This month, the French fashion house Louis Vuitton will launch its inaugural Le Chocolat V range, created by Japanese chef Yosuke Suga, at its newly revamped Ginza Namiki store.
Louis Vuitton, which came to life at 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines in Paris in 1854 and opened its first store in Japan’s capital in 1978, has long valued its engagement with Japan’s sophisticated luxury market.
The Ginza store, which reopened to the public on March 20, sits on a spot occupied by the brand since 1981. Its facade is impossible to miss: The glass monolith, designed by Japanese architect Jun Aoki, is a seamless flow of abstract, reflective curves — his interpretation of a “pillar of water.”
“We think that architecture and luxury work hand in hand, and our clients expect us to make an architectural statement today when we open in a location as iconic as Ginza,” Michael Burke, chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, recently told fashion journal Women’s Wear Daily (WWD). “It’s not just about ringing the till. It’s about engaging with a Japanese architect, engaging with the urban planning of Ginza, engaging with the origins and the providence of Ginza.”
Inside the store, designed by architect Peter Marino, Louis Vuitton’s most coveted retail products span the first four levels — from leather goods, fragrance and travel to ready-to-wear and shoes. The sixth floor is home to an elegant private salon, with artworks scattered among creative collaborations from the brand’s travel-inspired Objets Nomades Collection.
An elevator — echoing the exterior’s water theme, with its rippling and reflective metallic surface — carries visitors to the apex of the building, home to Le Cafe V and soon-to-open Le Chocolat V, designed by A.N.D. and Louis Vuitton Malletier.
Visitors are greeted with the scarlet petals of a flower-inspired chair, while a sea of white origami-like leaves are hung across the ceiling. And to the right, instantly recognizable trunks are laid open to reveal the ultimate luxury treat: the world’s first Louis Vuitton chocolates.
Chef Suga, who spent 17 years working with world-famed chef Joel Robuchon before opening his exclusive restaurant, Sugalabo (No. 85 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list), is no stranger to collaborating with Louis Vuitton: He is also behind the fashion house’s first ever cafe and restaurant, located at the top of its Louis Vuitton Maison Osaka Midosuji flagship, which opened in February 2020.
In Osaka, the cafe — an airy space decorated with oversized plants, hanging egg-shaped chairs and sky blue counter seats — opens onto a sleek rooftop terrace. Meanwhile, the invitation-only restaurant, Sugalabo V, serves more upscale Suga-style fare of head-turning modern European innovations with a Japanese twist. The restaurant is so exclusive, its entrance is hidden, speakeasy-style, behind a wall installation of Louis Vuitton trunks that must be opened with the press of a button.
Over in Ginza, the intimate atmosphere in Le Cafe V is seductively refined, from the curved walls and natural light to the streams of fine brass lines flowing across the floor.
“The interior design and colors and emotions are different from that of the Osaka cafe, allowing one to enjoy a different experience. While the Osaka location is an open-style cafe with a terrace, the cafe on Namiki-dori street has the spirit of an exclusive and sophisticated space, with a special atmosphere at night,” says Suga, who is known for his innovative use of local ingredients sourced from across the archipelago.
The cuisine in Ginza is largely similar to the Osaka cafe, from French-inspired soups and salads using Japanese farm ingredients — such as the Salade de Tomate et Mozzarella di Bufala fait par M. Takeshima (Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad by a Farmer Named Mr. Takeshima) — to a la carte dishes including Gratin de Macaroni aux Fruits de Mer (Seafood Macaroni Gratin) and Riz au Curry de Boeuf Wagyu (Wagyu Beef Curry and Rice). The Ginza cafe also serves its own ¥4,800 set lunch menus that include a salad, main course and coffee or tea. An added detail: Each latte comes decorated with a Monogram Star motif unique to the location.
“At Le Cafe V Ginza, you can relax and enjoy coffee and tea, original in-house desserts or have a light meal,” Suga continues. “Taking advantage of the Ginza location, we also created a space where one can enjoy a drink, from a wide variety of champagnes and wines, from the middle of the day in an elegant setting.”
Not to mention the chocolate. Tucked into an intimate space on the right-hand side immediately upon exiting the seventh-floor elevator is a chocolaterie counter selling what is perhaps destined to become one of the city’s most coveted treats.
“The difference from Le Cafe V Osaka is that there is a boutique with in-house chocolates and baked delicacies,” Suga says. “We have a special kitchen dedicated to the creation of these sweets, and there is a rich variety of chocolate-based delicacies unique to the cafe.”
The thin square chocolates are expertly crafted by Suga, complete with patterned surfaces and elegant LV initial logos.
“We are not just serving tea at a boutique cafe or a large chain hotel cafe,” Suga says of the space’s emphasis on omotenashi hospitality. “We want to provide a unique and unparalleled service that allows you to remember the names of each staff member in a more visible place, specializing in professional and cordial service where we take time to have a conversation. We aim for a level of service not found at other establishments.”
“Most importantly, it’s about creating an experience,” Burke said in his interview with WWD. “How do you translate Vuitton into food? You know, we successfully translated trunks into fashion. So it’s a creative exercise.”
For more information about Le Cafe V Ginza, visit bit.ly/lecafev-ginza.
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