LUGGAGE THROUGH THE AGES
FROM THE ERA OF STEAMSHIPS TO THE AGE OF JUMBO JETS, LOUIS VUITTON HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE PERFECT COMPANION FOR THE DISCERNING TRAVELER
What usually comes to mind when you hear the name Louis Vuitton? The maison’s iconic monogram would most certainly pop up, along with images of bags or jackets bearing that distinct motif. perhaps even watches, something that the brand has become increasingly known for. but, Louis Vuitton has for even longer been known for its bags and—as anybody familiar with the brand’s history can tell you—luxury trunks.
see, travel has always been part of Louis Vuitton. in fact, before he went on to establish his eponymous brand, monsieur Louis Vuitton was first and foremost a celebrated trunk master. before he established his famous workshop at 4 rue neuve-des-capucines near the place Vendome, paris, the young Louis Vuitton would become an apprentice at the parisian atelier of monsieur maréchal. This, mind you, was the age of horse-drawn carriages, where travel was rough and luggage was treated even rougher. so, his skills in creating custom boxes and trunks were highly sought after.
Ahead of his Time
as time went on, the name Louis Vuitton became foremost in the minds of travelers across the ages. This reputation, however, came not solely from quality—although it needs to be said that quality has always been foremost a priority at the maison. an equally critical but perhaps underappreciated facet of Louis Vuitton’s renown is how it meets the ever-evolving challenges presented by new modes of transport. as travel changed, so did luggage—or the need for new luggage pieces. and Louis Vuitton seemed to be able to anticipate what future travelers would need.
a good example would be the car trunk, which was first unveiled—in prototype form—in 1897. That was less than a decade after the birth of the modern gasoline-powered car and quite a long time before automobiles actually became common. Louis Vuitton’s steamer trunks, meanwhile, was inspired by transoceanic travel
using steamer ships. Finally, the advent of air travel saw the birth of the aéro trunk and the aviette. These were designed for maximum carrying amount at the lowest possible weight. yes, checked baggage allowances is not a modern day invention.
The Next Steps
being innovative is one thing; keeping that spirit of innovation, however, is how the game is won. and this is a game that Louis Vuitton excels in. take, for example, the case of the car trunk as mentioned earlier. as automobiles actually become commonplace, the brand rolled out a dustproof waterproof trunk called the excelski trunk—perfect for a day on the road. This is also the area where the “spirit of travel” inspired the brand to create fabulously creative pieces, from trunks that housed picnic ware to one that contained a bed.
yes, that last one is quite real. Louis Vuitton’s legendary trunk bed was created for italian explorer pierre savorgnan brazza, for whom the city of brazzaville—capital of the republic of the congo--is named for. The trunk bed featured a case made of zinc and copper for resistance to dust and dampness, and, again, came with a bed that could be folded and stored inside it. it was certainly playful but also quite functional, to say the least.
in the journey by sea department, meanwhile, Louis Vuitton’s creations continued with the wardrobe trunk, which would become a classic piece. back in the day, however, a trunk that acted quite literally as a mobile wardrobe was invaluable for journeys that would span weeks if not months. The maison also showcased its mastery of functional pieces with the cabin bag (which is basically the precursor to today’s handbag) and the steamer bag (Louis Vuitton’s first supple bag, which could easily be stowed in the cabin of a steamship).
yet another change in travel habits would come in the 1960s. short weekend trips would become popular and travel became much more casual. This era gave birth to the Keepall, another supple bag that’s stylish, practical but also playful—especially the world tour variants which is adorned with Louis Vuitton emblems and pop imagery to resemble the heavily stickered trunks of seasoned travelers.
See It Now
what’s most poignant about looking through Louis Vuitton’s legacy of travel pieces is learning that this legacy lives on in the maison’s more recent offerings. There is, for instance, the doc bag by nicolas ghesqueire unveiled in 2014, which is a modern take on the cabin bag. meanwhile, Kim jones’ shearling hiking backpack from a year earlier is a prime example of the next evolutionary step from traditional, hand-carried packs to contemporary forms.
but don’t just take our word for it, as jakarta will play host to Louis Vuitton’s “time capsule” exhibition. This event will showcase a visual timeline of landmark moments in Louis Vuitton’s story, told by historical pieces flown all the way from the brand’s vaunted archives. The exhibition will take place at senayan city, jakarta, from october 16 to november 4, 2018, is open to the public and admission is free.
shearling backpack designed by Kim Jones; a Picnic trunk and its contents; the famous bed trunk with the bed unfoldedopposite page a book trunk