The third of its kind in Japan after Omotesando and Matsuya Ginza in Tokyo, the Louis Vuitton Maison Osaka Midosuji opened its doors in February this year, and is a building like no other. Its unique architecture – a design collaboration between Jun Aoki and Peter Marino – pays homage to Osaka’s heritage as Japan’s most important sea port.
Aoki, who is renowned for his work on other landmark Louis Vuitton stores including New York’s Fifth Avenue Maison, took inspiration from the sea-faring history of Osaka in his design for the exterior. The façade recalls the billowing white sails of the traditional Higaki-Kaisen cargo ship, while the metal fretwork motifs at the ground level lend the building the illusion of floating on water. Natural light filters through the translucent exterior in the day, lending the building an ethereal aura; at night, the illumination from within transforms the building into a literal beacon of calm and beauty.
Inside, the nautical theme continues. Architect Peter Marino used wooden floors, wood-clad pillars and metal ceilings to give the impression of ship decks, embodying the spirit of adventure and travel. Sartorial collections sit side by side with travel- and home-related products from the Objects Nomades range, created in collaboration with designers including Yoshioka Tokujin, Atelier Oi, and Nendo.
The very first Louis Vuitton café in the world, Le Café V, is perched atop the building. It houses a bar and sprawling outdoor terrace, offering shoppers a welcome respite from the bustle of the street below. Here, the nautical touches continue, with a sea- inspired terrazzo floor and boho-luxe furnishings decked out in blues and greens.
The real hidden jewel of the building, though, has to be Sugalabo V. Helmed by celebrated chef Yosuke Suga, a protégé of French culinary legend Joël Robuchon, this restaurant is every bit as exclusive as its counterpart in Tokyo.
A speakeasy-style door – masquerading as an installation of iconic Louis Vuitton suitcases – slides aside at the touch of a button to reveal the interior, where an open kitchen and long central bar invite diners to enjoy Chef Suga’s cuisine in an intimate experience. The décor is distinctly luxe, featuring bold pops of colour contrasted against a dark, Art-Deco inspired palette. Specially-commissioned works by Japanese artist Yukimasa Ida line the walls, including an abstract oil painting of the chef himself. Here, an understated elegance belies the fact that that this restaurant is housed in one of the world’s most féted brands – the only label you’ll find here is a discreet Louis Vuitton monogram on the tableware collection, designed by Yoshioka Tokujin.
Not everyone can dine here, though. With just 24 seats, restaurant reservations are available only via private invitation. The café and the rest of the floors, however, are accessible to the public. And then of course there’s the building itself, an architectural beauty that can be enjoyed by all who pass on the street below.