Louis Vuitton Visionary Journeys (Disappointment at the LV Café Bangkok)

Louis Vuitton Visionary Journey Disappointment at the LV Cafe Bangkok Title

Recently, I had planned a visit of the exhibition Louis Vuitton Visionary Journeys and the LV Café in Bangkok. Despite careful planning in advance, it turned out very different from what we had planned – the experience was underwhelming, if not a disappointment. Let me share what happened during our visit.

You can also watch my video here:

Planning Our Visit

We booked the Louis Vuitton Visionary Journeys well in advance – over one month in advance. Our understanding was that this would include a visit of the exhibition “Visionary Journeys” and a spot at the LV Café afterwards. Usually, when I visit museums or exhibitions, you may have to book a time slot for the exhibition but you can sit down for a coffee after. There are three booking possibilities: the Visionary Journeys, the LV Café and Gaggan Anand @ LV (the fine dining restaurant). Frankly, there is not much information on the Visionary Journeys website. As we had some doubts, my friend got in touch with them to reconfirm and the answer was that we could go to the LV Café right after the exhibition. Maybe you could say it was our fault to assume that if we book an exhibition visit in advance we thought that we could have a coffee as well – maybe within the realm of Louis Vuitton, we were being naive…

The Day of Our Visit

Before Visiting the Exhibition

The morning of our time slot, we were there over half an hour early and were instructed by a staff member at the entrance to return a few minutes before our slot to ensure we get in on time. Every visitor is allowed to stay inside the exhibition for 20-30 minutes. One interesting fact: there were two lines: one for visitors on time and one for people running late. (Nothing was said about a line for walk-ins to the exhibition.) We had a coffee at the mall and came back 10 minutes before our time slot. The staff asked as to wait in the “on time” line. We patiently waited – and then saw walk-ins being let in. As time had passed already after our slot, we tried to enquire with the staff, however, they pretended to ignore us. Again, my friend tried and after they finally noted that we were there, they checked with their manager and then we were allowed to head into the exhibition. (Needless to say, after our time slot and being treated as if we were some kind of nuisance.) I did not want to bee too negative, but ultimately, we are talking about a luxury brand here. Even though the exhibition was for free, the behaviour before we were let it did not feel “luxurious” at all. Nevertheless, we did not want to be too negative.

The Exhibition “Louis Vuitton Visionary Journeys”

Louis Vuitton Visionary Journey Disappointment at the LV Cafe Bangkok Trunkscape
“Trunkscape” is an installation of 96 trunks. Throughout the exhibition, visitors are encouraged multiple times to share content on social media.

After a brief instruction (no touching of the exhibits) and some encouragement to take videos for Instagram Reels, we went inside. The exhibition is made up of five rooms and I think the only room with “real content” (i.e. more text and information about the brand and dispalys) is the second one. The first room, “Trunkscape”, is for the selfie-lovers. Louis Vuitton Courrier trunks form a tunnel within a tunnel of mirrors and videos. According to the Louis Vuitton, 96 trunks form an arch to symbolize “structural identity, strength and simultaneous lightness”[1] and they represent the origins of the Louis Vuitton brand.[2]. As mentioned in my article about the Louis Vuitton bag materials, Louis Vuitton started out as a trunk-maker and like so many malletiers at the time, he experimented with luggage materials and shapes to make travelling easier. Nowadays, the tasks of museums and exhibitions go well beyond curating, they have to incorporate various types of social media. Therefore, it is understandable that the exhibition an “Instagramable experience” and to justify this set-up, they incorporated the origins of the business to tell a good story. We took some pictures and off we went into room number 2.

“LV Origins” goes back to the beginnings of the brand and it was the most interesting room. For “beginners” it is a good start to learn about the brand’s history and heritage. The information is broken down well, as it focusses on three key figures: Louis Vuitton himself who founded the business and experimented with the products (he also filed his first patent in 1867), his son Georges who invented the Monogram Canvas amongst others and Gaston-Louis (Georges’s son) who turned the business into a global brand.

