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LVMH's Takes the High Road, Promoting Culture Above Commerce

When Moët Hennessy - Louis Vuitton (LVMH) shuttered its long-standing e-commerce site last year, the news dismayed loyal followers and logo-lusting shoppers alike. But the multi-billion dollar luxury products group knew exactly what it was doing, as you can tell from its new site -- -- that not only replaces the defunct but proves that LVMH has its finger on the pulse of luxury, fashion, art, consumers, and its own mission.

The Nowness concept is deceptively simple: present one "feature" a day on fashion, art, culture, or travel. The product is complex: independently produced short films, photographic slide-shows, and culturally-relevant content that encourage discovery and inspiration rather than direct commerce. Vastly different from what some other fashion brands are calling innovative.

While LVMH remains very invested in its bottom line -- indeed, many of its brands, including the eponymous much-sought-after accessories house, continue to have their own Web storefronts -- the group is making a serious attempt to deliver the kind of content that goes beyond what is trotted down the runways. (Although there is a bit of that -- see the Chanel show coverage.) The hope, it seems, is to reveal to fashionistas the diverse palette of inspirations that influences any collection, whether haute or humble.

Take today's feature, "Lily Donaldson's Flying Hair," a two-minute film in black and white that captures the young model's swirling locks in super-slow-motion accompanied by a dreamy soundtrack. The clip is visually arresting enough on its own, but the companion text explains its artistic context as well as how it was shot: with the super-high definition Phantom Gold HD -- a camera initially developed for monitoring missile flights.

This is ultimately refreshing in a landscape littered with places to click and buy, and perhaps reflects LVMH's strong growth trends and its ability to step away from the cash register, if only momentarily. The group recorded revenue of €17.1 billion last year, much of that in fashion and leather goods. Louis Vuitton alone recorded double-digit revenue growth for the year.

Capitalizing on the best social media trends, Nowness has interactive elements, allowing viewers to vote for what they "love" or "don't love" -- a la Facebook's thumbs up or down â€"- and to explore items by category and popularity, similar to Twitter hashtags.

But what is most intriguing is Nowness' tie to the group's larger philanthropic mission. LVMH has a broad portfolio that reflects its decades-long dedication "to encouraging the general public, and particularly young people, to rediscover the great masters of painting and the major artistic movements that have marked the history of art, by supporting the organization of major national exhibitions."

In effort to put art and culture in the hands of those who might not make it to the Grand Palais (pictured above, site of LVMH-sponsored Warhol's Wide World exhibit) or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or for that matter, who may not know the work of emerging photographers and writers, LVMH's Nowness provides such a gallery accessible to all. Perhaps down the road, they'll consider opening an online gift shop.

Image by Patrick Giraud, CC 3.0

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