Today’s interview is with Philipp – a production manager from Italy. I wanted to feature Philipp because he is a very discerning customer in many aspects, with a wonderful eye for detail and quality. He’s someone who is very thoughtful about his purchases – and while he wants them to be beautiful and luxurious, he also wants them to have a functional place in his life. I really enjoyed getting to know Philipp more and I hope you all will too!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
I am Philipp, I am a 29 year old (print) production manager living and working in a small town in Northern Italy.
You work and live in Italy. Can you share a bit about your city? What are some unique local fashions and styles of dress?
Northern Italy is – like most of Italy – breathtakingly beautiful: there is splendid architecture, cosmopolitan cities and lovely landscapes. The area I live in is characterised by this perfect mix of untouched nature and beautifully kept agricultural areas. What I like most about it is that with a 10-minute car ride you are in the midst of the (Alpine) countryside. It’s indeed a great place to live.
Fashion here is characterised by the same German/Italian bilingualism that marks the local culture, food and way of living. Italians are known for being good dressers, so the main trends you see on the streets are of course taken from what is current in larger cities such as Milan and Verone. However, due to the (spatial) distance from these cities and the German influence you see subtle changes which make the local street style unique.
I know that you collect items made by Louis Vuitton. Can you share what first drew you to the brand, and how your collection has evolved over the years?
I started collecting Louis Vuitton in 2003, so almost ten years ago. It began by accident actually, caused by my being curious about this heritage-rich brand which on one hand appeared to be very exclusive, yet on the other hand was everywhere because of the counterfeits. This contradiction intrigued me and I wanted to find out why Louis Vuitton had this global appeal. So I began reading up on the brand’s history and looked up the products on its website where I found a Monogram Canvas belt I rather liked.
When I learned the price of the belt at the nearest Louis Vuitton boutique I was floored. I bought it nonetheless and this was the cornerstone of my collection. At first I focused on small leather goods and accessories, collecting mainly limited edition and seasonal items, such as Monogram Cerises, Damier Lune etc. In 2010 Louis Vuitton brilliantly updated its staid Taiga leather range and that lead me into its world of men’s shoes and ready-to-wear.
My collection is in constant evolution, because I want it to be an expression of my personality and my life, not just a showcase of Louis Vuitton’s past output. So if I feel something does not fit me anymore, I let it go.
You have been able to place some special orders from Louis Vuitton. Can you share? What are your favorite pieces from the brand?
Louis Vuitton has always offered an outstanding customization service to its clients, but in 2011 it launched several new made-to-order services at select global stores. Gentlemen may choose between shoes, belts and a Taiga leather business bag and since I am a big fan of Louis Vuitton shoes, I decided to take the plunge and order a pair of made-to-order shoes and a matching made-to-measure belt this spring.
The special order process is fairly simple, but the options available are almost overwhelming. You see I had to choose between three designs, four sole construction types, several kinds of leather, eight or nine colours and I believe four hardware finishing options. This all allows you to create a truly unique shoe that is unlikely ordered by another customer. Leather swatches, display pieces and rendering software help you with your selection process, whereas to ensure the perfect fit your feet get accurately measured and you get to try on a trial pair to confirm the sizing.
My made-to-order shoes are definitely my favourites. They are truly unique and most of all comfortable. No need to break them in. My made-to-order python belt may look breath-taking, but it is not very practical. You need to know snakeskin is smooth only on one side, so when I remove the belt I go against the grain of the scales and they get stuck in the fabric of the belt loops. Lesson learned I guess, so I would not advise anyone to a python belt.
There has been dissatisfaction from some customers over the years about Louis Vuitton and its increasing prices and possibly decreasing quality. Have you experienced this yourself, and if so – are you disappointed?
Disappointed isn’t the right word, but concerned is. While it is true that the disappointed scream louder than the happy, there have been simply too many quality complaints lately. I understand that LVMH is a corporation whose main goal is creating profit for its shareholders, but it should not be at detriment of the quality of their products. Thinner canvas, glazing that peels, dry/discoloured leather, flimsy hardware are not things should ignore. So we as consumers can make our opinion about this heard with a simple act: by stop buying. This is exactly what I would do, if I felt the brand had jettisoned all of its values for the sake of profit.
