Style Icons: Behind Louis Vuitton’s Iconic Trunk ⇒ Haven’t we all questioned ourselves how someone or something could become a fashion icon, characterised as timeless statements full of meaning and uniqueness? Magnificent phenomena are involved in those magic and secretive formulas that we all aspire to discover and recall when using or encountering that particular icon we fall in love with. The first time we set eyes on the legendary Trunk by Louis Vuitton, we immediately felt an urge to get to know the story and faces behind this magical icon. Written by Joana Reis
We must go back more than a hundred years when its creator began to live the story, which is considered by many and by the company itself – a legend. Louis Vuitton was raised and born in a family of carpenters and millers. On the 4th of August, 1821, Vuitton laid eyes on our world, to be precise, in Anchay, a small working-class settlement in the east of France. At the age of 13, tired of provincial life and of his strict stepmother, Vuitton left home for Paris. The 292-mile journey took him two years on foot with stops to carry out odd jobs to support himself along the way. In Paris, he met Monsieur Maréchal, his maître.
Louis Vuitton quickly became a valued craftsman at the Parisian atelier of Monsieur Maréchal, these were the roots of his highly specialised trade. At the time, horse-drawn carriages, boats and trains were the main modes of transportation, and luggage was handled roughly. Travellers called upon craftsmen to pack and protect their individual objects. At a time when the luggage was still rudimentary, Vuitton broke with the tradition of rounded chests and developed models that best fit the train wagons and the holds of the ships. It adopts square shapes – which allowed the suitcases to be stacked – and adds refinement by overlaying them with a green screen.
As early as 1854, the French haute couturehad just emerged, and the designers who put the booming fashion world around the Place de la Madeleine. It was precisely in this neighbourhood that Louis Vuitton, inaugurating his own Maison, the Maison Louis Vuitton Malletier in central Paris, introducing his first product: a suitcase lined with waterproof fabric (which replaced the leather) reinforced with metal ends in the corners, making them more resistant, revolutionising the concept of class travel.
Vuitton revolutionised the closures of bags and baggage, with an intelligent closure system. One of the hallmarks of suitcases and travel trunks that Vuitton created in 1886 was the zipper, an intelligent system that made the luggage almost feel like a treasure chest. The wealthy families, who needed to travel frequently and wanted to carry expensive clothes and jewellery, began to have confidence in the LV bags to carry their belongings. In addition, he produced custom-made products of the most varied species. Examples are the chests that held photographic materials, books and musical instruments.
In 1885, with his son Georges Vuitton working with his father, his contribution was not enough in creating the fabric but he also developed “The Library Trunk,” a chest with secret drawers and custom-made shelves that took the story of the writer Ernest Hemingway and other renowned writers.
At the same time, the company went through problems related to imitations, so new concepts and models were worked to maintain the authenticity of the brand. This only took place four years after the death of Louis Vuitton (1821 – 1892), in 1896, when Georges introduced the idea of a logo on the products. Described as a “Japanese-inspired flower pattern,” the initial goal of the monogram was to prevent counterfeit luggage in Paris and that pattern became one of the earliest examples of fashion brands. The “vintage” pattern of alternating squares between brown and beige was known as Damier (French for checkered).
We can sum up with the certainty that there is no magic formula, but there is an authentic and lovable story that surrounds us from the start right until the end, by the simplest fact of someone believing that one could improve the every day of the passionate traveller by revolutionising art, treasuring the craftsmanship, elevating the creativity and design. Nowadays, it belongs faithful to their initial and immaculate concepts. All these dots, represent the astonishing detailing that makes us call it luxury, “Art de Vivre”.