IMAGINE YOURSELF IN an apartment commissioned by Louis Vuitton. Your mind probably flits to Paris, perhaps to a high-ceilinged penthouse in the 16th arrondissement. You may envision a vast walk-in wardrobe, a huge variety of carefully chosen fabrics and an artfully positioned, monogrammed trunk that sits open as a striking statement piece. In short, you'd expect it to be the epitome of Parisian chic.
When Louis Vuitton recently set up the pop-up space L'Appartement, it took only a quick glance around the entrance hall, with its muted colour scheme and bold artwork, to confirm that it more than fulfilled the “chic” side of the equation. But L'Appartement was not in a quaint Parisian location. Instead, the brand installed it in Hong Kong's KEE Club, amid the hustle and bustle of Central.
Despite its lively location, L'Appartement was not flashy or attention seeking. It was, in fact, designed to be the exact opposite. While it was open from September 1 to mid-October, the only people who knew of its existence were a select group of Friends of the House, whom Louis Vuitton invited to use L'Appartement however they saw fit. Some made full use of the 12-person dining table and the on-hand Michelin-starred chef to entertain, while others saw the flat as a rare opportunity to retreat from their hectic daily lives and curl up by the fireplace in the living room. Either way, Louis Vuitton left them to it.
If you overlooked the lack of a bedroom, the space was a fully functioning private apartment – albeit a rather large one by Hong Kong standards. Interior architect André Fu leapt at the chance to design the 3,500-square-foot space.
“I think it's an interesting time for Louis Vuitton,” explained Fu as he sat on the taupe sofa that dominated the living room. “The luxury market is a very competitive landscape. But as the leading brand, it's constantly evolving. You can observe that in the way that Nicolas Ghesquière has taken up the role of creative director of the women's collections and also in the [just opened] Fondation Louis Vuitton. It's a brand that's constantly looking for the next level of experience.”
Fu's reference to Ghesquière is telling, because it was the designer's first collection for Louis Vuitton that inspired much of Fu's design. “The autumn/winter  collection is composed of many textures and colours, so we've used three colours out of the collection as the inspiration behind the apartment experience,” Fu said. “The first is the olive green, as you can see on the legs of the lacquer tables and then also in some touches on the carpet. The mineral blue, which you can see on the armchair and also in the lacquer closets in the boudoir [a walk-in-wardrobe]. Then there's the burnt orange, which you have on the back of the chairs and on the wall [in the dining room] and on the chair inside the study.”
Although Fu had an almost completely free hand, Louis Vuitton's one instruction was that the apartment should reflect the lifestyle of a Hong Kong-based jetsetter. In Fu's imagination, that's “someone who has travelled the world and loves art, someone who has distinct personal taste, someone who loves to curate.”
As you'd expect, there were references to Louis Vuitton throughout the space – two small, monogrammed trunks in the living room and ceiling lights that cast an LV-logo glow, for example – but L'Appartement was refreshing because it never felt too conspicuously branded. “It goes beyond a space that houses products; it's really a space that stands on its own,” Fu said. “The heritage of Vuitton – such as the colours – are elements that we've layered into the experience, but it's very much about creating this private home which people can enjoy.”
Fu is currently working on his first book with publisher Assouline, and his previous projects include Hong Kong's The Upper House hotel, the Opus Suite at The Berkeley London, the Gŏng bar at the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard and The Fullerton Bay in Singapore. But even with these large projects under his belt, he was impressed by Louis Vuitton's commitment to detail. “It was a project that we started just before the summer, so it was a very short project considering that it's all been so carefully considered. There was lots of research into fabrics, so for example this [indicating a cushion cover] is a cork fabric but it's very thin and it's laminated onto a fabric backing. Even the stone that you see on top of the coffee table, this is a Turkish onyx marble. The furniture is all bespoke, the decorative lights are all bespoke, the rug is bespoke.”
However, because L'Appartement was a completely new concept, neither Vuitton nor Fu could measure its success until it had actually been used. “When people received the invitation to come here, they often expected a brand event,” Fu admitted. “But once they arrived, there was firstly an element of surprise in terms of the scale of the project, and then they started to become more and more submerged in the world that we've created. Having this temporary apartment experience allows the brand to cultivate a lot of goodwill with the Friends of the House. I think that level of connection is something that goes beyond simply inviting people to see a luxury brand purely on a retail level. Louis Vuitton are constantly trying to push the boundaries and go in directions that people don't expect them to go – it brings them up to another level.”