In 1835, a 16-year-old named Louis Vuitton set off by foot on a nearly 300-mile journey from his hometown of Anchay to Paris, where he eventually founded his namesake label, originally a producer of luxury trunks. A hundred and eighty-four years later, in 2019, Bernard Arnault, the CEO and chairman of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy—now the world’s largest luxury conglomerate—embarked on a voyage of his own. He did not, of course, follow in Vuitton’s footsteps by making the trek on his own two feet, but he most certainly did arrive to a place with significance: Johnson County, Texas, a rural area near Forth Worth, which is now home to a 100,000 square foot Louis Vuitton factory.
As if a Louis Vuitton factory in Texas wasn’t surprising enough, there for the opening ceremony was none other than Donald Trump—Jared and Ivanka in tow— as well as Arnault’s 26-year-old son. Also in attendance: Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr., Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, and two Michaels—one being Vuitton’s CEO, Michael Burke, and the other a Brahma bull.
While the latter Michael, plus 14 Red Angus beef cattle, roamed around the outside of Rochambeau Ranch, the Trump and Arnault clans got down to business. Their cultures came together inside the factory, too: According to the New York Times, a portrait of the house’s founder and a portrait of George Washington were displayed side by side. (The latter was a poster, while the former was a painting by Alex Katz.) Rounding out the decorations was a grouping of a Texas flag, a French flag, and an American flag. Of his surroundings, Trump at one point remarked: “This is some place.”
It was indeed—and, suffice to say, one that bore little resemblance to the opening of LVMH brand Celine’s own workshop that same day in Tuscany, Italy. But LVMH had something else in mind for Vuitton: fulfilling its commitment to the Pledge to America’s Workers, a Trump administrative initiative that Walmart and Volvo have also signed. Thanks to Vuitton—or “voo-ton,” as Trump pronounces it in the White House’s official video—around 1,000 Americans are expected to find employment at Rochambeau Ranch, which was previously known as Rockin’ Z Ranch, over the next five years.
“Louis Vuitton is a name I know very well. It cost me a lot of money over the years,” Trump said before a ribbon cutting ceremony. According to Vuitton’s CEO, Trump knows Arnault quite well, too: They apparently have “regular conversations,” which Arnault seems to want to keep politics-free. (He denied having anything to do with the fact that Trump’s appearance came between a rally and fundraiser for his re-election.) “I am not here to judge his types of policies,” Arnault said of Trump. “I have no political role. I am a business person. I try to tell him what I think for the success of the economy of the country, and the success of what we are doing.”