Trunks to last a lifetime

Luxury retailer Louis Vuitton’s products have become such a ubiquitous status symbol in our modern era that it’s easy to forget that the company has a long, rich history and a heritage that would fascinate even the most disdainful of LV critics.  Founded in 1854 by the one and only Louis Vuitton after his experience working as a malletier [trunk-maker] for Napoleon III’s wife, Eugénie de Montijo, LV intially started as a luggage company specializing in travel cases for the wealthy elite.  After a series of counterfeit copies flooded the market and the passing of the company’s founding father in 1892, son Georges Vuitton trademarked the signature Monogram Canvas in 1896 and began the campaign that would lead, in 1913, to the company’s opening a store on the famed Champs-Elysées in Paris, the largest travel goods retailer in the world at the time.

On view at Paris’ Carnavalet museum through February 27th is an exploration of Louis Vuitton’s origins and its stylistic, cultural and artistic references from its inception through modern day 2010s, focused on the iconic LV trunk.  While the ornate trunk interiors reveal a mind-boggling ‘more-is-more’ approach to packing for travel– some early 20th century examples containing as many as 10 brushes for the hair and several glass bottles for those with a shampoo/cologne fetish– what’s most interesting is the personal trunks of famous loyal clients throughout the 20th century.  Those of fashion designers Paul Poiret and Jeanne Lanvin are on display, as are the writing desk-trunk of composer Igor Stravinsky and the fold-out bed-trunk of explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza.

For those who can’t make it to the exhibit, an exhaustive tome covers the trunk’s history and then some, with an exploration into vintage graphic design available as well via reproductions of vintage hotel and travel stickers.  And for more information, visit the carnavelet website.


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