“Looo-whee Voo-tahn,” President Donald Trump said on Thursday afternoon, at the ribbon-cutting for ceremony marking the opening of the French brand’s factory in Keene, Texas—its third in the United States, but the only one to arrive with any fanfare.
It is widely known that the brand name is pronounced “Looh-ee Vwee-tahn”—and anyways, one might think that somebody might have given Trump a briefing for such an occasion. And yet he said it, over and over again, like a mantra: “Loo-whee Voo-tahn,” at one point even starting to say the American pronunciation of “Louis,” like it was that mild-mannered guy from operations everyone was there to honor, instead of an investment of $50 billion by the French fashion brand bringing with it 1,000 new American jobs over the next five years. It was yet another instance of President Trump’s penchant for over-enunciation contrasting with his obfuscating style of rhetoric. After all, it is, he said, “a name I know very well. It cost me a lot of money over the years.”
He wasn’t lying, and he’s already showed us the evidence to back it up. Back in August, New York Times White House Correspondent Maggie Haberman tweeted an image of a pile of Vuitton luggage outside of Air Force One as he and his wife, Melania Trump, returned to the White House from a vacation in...New Jersey.
Still, the Louis Vuitton factory in Texas seemed to come as a surprise to a number of consumers and fashion fans. Trump has made a revitalized American manufacturing industry a part of his platform since the beginning of his administration, and LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault traveled to Trump Tower shortly after his inauguration, President Trump recalled on Thursday, “to discuss my vision for creating an American manufacturing renaissance through historic tax cuts, and better trade deals, and deregulation. And we're making trade deals like nobody has ever seen before.”
Including this one, which, as the New York Times reported, will make LVMH Johnson County’s fourth-largest employer. It’s also impossible to discount the politics of Arnault’s own country, where, earlier this summer, President Emanuel Macron appointed Francois Pinault, the head of LVMH rival Kering, to lead a sustainability pact among fashion brands from Chanel to H&M. “We prefer acts to pacts,” Arnault said a few weeks after Pinault outlined his pact. Forget trying to curry favor with your own president—why not skip right ahead to the proverbial leader of the free world?
But Donald Trump has also always loved fashion. It may not be so obvious from the tape that holds his ties together, and it certainly does not resemble Michelle Obama’s celebrated support for American designers. But fashion brands have always been a part of Brand Trump, and not just because he used to make ties. In the ground floor of midtown’s Trump Tower, the most expensive property within his real estate empire, is the Gucci flagship store. (It’s probably where Melania procured her infamous pussy-bow blouse.) His daughter, Tiffany, is named after the other major tenant of Trump Tower: the jewelry brand Tiffany & Company. Before she was a full-time advisor in the White House, Ivanka Trump was attempting to build her own powder-pink fashion empire. He even introduced his son Donald Jr. to his first wife, Vanessa, at a 2003 fashion show, when he was a regular attendee at the Bryant Park tents, where the shows where then held.
In part, this is just part of being an extremely rich person in New York, where starting a brand or mounting a fashion show is just a thing you can do with all that time and money. But there’s something more to his longtime interest in shopping and fashion and everything that happens around these things except the clothes themselves. It shouldn’t escape your attention that the most recent allegation of sexual assault against the President, by E. Jean Palmieri, took place at Bergdorf Goodman. In the women’s store, no less—the men’s store, which opened in 1990, five or six years before the assault took place, is across the street. For Trump, fashion might be the ultimate symbol of his buy-your-way-into-anything school of social climbing, where just having the right stuff means you belong.
There are many practical reasons why Trump is hanging out in Texas to celebrate “Voo-tahn,” but we can’t discount the most obvious one. No president has ever cared about appearance and branding so much—or worn his ties so incorrectly.
Originally Appeared on GQ