What I found most interesting is that they displayed some of the very first canvas trunks – a grey one and one in the signature brown and creme stripes. This room explains how Louis Vuitton developed from a trunk-making and packing business to a global brand with a broad range of products. They also explain how the products evolved after the arrival of the more flexible Monogram Canvas in the 1950s which allowed different styles and shapes of bags. Furthermore, it also showed the variety of trunks – for example there was one to store books or a trunk with a foldable lounge chair.

I would have appreciated a bit more text or information. Maybe they did not want to overwhelm people, but if you are somebody like me who already knows a bit of the background, you would wish for a bit more. But maybe I was not the major target group. (Not everyone is a fashion or art historian or really obsessed with the stories behind businesses.) Nevertheless, many museums manage to bridge the gap between “beginners” and “experts” and with a bit more information, they could have accomplished that here as well.

Louis Vuitton Visionary Journey Disappointment at the LV Cafe Bangkok Icons
“Icons” is yet another aesthetically very pleasing room. Unfortunately, the content fell a bit short.

“Icons”, the third room, is quite interesting from an aesthetics perspective, as selected bags are displayed in big see-through bubbles. Nice but, again, I had the feeling that the focus was on the social media effect rather than the content.

The fourth room is dedicated to Louis Vuitton’s collaborations. Over 100 years ago, Gaston-Louis already started to collaborate with artists for the “Editions d’art” and this has stayed a signature part of the brand DNA.[3] It is actually a part of the brand I appreciate most. Probably some of the better-known collaborations were those with Takashi Murakami (remember the multicoloured Monogram Canvas and the cherry blossoms) and, more recently, Yayoi Kusama and Jeff Koons. It is yet another impressive room with lots and lots of silver bags (it was the Keepall if I remember correctly) reflecting the video screens on the other side which displayed the different interpretations. In the centre of the wall of silver bags, there was a moving display with different bag designs.

Louis Vuitton Visionary Journey Disappointment at the LV Cafe Bangkok Souvenir Monitor

The exhibition ends with the “Souvenirs”-room which, again, does not disappoint aesthetically, as it is very colourful and “Instagramable”. A staff member was waiting in the room and asked to check out tickets again. (It was a bit strange, as by that time, we had already presented it several times and had seen the entire exhibition. But maybe there was a reason behind it. We thought, they may check because we would get a personalised souvenir or maybe this was already for the entrance of the LV Café.) In this room there were two monitors, and we were told in a lot of detail that we had to stand right in front of the monitor and push the button. This elaborate explanation was another reason why we thought this would be a personalized souvenir – a picture or something like that. Quite a few exhibitions have recently incorporated personalized souvenirs. A small box in the size of postcards dropped, looking quite fancy. Let me share at the end of the article which “surprise” was in there. And let me tell you, a “surprise” it was…

The LV Café – What Happened?!

Once we left the exhibition, we were ready for our coffee. Within “LV the Place Bangkok”, there are two dining options: one is the Café Louis Vuitton, the other one is the fine dining restaurant “Gaggan at Louis Vuitton) by chef Gaggan Anand. I have to admit, I prefer a good cake over a tasting menu. Hence, my friend and I had initially opted for the café. We came out of the exhibition and saw the entrance of the café – but then we were stopped. We were ushered to the lift which would take us one floor up. “But we want to go to the Café, it is right here,” we said. But the answer was just, “You have to go upstairs and then take the escalators down again.” This was strange, we thought we had a booking for the café. If we now left the exhibition area, our ticket would become invalid and it would mean that we had to wait in line again. The staff member then informed us that if we do not want to take the lift, we should take the exit right outside and walk around the building. Mind you, we are talking here about a city where it is always hot. Moreover, at the time of our visit, there was a heat wave and the real temperature feel was 42 degrees Celsius (or almost 108 degrees Fahrenheit). Hence, we were not really pleased when we were sent outside. When we enquired again, when our booking would be available and then she basically told us that there is no booking.

