Ever since a young Louis Vuitton revolutionised—and glamorised—the world of travel, the French maison’s inimitable trunks have been the first and last word in luxury travel.  

Humble beginnings

Despite the trunks’ associations with the high life, they began with very humble origins. When Louis Vuitton first arrived in Paris in 1837 from his native village of Anchay in eastern France, his first job was as a layetier (trunk maker) at the atelier of Monsieur Maréchal, where his responsibility was to pack everyday objects and voluminous items such as dresses and gowns into crates. It was here that he honed the art and craft of trunk-making and packing, before he finally started his eponymous brand in 1854.

Unparalleled craftsmanship

Today, the trunks continue to be crafted and assembled by hand at the original trunk-making workshop in Asnières. They are made using materials such as gaboon and beech wood, a combination that absorbs shock and allows for the natural expansion of the wood without impacting the shape of the trunks. The Monogram or Damier checked canvas trunks are laminated for waterproofing purposes. Finally, hallmarks of Louis Vuitton leather goods, including rounded natural undyed leather handles, aged cognac coloured lozines and golden brass corners are attached to the trunk. 

A trunk for all reasons

Need a customised trunk for your precious possessions, be it a collection of antiquarian books or a prized cigar collection? Have it made to your exact specifications via the Made to Order service (a division handled by Patrick-Louis Vuitton, the great-great-grandson of the founder), where your imagination is the limit. Prince Youssef Kamal of Egypt, one of the brand’s most loyal—and creative—clients, commissioned hunting trunks, picnic trunks and even an ice box trunk in his lifetime.

An exclusive clientele

Louis Vuitton gained entry into the rarefied world of royalty and aristocracy early in his career when he was hired as the personal box maker and packer for Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugénie de Montijo. His clientele rapidly expanded to include movers and shakers ranging from royalty of Old Europe to heiresses of the New World, such as Grand Duke Cyril of Russia, Princess Lobanov de Rostov and Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu-Kashmir.

Brush to canvas 

To further personalise a trunk, artisans trained in Asnières can offer hand-painting services. In Singapore, this is available at the Louis Vuitton Island Maison at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Clients may choose to have initials hot stamped on a luggage tag or stripes and initials hand-painted on their commissioned trunk. 
For a truly bespoke experience, request for an original design such as a family crest or for the artisan to create one. This exclusive process begins with a private consultation and continues with further correspondence until the final design is approved. As the intricate hand-painting is ongoing—a process that can take about three months—the client advisor will send regular work-in-progress updates, to allow maximum involvement in this artistic endeavour.

Painterly strokes

Hand-painting the Monogram canvas requires highly specialised skills too. After sketching the design on the canvas, thin layers of specially formulated acrylic paint are slowly applied. Each layer has to be completely dry before another can be added and this process is repeated until the canvas is perfectly covered. The artisan also has to ensure the paint is not too thick to avoid cracks or obvious bumps on the surface of the canvas.

Stick ’em on

In the past, travel stickers functioned as a record of one’s adventures around the globe. Gaston-Louis Vuitton, the founder’s grandson, was immensely fascinated by these stickers and collected vintage travel labels, many of which were ultimately published in a book, Escales Autour Du Monde, by well-known travel writer, Francisca Mattéoli.
In tribute to this charming heritage, Louis Vuitton has created a series of World Tour “stickers” inspired by cities around the world. They include unique emblems for Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, Miami and most recently, Singapore, which was designed in conjunction with L’Appartement Louis Vuitton Singapore. Unlike conventional stickers which tear and age with time, these are hand-painted on trunks and luggage to provide an elegant and long-lasting record of a one’s global adventures.

A brief history of travel

To admire the archival Louis Vuitton trunks is to embark on a history of travel. In 1868, Louis Vuitton began creating waterproof and corrosion-proof zinc, copper and aluminium trunks to protect their contents from seawater and humidity.
In 1906, he created the unsinkable and watertight Aero trunk which could be fastened on the gondola of a hot-air balloon to keep it afloat should the balloon fall into the sea. By 1927, air travel had become commonplace and the lightweight Aero became the maison’s most popular trunk.

Carriers of secrets

While the trunks protect prized belongings, sometimes they also encase secrets and important documents from prying eyes. French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, ordered a Trunk Bed with a secret drawer in 1879, which he used while investigating conditions in French territories, including examples of forced labour, massacres and misappropriated funds, and he kept these notes in the secret trunk drawer, determined to hand them safely back to the French government. It is said the drawer was so well concealed, Georges Vuitton had to be summoned to reopen it.  

XXX Marks the Spot

Creative director Nicolas Ghesquière’s highly coveted Petite Malle bag is a thoroughly modern piece that cleverly pays homage to one of the maison’s most iconic travellers, photographer and philanthropist Albert Kahn. From 1911 to 1929, the brand created several trunks for Kahn’s expeditions with padded compartments to hold camera equipment, with each trunk marked with a distinctive white XXX marks for instant recognition.
When Ghesquière reinvented the trunk for his debut autumn/winter 2014 collection, he kept the signature motif on the mini-trunk clutches in a nod to Kahn’s spirit of adventure.

Modern TAKES

For the spring/summer 2017 men’s collection, men’s artistic director Kim Jones collaborated with British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, who illustrated safari animals including giraffe and rhinoceros that were screen‑printed on transparent Perspex trunks to create an optical illusion of seeing the animals within the box.
For the cruise 2017 womenwear collection, the trunks were reimagined as the Boombox. Cheeky yet functional, the Boombox comprises compartments to hold an iPhone, side compartments for travel speakers and front compartments to hold cables, so music lovers can carry their jam wherever they travel.

The Louis Vuitton lifestyle

Not just meant to be stowed away in the luggage compartment of a jet or cruise liner, Louis Vuitton trunks can —and should—be displayed as objets d’art in the home too.
The maison created the L’Appartement Louis Vuitton, a first in Singapore, and Singapore Tatler friends, VIP clientele and fashion industry insiders got a rare chance to enter and experience the space in November.
Tastefully designed to reflect the East-meets-West influences of the little red dot, fretwork panels carved in ebony wood, mother-of-pearl walls and contemporary artworks created a stylish, cosy atmosphere. Blending effortlessly into this decor were a few hundred specially curated Louis Vuitton pieces to explore and discover.
Classic favourites such as the cigar trunk and wardrobe trunk were stylishly functional items that would fit into any home—and be easily packed up at a moment’s notice. The brand also flew in runway pieces, such as the Boombox and the Jake and Dinos Chapman collaborations. 
For those whose tastes veer towards understated luxe, the new Monogram Eclipse range of trunks in grey and black shadow tones were showcased outside France for the first time. 

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