Luxury Brand Told To Drop 'Misleading' Advert

Three complaints upheld against Westfield store

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Luxury fashion brand Louis Vuitton, which has a store in Westfield, has been banned from using two adverts which implied its bags were hand-made.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received three complaints over two advertisements for Louis Vuitton bags which were published in the national press.

The first advert featured a photograph of a woman stitching the handle of a handbag. The 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?"

The second advert featured a photograph of a woman creating the folds of a wallet. The 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 adverts misleadingly implied that Louis Vuitton products were made by hand.

Louis Vuitton responded by saying the images in the adverts were “a homage to the craftsmanship which was carried out every day by Louis Vuitton's artisans.” 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 told the ASA they believed the images accurately reflected what took place in their workshops, adding that there were over 100 stages of production for each individual leather bag and wallet and their manufacture was not automated.

Louis Vuitton also submitted training documents to the ASA to show 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.” 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.

However, the ASA concluded that the advertisements were misleading and in breach of the advertising code governing truthfulness.

“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.”

The ASA said the advertisements “must not appear again in their current form”.

31 May 2010