On Saturday, the Guardian reported that the LVMH-owned label began working with the Romanian factory, Somarest (a LVMH subsidiary), in 2002 to reduce labor costs. The factory is now believed to produce over 100,000 pairs of shoes a year, while a second factory in the vicinity built in 2009 makes components for Louis Vuitton’s handbags and suitcases.
After initially turning down the Guardian’s requests for interviews, a spokesperson for Somarest agreed to speak about Louis Vuitton’s production, confirming that the factory’s senior managers are French and the materials used are imported from France. After assembly, the spokesperson said the factory exports the goods to France and Italy, where they are “finished” so that they qualify for a “made in France” or “made in Italy” label.
The Guardian’s investigation draws attention to a 2014 EU law that says the country of origin for products made in multiple countries is the one where the items underwent “the last, substantial, economically justified processing.” In Louis Vuitton’s case, the soles of the shoes are added after they are exported.
In 2014, a French TV documentary investigated anonymous tips that Louis Vuitton footwear was being made in Romania. LVMH Chief Executive Bernard Arnault denied the claims.
Romania’s garment sector is often a topic of concern for workers’ rights groups. In 2016, the Clean Clothes Campaign described Romania as “Europe’s cheap sweatshop.” However, Somarest’s spokesperson told the Guardian that Louis Vuitton’s factories use non-toxic chemicals and give workers weekends off and pay for overtime.