Politics and high fashion came together Thursday on 260 acres in rural Johnson County.
President Donald Trump helped cut the ribbon on the new Louis Vuitton workshop in Keene, a town of 6,000, and now home to one of the most luxurious brands in the world.
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"Today we continue the extraordinary revival of American manufacturing and we proudly celebrate the opening of the brand new Louis Vuitton, a name I know very well, cost me a lot of money over the years, " said the President as he made the second of three stops in North Texas.
Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton praised the "commitment of President Trump for the American workers" as he pledged to "1,000 high-skilled jobs at Rochambeau over the the next five years."
The Keene workshop sits on what is now called Rochambeau Ranch. It's named for a French general who helped George Washington secure American independence from Britain. "This marked the beginning of a historically strong relationship between my country and the United States," Arnault said. "The U.S. market is number one for LVMH in the world" with Americans spending more than $10 billion dollars on the luxury leather goods.
Six styles of handbags and backpacks sought after all over the world will be made in the Keene workshop. The fabric, leather and thread are imported from Europe but the products will come with a Made in the USA label. Texas and California are the only places outside France where the luxury leather goods are produced.
Diana Miller, executive director of the Johnson County Economic Development Commission, worked with Louis Vuitton to get the deal.
She remembers in 2017 hearing the CEO of Louis Vuitton mention the possibility of a location in Texas or North Carolina. Miller says her connection to Louis Vuitton came when the Dallas Chamber of Commerce referred the project manager to her.
"They were looking for a rural location, and they found this beautiful ranch. So, that's how it started," Miller said. "And, we were in competition with another state for about nine months. "
State and local leaders crafted an incentive package to attract the company "and I got the call one day that we had been chosen," Miller said. "I was northbound on Chisholm Trail Parkway and I just about had a wreck. We're very, very proud that such a prestigious French company chose Texas and Johnson County for their new facility."
The workshop opened in June with 150 artisans working under American, French and Texas flags. They sit or stand at sewing machines and other equipment to fuse fabric liners with the distinctive Louis Vuitton monogram canvas. Arnault says each product requires "100 to 200 operations." While some are done by machine, others can only done by hand. He described each product as a "balance of heritage and technology" and now crafted in the "heart of leather country."
"They wanted an area that is inspiring to their artisans rather than being in a cold industrial facility," said Miller as she described the rolling hills, scenery and exotic animals Louis Vuitton has in its new Lone Star State location.
"Personally, this is probably a career best. It really is. It's been a lot of hard work, two and a half years that we've been going down this road," Miller said as she talked about the project that puts Keene and Johnson County in the lap of luxury.