What are some brands that you feel still represent a good value at price to quality?
That’s a tricky question, but I think Bottega Veneta, most definitely. Their handbags and ready-to-wear are really well-made, but the Bottega look is not for everyone (myself included).
Are there any fashion houses that you used to favor – which now you don’t? If so, why?
A few years ago liked Kenzo menswear very much: their clothes were quirky but chic and well-made to boot. Then something happened and the designs became less innovative and obviously cheaper: painstakingly embroidered details gave way to simple prints for example. I assume whoever is in charge of Kenzo wanted to cut costs and was willing to sacrifice the houses trademark originality for that.
Something similar happened to Diesel as well. The Diesel apparel I bought ten years ago was quite elaborate: embroideries, flocking, patchwork detailing, metallic appliqués and so on created a cutting-edge Italian style that became a world-wide success. Diesel’s more expensive items like coats and jackets were fully lined and a lot of their clothes were still made in (Eastern) Europe. Now Diesel is made where labour is cheap, lining is an optional and the most they do is silkscreen designs on their apparel. That’s quite disappointing if you ask me.
What are some of your favorite items ever in your wardrobe?
I know it might sound cliché, but one of my favourite items is my Burberry double-breasted trench coat. Truth be told, Burberry menswear is just brilliant and Christopher Bailey’s aesthetic fits me to a T, so I have to say my various Burberry pieces are always on heavy rotation in my wardrobe.
You also collect and sample niche fragrances. Can you share more about that? How many have you tested, and what are some of your favorites?
Niche perfumery is a fairly recent hobby of mine that I discovered by accident, just like Louis Vuitton. One day I was looking for a fragrance mimicking the smell of a high-end leather-goods store and Sonja, a sales associate at a local perfumery suggested Serge Lutens’ Daim Blond. Instant love. With my purchase I was give a handful of samples by niche houses Creed, l’Artisan Parfumeur and Serge Lutens. Curious, I started trying these new scents and read up on the fragrances and perfume houses behind them. Once I had gone through the samples I was given, I decided to register at Makeupalley to swap my old samples for new, unknown ones. Within a year I had swapped over fifty times with people from all over the world, testing and reviewing over four hundred fragrances in the process. Fear not, of those four hundred scents, only twenty were deemed worthy of a full-bottle.
I found out I like crystalline scents with a minimalist (notes) pyramid, think (Hermes’ in-house nose) Jean-Claude Ellena. Notes I like the most are iris (root) vetiver (root), pepper and ambrette seed. My favourite ranges are Chanel’s Les Exclusifs and Serge Lutens.
What is a piece of advice about building the perfect closet/budgeting that you have learned over the years?
Perfection is impossible to achieve. This said, the collection you build should reflect your personality and fit into your life seamlessly. This means buy for the life you (actually) live, rather than the life you wish you led. For example, if you were a stay at home wife with two small children it would make little sense to invest in exotic leather clutch bags and sky-high Louboutin shoes.
The same applies to budgeting. I don’t believe in buying on credit, just see what havoc that created on the global economy. Calculate your discretionary money and budget it according to the events that happen throughout the ear: Christmas, birthdays, vacations, release dates of new collections. Only by doing this you know exactly if you can afford the next must-have bag the day it is released. An Excel spreadsheet is an easy-to-use and handy tool to keep track of past expenses and plan future ones.
I love your philosophy of “buy to use”. Can you elaborate more?
I think calling it a philosophy may be overstretching it. I simply do not believe in wearing costly items on special occasions only. They should be used regularly, even during mundane events such as going to the supermarket just to cheer up our everyday life. Our bags, shoes and clothes are supposed to make us happy and help us feel good about ourselves. That’s their true purpose in my opinion, and I believe we enjoy them much more this way (using them regularly) than by simply looking at them sitting in our closets.
I love, love Philipp’s entire last answer. His philosophy on our items being there to bring us joy and satisfaction in our every day lives is so true (though I do know some people who get the most satisfaction seeing everything lined up neatly in a closet!). I really enjoyed getting to know more about Philipp and some of his style philosophies. He is somebody passionate about beautiful craftsmanship – whether it’s in clothing or leather or fabric – and is clearly not afraid to make mistakes, evolve, and move on. Thank you Philipp for sharing some of your lovely life with us today.