In a gilded salon overlooking Place Vendôme, a group of teenagers are admiring a glistening diamond tiara. Commissioned in 1811 by Empress Joséphine, the first wife of Napoleon, it is the oldest tiara ever created by Chaumet. This weekend the high-end jeweller is opening its doors to the public as part of its parent company LVMH’s Journées Particulières, or “special days” event.

“It’s beautiful,” said Wiam, a 15-year-old girl who is a student at the Lycée Alfred Nobel in Clichy-sous-Bois, as she looked around the room, part of a private tour organised on Thursday for young people from the deprived Parisian banlieue. “I have never come to this kind of place before.”

A Chaumet representative running through the history of the building explained this was the salon where Polish composer Frederic Chopin died in 1849. “Here?” asked another student, wide-eyed. In an adjoining room, a diamond was held under a microscope and projected on to the ceiling to illustrate how in several stages it is cut and shaped into a 57-facet brilliant stone for an engagement ring. “I like seeing how they cut the stones,” said Wiam. “It’s impressive.”

Launched in 2011 byAntoine Arnault, the eldest son of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault, the Journées Particulières is a three-day event in which the group opens 56 of its maisons to the public, from Cloudy Bay wine in New Zealand to Benefit Cosmetics in California via LVMH’s native France.

Wiam, a 15-year-old student at the Lycée Alfred Nobel in Clichy-sous-Bois, was among those attending the ‘Journées Particulières’

Alongside historic French sites such as the Paris atelier where Christian Dior carved out his New Look in the 1940s, or the Louis Vuitton family home in Asnières where the family’s sons learned the art of monogrammed trunk-making, many of LVMH’s international brands are taking part: from Emilio Pucci’s Renaissance-era Tuscan residence to the Terrazas de los Andes winery in Argentina. Some 3,000 LVMH staff and artisans are involved across 13 countries, giving people who might never normally experience its brands or buy its products an opportunity to see inside its maisons.

It’s the fourth iteration of the event, which drew almost 150,000 visitors when it was last held in 2016. “The thinking was quite simple,” explained Antoine Arnault, who is LVMH’s head of communication and image, recalling how the idea originated. “It was a moment in time when I felt that LVMH deserved better than the stereotype it projected around its financial results. The group is composed of thousands of people who are proud of what they do and are there to preserve the ancient savoir-faire of houses with hundreds of years of tradition.”

Antoine Arnault says ‘[LVMH] is composed of thousands of people who are proud of what they do and are there to preserve the ancient savoir-faire of houses with hundreds of years of tradition’

The initiative was inspired by the Journées du Patrimoine. Launched in France over 30 years ago, once a year it opens up sites like the Elysée Palace or the National Assembly that are normally private to the public.

This year’s Journées Particulières followed a week in which the shares of LVMH and its luxury rivals like Kering slumped on news that Chinese authorities are stepping up border checks on travellers for undeclared luxury items picked up in cities like Paris and London. Sometimes these goods are then sold on at a profit in China by undercutting the higher prices in the local stores of luxury brands.

On Tuesday LVMH reported that sales surged 10 per cent in the third quarter, bringing total revenues to €33.1bn for the first nine months of 2018. But its chief financial officer Jean-Jacques Guiony warned on a call with analysts: “The Chinese authorities have some laws that are being enforced with some more strength at times, which is what we’re seeing now.” This confirmed earlier reports on social media, sparking a sell-off in the luxury sector, and followed investor concerns that Chinese demand will wane amid a trade war with the US.

Yet these worries seemed far away on Friday at the atelier of LVMH menswear brand Berluti, just off the Champs-Élysées, where made-to-measure shoes start at €4,000 a pair. Here the bottiers, or artisan bootmakers, were starting to welcome the first groups of the 1,000 or so people they are expecting over the weekend, who will see how the brand’s bespoke leather shoes are made.

Berluti, whose bespoke shoes take up to 9 months from fitting to delievery, is expecting 1,000 visitors at its atelier

Each pair takes at least 50 hours of work and the time from the initial consultation to delivery is usually nine months. “It’s easy to make a pair of comfortable shoes, but it’s hard to make a pair of shoes that are both comfortable and aesthetic,” said Jean-Michel, one of bottiers, surrounded by wooden maquettes of all sizes.

While many opt for Berluti’s signature Venezia leather, with its shiny patina, others are more adventurous and choose alligator skin, ostrich leather or even the skins of sturgeon — the fish more widely associated with caviar.

Some of the visitors to the Journées Particulières have planned an entire weekend around the event, travelling across France or between countries to visit the different LVMH sites, said Mr Arnault. But those making a pilgrimage to the group’s Champagne estates, hoping to sample their favourite vintage of Ruinart or Dom Pérignon, may come away disappointed. Due to French laws on alcohol consumption, they won’t be allowed to taste any of it. “A torture,” laughed Mr Arnault.



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