The opening of a new Louis Vuitton production site in Texas provided a rare chance for Donald Trump to meet with a foreign business leader — and not just any business, but one the president says he knows “very well.”
“It cost me a lot of money over the years,” he joked of the posh French handbag maker.
Among those joining Trump and Bernard Arnault, head of the LVMH conglomerate that owns the leathergoods brand, for the tour were Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
“Even though they’re related to me, just slightly, I will tell you, what a job,” he said of the pair, extolling their work on his job-creation pitch as he gears up for next year’s re-election campaign.
The group saw a demonstration of how the luxury handbags are sewn, cut an opening-day ribbon and met with workers at the new facility.
The president himself even appeared to admire a handbag covered in the brand’s iconic LV print — a bag with an extra red detail.
Trump applauded the company’s $50 million investment.
“I want to thank you all for your confidence in the United States and your confidence and investment in the Lone Star State, the great state of Texas,” the president said, speaking in front of a wall of colorful spools of thread. “You’ll be very happy. You’ll be very, very happy.”
The workshop is near the town of Alvarado at the Rochambeau Ranch, named for the general who led French troops alongside the 13 colonies in the American Revolution.
It is expected to employ about a thousand skilled workers within five years, according to Arnault.
“This investment in job creation reflects the strengths of our US business, which continues to grow,” said Arnault, whom Forbes magazine has ranked as the third-richest person in the world.
“I always believed in the fact that America is a land of opportunity,” he said.
Arnault was one of the first high-profile French business leaders to meet with Trump in January 2017, weeks after his election, when he suggested he would consider expanding Louis Vuitton in the United States.
On Thursday, Trump called such an expansion part of his “vision for creating an American manufacturing renaissance.”
Highlighting France as the US’s oldest ally, Trump asked Arnault to pass on a message to French President Emmanuel Macron.
“We have our little disputes with Emmanuel every once in a while. Say hello to Emmanuel.”
The American market generates a quarter of LVMH’s sales overall, and it already has two US production sites in California for Louis Vuitton, whose handbags can cost thousands of dollars.
The company has said half the Louis Vuitton workers it hires have no previous experience in leathercraft, and receive intensive in-house training before being allowed to cut or sew.
The brand first opened in 1859 in Asnieres, France. Overall, the LVMH group and its 70 brands saw a record-breaking 2018, with 46 billion euros ($51 billion) in profits.
Trump touted the Louis Vuitton opening during a campaign rally in nearby Dallas Thursday night, seeking to mobilize supporters as he fends off an impeachment inquiry.