What?! Why did we book one month in advance?! Even if you book a time-slot for the exhibition, you have to leave the premises and wait in line if you want to enter the café. When we finished the exhibition, it was about 11.30, and the line was one hour – in 42 degree heat. But this is not the best part of the story: the cherry on top was that this line was for take-away only. I reiterate: TAKE-AWAY. For this “to-go”-slot, you get 20-30 minutes – again, here comes the social media strategy, because people are given time for pictures and videos. (Needless to say, you will not be allowed to sit down.) So, we should queue for an hour, to get a coffee in a paper cup?! And then share the “experience” on our socials for free?! Thank you, but no thank you!

We left and just to be sure, checked one last time with the staff outside. The line had become longer and it would probably take more than an hour. The interesting part about this experience was, there were plenty of people who were OK with that. They took selfies while waiting in line in the heat. We were not in the mood for that. I apologise that I cannot share my experience at the café or any footage of the cakes or coffee as planned beforehand. There is a limit to what I am willing to put up with. Bangkok has an amazing café and restaurant scene and there are plenty of other options. 

Brief Information about Gaggan at Louis Vuitton

Just to briefly explain the concept for the fine dining restaurant: Expectedly, it is also fully booked. I was not surprised about that, as this is the case with most fine dining experiences. I checked before filming the video and it was fully booked almost three weeks in advance. According to the website, the base-price for the lunch is THB 4,000 and for dinner THB 8,000 (about EUR 100/200 or USD 110/220). However, when I tried the booking links, the only options for the following weeks were private dining for lunch at the minimum consumption of THB 50,000 (about USD 1,350) or dinner THB 100,000 (about USD 2,700). I assume this is due to the fact that the restaurant is fully booked and the private dining is the only available option. I read online that reservations for the regular lunch or dinner open on the first of each month – if you know more about that, please let me know in the comments below.

Conclusion

Exhbitions, cafés, restaurants and also hotels have become an important part of many luxury brands – Louis Vuitton is not the only one, there is the Armani Hotel and Café in Milan, Bulgari runs multiple hotels and Dior has exhibition and café in Paris, to just name a few. It is another strategy to not only market the brand but also diversify into further product ranges which is understandable from a business point of view. Nevertheless, I had different expectations for this article and had planned to virtually take you to not only the exhibition but also the café. However, I hope you will understand why I did not see the value in waiting around in the heat. I am really curious what you think about all of this? Would you have waited in line to just see what the hype is about? Or, would you have left as well?

Summing up this whole Louis Vuitton experience, I have to say, the exhibition is OK – provided that you do not know too much about the brand history and that you would like to see some really old originals. The exhibition is made well in terms of aesthetics. (Many other museums are probably jealous of the budget.) Content- or information-wise, I would have wished for a bit more. I felt it was a bit too focused on the social media aspect which leaves those behind who come to exhibitions to learn more.

I have been thinking quite a bit about this visit and I do have to give credit where it is due: Louis Vuitton has managed to created such a strong sense of belonging and aspiration that people are willing to a) book well in advance, b) wait in the heat even though they booked in advance and c) pay for (probably overpriced) takeaway coffee if they could not get a booking at the café or restaurant. This is a business case which should be taught at business school.

And by the way, what was the hyped “souvenir” from the exhibition which I mentioned previously: Postcards; standard printed postcards – what was this whole “stand in front of the screen and press the button”-thing about?. Well, I leave it up to you to judge…

Louis Vuitton Visionary Journey Disappointment at the LV Cafe Bangkok Souvenir

Footnotes

[1] Information available at the exhibition 2024.

[2-3] ibid.


Sources

Information available at the exhibition “Louis Vuitton Visionary Journeys” at LV The Place Bangkok, 2024.


Disclaimer

This article is based on the personal, views, experiences and research of the author, no fees were received by the organisations and people mentioned above. All information as of the date of publishing/updating.


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