Bag­gage han­dling, Louis Vuit­ton style

Ex­hibit shows how brand’s lug­gage de­signs changed as trans­porta­tion evolved

Simcoe Reformer - - LIFE - BETH J. HARPAZ

NEW york — as travel changed, so did lug­gage.

That’s the story told by an elab­o­rate ex­hi­bi­tion about Louis vuit­ton, the lux­ury lug­gage and fash­ion brand.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, free to visit and on dis­play in Lower man­hat­tan through Jan. 7, is called volez, voguez, voy­agez, which means fly, sail, travel. it show­cases the com­pany’s his­tory, prod­ucts and crafts­man­ship, demon­strat­ing how de­signs changed with the evo­lu­tion of travel. Lug­gage was de­signed first for trans­port by wagon, then for travel by sea, on trains, in cars and planes.

Trunks and bags are be­hind glass like works of art in a se­ries of mu­seum-like gal­leries. Lids open to re­veal in­tri­cate com­part­ments as if they were the con­tents of trea­sure chests. in­cluded are cases and car­ri­ers de­signed for ev­ery­thing from toi­letries to hats, from pic­nics to art sup­plies. Trunks with small draw­ers pro­tected frag­ile ob­jects; stand­ing trunks had roll-out wardrobe racks so clothes could be hung, not folded. a plane is on dis­play, along with a boat.

There’s even a room where hu­man ar­ti­sans show how they cut leather and snip threads for lug­gage tags and han­dles, liv­ing proof of the crafts­man­ship be­hind the brand.

The com­pany’s his­tory be­gins with Louis vuit­ton him­self. he started a trunk-mak­ing busi­ness in Paris in 1854 after leav­ing his vil­lage in east­ern france and work­ing for a box-maker. his de­signs were strong but light, dis­tin­guished by pat­terned mo­tifs. The lug­gage has been a favourite of the rich and fa­mous go­ing back to Napoleon’s wife em­press eu­ge­nie, with later clients rang­ing from artist henri matisse to banker J.P. mor­gan. John Wana­maker be­gan to sell vuit­ton lug­gage in his amer­i­can de­part­ment stores after meet­ing Louis’s son at the 1893 chicago World’s fair. The brand re­mains a favourite to­day among celebs from the worlds of fash­ion and hol­ly­wood.

The ex­hi­bi­tion’s tim­ing co­in­cides with the hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son, and the lo­ca­tion is in New york’s fi­nan­cial district. but most vis­i­tors will likely lack the means to buy vuit­ton prod­ucts, which can run in the thou­sands of dol­lars. still, at­ten­tion-get­ting tem­po­rary dis­plays like this are be­com­ing a stan­dard way for brands to tell their story.

“many of these brands pop some­thing up, draw a big au­di­ence, get some pub­lic­ity, get re­porters to talk about it,” said Larry chi­agouris, pro­fes­sor of mar­ket­ing at Pace univer­sity’s Lu­bin school of busi­ness. “you don’t need to be there 12 months a year. you just need to es­tab­lish a lit­tle pub­lic­ity and move on.”

chi­agouris says this type of show­case can also be far more ef­fec­tive than a tra­di­tional ad cam­paign. “ads are very fleet­ing and don’t gen­er­ate the kind of in­de­pen­dent in­ter­ac­tion with a brand the way an ex­hibit would,” he said. a show like this “takes some­thing that has al­most be­come wall­pa­per and sud­denly puts it into your cur­rent mind­set and con­scious­ness.”

ex­hi­bi­tions also give de­sign­ers the space and flex­i­bil­ity to fine­tune their mes­sage. in this case, the sub­dued, mu­seum-like at­mos­phere creates a “mood that re­flects the brand, some­what el­e­gant and some­what un­der­stated,” he said.

Pace univer­sity’s man­hat­tan cam­pus is near the ex­hi­bi­tion site, and chi­agouris said his stu­dents have been buzzing about the vuit­ton show. They’re work­ing on a com­pe­ti­tion among busi­ness schools to come up with a cam­paign for ocean spray, the cran­berry brand, and the con­cept of telling a com­pany’s story this way, through his­tory, prod­ucts and work­man­ship, res­onated with them.

“it’s an in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence not be­cause of elec­tron­ics or press­ing a but­ton,” he said, but be­cause “you get a sense of the iden­tity of the brand.”

RICHARD DREW/AP PHO­TOS

Gowns by Louis Vuit­ton are dis­played as part of the “Volez, Voguez, Voy­agez,” Louis Vuit­ton ex­hibit, in the for­mer Amer­i­can Stock Ex­change build­ing, in New York Fi­nan­cial District, Mon­day.

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