With the recent news that Louis Vuitton has been identified as the world’s most valuable luxury brand, we thought we’d look into the heritage of this venerable name. Within the luxury brand pantheon, Louis Vuitton has been heralded as the go-to brand when it comes to image, product and quality. But this global phenomenon is no youngster – once a mid-19th century ‘traveling gear’ company for the elite, it is now a fashionable oasis for the trendy set.
When Louis Vuitton’s brass decided to expand its brand identity two decades ago and to develop a fashion (clothing) line, the slate was fully clean to start from scratch – there had never been anything else but luggage, purses and specialty traveling orders. They started slowly….and then came Marc Jacobs, like a circus MC, who helped direct the transition from handbags to separates to everything luxurious.
If you happen to be heading to Paris, please go see the history for yourself. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is currently having a two-fold exhibition on Louis Vuitton – more specifically, the history of the house’s trunk ancestry and the Marc Jacobs’ fashion reign. The exhibition is split in two – two floors of galleries – bringing to the forefront surprising trunk marvels and cleaver imagery.
Within the history of 19th Century fashion and international commerce, steamer trunks and traveling trunks became intricate collaborators. The 1850s saw the rise of the department store, the sewing machine, haute couture, aniline dyes… the industrial revolution was in full swing. And with traveling, moneyed folks needed the right gear to transport their intricate wardrobe… and a few items of modular furniture like beds, desks, etc. By the way, in the 1860s, a trunk cost in the 35 Francs range whereas 2 gowns cost 300 Francs, and a lady of means usually changed 5 times daily.
Trunks that were initially developed to store the precious wardrobe of the moneyed elite had to be light and strong and had to comply with a few mandates –protect the luxurious garments and minimize wrinkling, be light and sturdy for transport, and take foreign climates into consideration.
The trunk was engineered with the utmost care and innovation. Technology became its tried and true ally. Going through the tropics? Potentially dealing with termites? Why not create a trunk in aluminum, light steel, even use rubber? The idea of the trunk is really a marvel in technology and culture. And for a privileged little girl and her doll, a fantasy comes to life. Yes, a client even asked Louis Vuitton to make a traveling trunk for their little girl’s doll. Talk about playing in style!
Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs is up until 16 September 2012.