unique price skimming model; a strategy in which a higher price provides selective exclusivity to your clientele (New Breed +, 2019) and maintains a luxurious perception. Christian Louboutin, also being an innovator, managed to enhance the most undesirable area of the shoe and create an iconic identifier for his brand. This close attention to detail is what makes this identity so remarkable. With the combination of Louboutin’s innovative, high-quality products along with the brands’ well-thought-out celebrity endorsements, the company is able to create a state of ‘dream’ with its followers.
Louis Vuitton Vs Christian Louboutin: Final Thoughts
It truly is a tough comparison to make as both brands have created such distinct statements in each of their own categories.
When it comes to shoes, the competition is slim as most are drawn to Louboutin's iconic red-bottom aesthetic, and despite Louis Vuitton's wide range of luxury goods, their handbags and leather goods are their most desired pieces.
Although both companies employ vastly different marketing, pricing, and targeting strategies, they both reap an extremely diverse and loyal fan base. Both target high-luxury shoppers with an array of budgets, styles, and purchasing intentions.