First the Vuitton case, now clothes to put in it

LOUIS VUITTON gave birth to a new fashion monster yesterday. The French label known for making luxury luggage since 1854 launched its first clothing collection, designed by the American minimalist Marc Jacobs. The clothes - flat-front trousers, long skirts, cashmere T-shirts, and rubberised cotton coats in shades of white, grey, pale blue, and a splash of raspberry - were smart, plain and luxurious, much more understated than the luggage and accessories. But these are the sort of clothes that - given the fame and reputation of the label - will sell like hot cakes. Prada sold its first collection of hot cakes in 1989 on the back of a few nylon handbags. Then, Prada's turnover was stable, but small. By last year it was pounds 730m, purely because the clothing label has made the accessories so desirable.

Louis Vuitton took no chances with Marc Jacobs yesterday. While John Galliano and Alexander McQueen have run riot over the houses of Dior and Givenchy, LVMH, the company which own both those labels as well as Louis Vuitton, chose Marc Jacobs as the designer with credibility. Kate Moss is a good friend, and he will never send an outfit resembling Cousin IT down the runway as McQueen has done at Givenchy couture. Instead, Jacobs was a sure, safe bet.

If you want to make headlines, employ a British designer; if you want assured commercial success, employ an American.

All the Paris luxury houses are on course for an overhaul this week. Last night, Hermes, the bastion of French luxury leather-work, was given a facelift by the avant-garde Belgium designer Martin Margiela. Later in the week, Celine, known primarily for handbags, presents a new collection by another American, Michael Kors.