When Louis Vuitton’s crew comes to Aspen
Two dozen black Suburbans lined the streets surrounding the St. Regis on an early fall evening. I was shuffled quickly into one after I handed my own keys to a valet, joining a few fashion editors from big national publications based in New York and Los Angeles. None had been to Aspen before.
Certainly, they had attended high-gloss events like New York’s Fashion Week, but it was clear they had never experienced anything quite like the luxury on display here.
And then, things kicked up a notch.
Our destination was a Louis Vuitton-hosted, black-tie dinner and gala celebrating the culmination of a three-day VIP shopping event and unveiling of Vuitton’s 2022 High Jewelry line, Spirit, at Kevin Costner’s ranch.
Aspens shimmered gold down the long driveway at Dunbar Ranch, named for his character, Lt. John Dunbar, in the 1990 Oscar-winner Dances with Wolves. Pulling up at the estate felt positively cinematic.
Servers welcomed us, as we got out with trays of cocktails featuring tequila, vodka, bourbon — pick your poison. For the next hour, the well-heeled crowd mingled on a heated outdoor patio with wool LV blankets folded onto the chairs and couches, nibbled on hors d’oeuvres, sipped champagne, took in the scenery, and traded glances — mentally noting what others were wearing and the vintage of special edition Louis Vuitton bags they were carrying.
The guests moved with the sunset into a glass, tent-like structure specifically erected for this event to maximize the effect of the surrounding nature. The long tables were dressed with blue-and-gold menus, blue-hued fine china with gold flecks, and vases of fall-inspired floral arrangements, including bright orange ranunculus and peach dahlias. The ceiling was strewn with what seemed to be back-lit purple and gold flowers laid out in a Louis Vuitton motif pattern. It would be a four-course, fine dining experience.
Attendees dined on smoked potato and caviar, river trout, waygu beef wellington, and a roasted pear and maple millefeuille, accompanied by a Napa Valley Newton Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as a 2012 Dom Perignon.
In the center of the room stood a runway, and, after dinner began, the lights went down, the music piped up, and a fashion show rivaling any found in Paris, Milan, or New York began. Models strutted up and down wearing Louis Vuitton and, as might be expected, were dripping in diamonds and other precious stones that make up the Spirit collection.
Eventually, the lights came up, and satiated from the evening — not to mention several days of opulence — the guests headed back to the St. Regis for one last nightcap.
From the start, Louis Vuitton has been known for high-quality handmade products, wanderlust, and travel based on its dominance in the luxury-luggage market — especially those iconic trunks, some fetching over $300,000 now.
“The house remains faithful to the spirit of its founder, Louis Vuitton, who invented a genuine ‘Art of Travel’ through luggage, bags, and accessories which were as creative as they were elegant and practical,” according to press materials.
And, you may not be aware, but this also includes the collection of fine jewelry and watches.
Vuitton’s entry into jewelry (Its first foray was in 2001, when Marc Jacobs was artistic director) is relativity new compared to other established fine jewelry brands, like Tiffany & Co., Bulgari and Cartier. But, in 20 years, the French luxury house has produced some of the industry’s most sought-after pieces, most notably its High Watches and High Jewelry Collection.
In late June, the Maison unveiled its fourth High Jewelry Collection, Louis Vuitton Spirit, designed by Francesca Amfitheatrof, the Maison’s artistic director for watches and jewelry. At 125 pieces, it required over 40,000 hours of work in its Parisian ateliers and took the artisan jewelers three years to source the perfect gems.
With sapphires from Sri Lanka, emeralds from Colombia, and rubies from Mozambique, the collection is Vuitton’s largest to date. It is imbued with mythological and fantastical creatures and “set in five universes, each reflective of the Maison’s values: liberty, grace, fantasy, radiance, and destiny,” which prominently feature triangle shapes and the Vuitton V as recurring motifs.
In mid-October, if you happened to be one of the Maison’s top 120 or so global VIP clients, you would have had the opportunity to view and shop the Spirit collection, at 1001 Ute Ave., Aspen.
Aspen is synonymous with status, wealth, and beauty, so it’s no coincidence Louis Vuitton chose this town and that house as the location for the U.S. unveiling of these jewels and the ensuing days of activities.
Back in March, the Ute House was listed for $75 million, the highest-priced house on the market in Aspen at the time. The 20,000-square-foot home boasts seven bedrooms and features a full spa, indoor and outdoor jacuzzis, a 60-foot indoor pool, and a full-on bowling alley. It gained some pop-culture notoriety when Kendall, Kylie, and Kris Jenner rented it back in January 2021 during a ski trip and posted videos of the house on Instagram.
VIP guests, accompanied by their personal brand ambassadors/shoppers, flew into Aspen to view the High Jewelry and High Watch Collection and booked private shopping appointments in various rooms of the house, where they could try on and purchase these rare pieces — some of which were brought from Paris and had previously never been in the United States.
As clients entered the mansion, there was a Louis Vuitton-branded step and repeat manned with photographers and staff decked out from head to toe in LV on hand to offer champagne or anything else they might need.
Up a flight of stairs, attendees entered a large open-plan living room that featured a sculptural fireplace and a grand white Chihuly chandelier, reflecting light from massive windows that looked out onto a view of Red Mountain.
Aspen experienced a long and especially lovely fall this year, and the foliage perfectly reflected the golden hue on many of the precious stones used for the Spirit High Jewelry collection pieces.
Which is why the Maison, staying true to their roots of “The Art of Travel,” came to Aspen at this time and chose the Ute House.
Award winning journalist and host of NPR’s “All Things Considered”, Ailsa Chang will be appearing at the Wheeler Opera House on Thursday for “An Evening with Ailsa Chang” Feb. 2 at 6:00 p.m. in conversation with Aspen Public Radio Executive Director, Breeze Richardson, to discuss her career path from lawyer to investigative journalist, representation in media and the importance of public radio.