Luis Vuitton's Cafe & the Move from Events to Watering Holes (Cafe Society Quick Bite #5)

Plus The SupperClub on Clubhouse today with Sofar Sounds Founder Rafe Offer & Chase Tucker of Peloton.

Cafe Society is Maxwell Social’s weekly magazine on the intersection of community and society — an anthropological look at the underpinnings of what makes the world tick, written by David Litwak (@dlitwak) and the Maxwell team. Subscribe here and tune into our weekly Clubhouse, The Supperclub on Clubhouse.

Today we’re going to discuss how Louis Vuitton’s launching of a restaurant reflects a shift in how we gather our communities.

“There is a tendency to get our yearly dose of community outside our communities . . . Burning Man, Coachella, The New Yorker Festival, Art Basel are escape valves to our normal community-free weekly existence, and brands that realize there is an opportunity to provide community on a daily basis instead of a yearly basis will earn a cult following.”

But before we get started, a quick update on last week’s Clubhouse — our first ever The SupperClub on Clubhouse was a rousing success, 600+ listeners live at one point, so we’re doing another one today, and will make it a weekly thing at 4pm EST on Thursdays. Today we’re going to be speaking with Rafe Offer, the founder of Sofar Sounds, the pop-up concert in your living room phenomenon on Inclusive Exclusivity, along with Chase Tucker from Peloton, Mark Emil Hermansen from Empirical and Tomos Lovett from WithOthers, with a few more cohosts to be potentially added.

We’re going to discuss the themes we touched on in previous articles like Sofar Sounds & inclusive exclusivity, SoulCycle’s mistaking exclusivity for community and delve into how you scale an intimate and unique experience while leaving room for the creativity of local artists with Rafe. Tune in at 4pm EST here, and read to the bottom for updates on learnings from last week.

But onto the weekly update —Luis Vuitton is launching a cafe on the 4th floor of their "Maison" in Osaka, Japan in yet another example of what we’ve termed In-Person 2.0, joining the crew of brands that have started realizing that cultivating community requires more engagement than a once a year conference.

A few months ago we wrote about the next generation of in-person brand experiences:

We’ve noticed an acceleration of a trend, what we’re calling In-Person 2.0. In-person 1.0 was conferences and meet-ups, In-Person 2.0 is permanent physical spaces that serve as homes for the brand’s community, as brands realize that community is their biggest moat.

Our examples were Lexus’s Intersect restaurant in the Meatpacking District of NYC, BMW’s A/D/O space in Brooklyn and Brex’s credit card lounge in South Park, San Francisco.

And now it seems Luis Vuitton is adding itself to the list.

On February 1st, the French fashion house will open both a café and restaurant in its new Osaka, Japan maison. This is the first time the brand is venturing into culinary waters.

Both of the inevitable hotspots, Le Café V and Sugalabo V, will feature dishes from famed chef Yosuke Suga, once the protégé of the 32-Michelin star-earner Joël Robuchon.

As Vogue continues . . .

Louis Vuitton is among a number of luxury brands that have begun pairing their clothing with serious culinary stars. Tiffany opened its Blue Box Café in 2017 to lines around the block, and New York’s new Nordstrom teamed up with James Beard-nominated chef, Ethan Stowell, for its restaurant Wolf. Meanwhile, Saks Fifth Avenue has L’Avenue, the second outpost of the famed Parisian bistro, with its own entrance on 50th street. As retail seeks to separate itself from its online counterpart, it’s all about presenting a complete experience.

And Business Insider further elaborates:

There is also Ralph Lauren, which has been operating a massively popular restaurant in New York and a coffee bar in London. Burberry, meanwhile, operates Thomas' Cafe in London.

I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of half of those myself and I track this pretty closely, but it’s pretty ridiculous how many people are jumping on the bandwagon.

Our view has always been that In-Person 1.0 was events — conferences and meetups, sporadic community gatherings. Every major brand has a conference these days, from Salesforce to Facebook, from the New Yorker to Vogue. It was only a matter of time before they thought about engaging their fan base in person more than once a year.

Community centric businesses were the exception back in the day of Tupperware parties, but today everyone is realizing that every business is a community business, even Louis Vuitton.

I view it as part of a wider trend that is true for more than just brands. Many people innovating in the community space have done so with retreats/events first, from Summit Series to Davos and Tulum and festivals like Burning Man or even Coachella and Outside Lands, there is a tendency to get our yearly dose of community outside our communities.

People are desperate enough for these regular community events that we’re repurposing gatherings that have nothing to do with our communities for ourselves — last year I was invited to the Sundance Film Festival for the first time since I went 10 years ago with my father, who works in film. The invite came from a tech entrepreneur who has nothing to do with the movie industry, had never expressed any interest in it before, and who was organizing a house share for fun. I remember I turned to a friend and said that Sundance had become Art Basel, the art fair that every east coast cool kid descends upon in Miami mainly for the parties, regardless of actual interest in art.

But I can’t blame them — these events are escape valves to our normal community-free weekly existence, and brands that realize there is an opportunity to provide community on a daily basis instead of a yearly basis will earn a cult following.

The Clubhouse Update, cont.:

Massive thanks to Ian Moore of DEMI, the “Only Fans of the Food World,” for coming onto The SupperClub on Clubhouse and speaking to Mark, myself, Ali Morrow from Astanor Ventures, James Andrews from The Authenticated, Robin Terry and more. If you want to join today, here is the link.

We’re going to be refining the format to be 30-20-10: a 30 minute interview followed by 20 minute roundtable followed by 10 minutes of audience questions, with a focus on a different person and concept every time. We’re going to have a rotating set of regular cohosts, including Peloton fitness instructor Chase Tucker, Tomos Lovett (Employee #1 at Sofar Sounds & Founder of WithOthers), Mark Emil Hermansen of Empirical and myself and spice up the cohosts depending on the topic.

If you’d like to cohost with us, get in touch!

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And check out some of our deeper dinner discussions like why Soho House has had trouble scaling its community (and why we think miniclubs are the future)Possibility-As-A-Product: Superbad, Clubhouse & the Inciting IncidentGatekeepers & The WingInclusive Exclusivity, Sofar Sounds & Self-Cancelling Greek LifeFord Bronco, Blockbuster & Nostalgia Porn For A Simpler World and Amsterdam’s Radical Anarchist White Bikes & Community Hobbyists.

Have a great rest of the week!

David (@dlitwak) & The Maxwell Team