Trunkmaking, an Allegory for Louis Vuitton

Home / Fashion & accessories / Trunkmaking, an Allegory for Louis Vuitton

At age 14 Louis Vuitton tied his destiny to Paris when he took off as a washer-packager apprentice. The young man found himself at the epicenter of a Paris in transformation, with changes and technical progress abounding as the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. In 1837, the first French railway was inaugurated. From then on, Louis Vuitton understood that his talent could be aligned with the era of traveling that was on the horizon. In 1854 at 4 rue des Capucines, he founded his baggage enterprise. He would soon notice what needed to be changed in how people transported their goods, often precious goods. First off, standard and bulging trunks, and then their materials… Their material lacked in practicality and was severely lacking in aesthetics as well – this was the starting point for his own revolution. Until then trunks were composed using a sow hide affixed to exterior silks to avoid rain penetrating the pores. But often the rancid odor of the leather would rub off on the items inside. In 1856 he launched a new procedure: he thought of using a canvas by affixing it onto wood and experimented with a new approach to trunkmaking. Louis Vuitton thus created a trunk made of poplar wood encircled by wood and black iron, with a flat cover. Even better, the artist thought of making the canvas in a ravishing color: light grey, the famous ‘Trianon’ grey. “Which would find a very legitimate success in the construction of airplanes some 50 years later,” analyzed his son Gaston.

This trunk was revolutionary in many ways – it showed a mastery and a craftsmanship acquired with time and observation. Louis Vuitton’s trunks were majestic in that they could be bent to the smallest whim of their clients, or the label’s creative directors. Louis Vuitton’s trunk making meant large volumes, light weight, and the fixation of hinges and the legendary unpickable lock. Then came the famous dressing – a canvas fixed to the base with a glue made of flower and rye, assuring for ultimate adhesiveness. Louis liked to point out to his curious clients the many advantages of a metal circling and wooden belting that would protect the fabric for years. The success was immediate. Louis Vuitton moved his ateliers to Asnières where, years after laying the foundations for modern baggage, he would transform it into a luxury product.

The legendary Monogram motif invented in 1888 by his son Georges would be accompanied by a new invention in the history of trunkmaking, a new even more modern canvas. Coated canvas, imagined in 1896, would put an end to the era of Damier motifs, often copied, and also eclipse the striped canvas. The supple and light coated canvas was imagined with a grained effect that was resistant to water and scratches. The quality was flawless, and the trunks became iconic – a status conferred to them by a number of anecdotes that may or may not be true… Such as the one about Ernest Hemingway, who was said to have left one of his trunks behind at the Ritz. Preserved in the luxury hotel’s cellars, it would be discovered years later: inside, the manuscript for A Moveable Feast. To celebrate the centennial of their trunkmaking in 1996, Louis Vuitton decided to give seven stylists free reign to create objects around the label’s most emblematic trunk element, the Monogram canvas. Recently, Nicolas Ghesquière took over and innovated by inaugurating a new Louis Vuitton creation: a small trunk with a clutch-esque look, rich with Louis Vuitton heritage. It boasts a lamb leather lining, faux gold ornamentation, a magnetic clasp, and a signature paying homage to Louis Vuitton’s original interest: travel and exploration, like the traveler Albert Kahn. “We’re in movement. Nothing leaves the hands of a companion that can’t be easily transported,” Patrick Louis Vuitton, a member of the fifth generation, reminds us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.