LV The Book


The Grand Palais in Paris is playing host to an ambitious Louis Vuitton retrospective. Exhibition curator Olivier Saillard selected seven icons and analyzed their design.

In the footsteps of Louis Vuitton...” The expression could be taken literally, given its nod to the now-renowned name of  a young man with a sense of destiny, who left his native Jura region on foot to conquer Paris and, later, the world. “In the footsteps of Louis Vuitton” is also the House’s invitation to explore a vast retrospective at the Grand Palais. The journey begins with a trunk that opens to recount the 160-year adventure of an extraordinary family. From past to present, from craftsmanship to creativity, each and every contemporary piece is ennobled by its rich heritage, while the pioneering imagination of the founder is reflected in the avant-garde vision of the new generation. Olivier Saillard, the curator of the exhibition, gives us a glimpse of the treasures the trunk contains. Let us travel back in time in the company of some of Louis Vuitton’s most emblematic designs.

It is an expression of an era when travel was an elegant experience. The Noé bag was created in 1932 by Gaston-Louis Vuitton, at the request of a champagne producer, to carry five bottles of bubbly. Carrying around a tea service or champagne was simply an extension of the art de vivre one was accustomed to at home. The Noé also anticipated the advent of city bags, and subsequently became a House classic, interpreted in an array of eye-catching colors.”

“This was Louis Vuitton’s first design, and it immediately revolutionized the principle of the trunk with its light gray – christened Trianon Gray – canvas. It is a large trunk, yet nevertheless lightweight, owing to its poplar frame. Note how practical solutions are often the most unprecedented. Louis Vuitton also paid particular attention to the secure closing mechanism and the interior layout of his trunks with, for example, the creation of inner frameworks and the trademark system of ribbons. Everything is functional. This is one of the oldest Louis Vuitton trunks; it dates back to 1870 and belonged to the mysterious Countess of V. One of Louis Vuitton’s most recent designs, the Cindy Sherman trunk, applies the same fundamental principles as the earliest models.”

“The Vuitton family had a passion for air travel. Two of Georges Vuitton’s children, the twins Pierre-Eugène and Jean-Armand, designed helicopters and an airplane, even going so far as to patent the latter. Air travel simultaneously created a need for supple, lightweight luggage. This bag, which probably belonged to Picasso’s muse Dora Maar, is a basic design in brown canvas. It is one of the first soft bags and, despite its rather ordinary appearance, clearly prefigures the modern, stylish, and elegant city bag.”
“Writing has been an important influence in the history of Louis Vuitton, which today publishes several collections of books. This interest in publishing and typography can be traced back to Gaston-Louis Vuitton. In fact, the House has crafted an entire series of extremely elegant and elaborate trunks for books and traveling writers or bibliophiles like Ernest Hemingway. Gaston-Louis himself also drew extensively, wrote, personalized logos, and collected antique books. He was the talent behind this exceptional, precious edition of L’Or (Sutter’s Gold) by Blaise Cendrars, with gold typography.”
“It was designed by Gaston-Louis Vuitton, Louis’ grandson, and illustrates the origins of the House and its founder, who came from the Jura, a region famous for its forests. It features a plane, a hammer, and the V motif which anticipates the famous Volez, Voguez, Voyagez slogan used by Louis Vuitton in the 1960s. It is a very simple coat of arms with a modest, almost rustic feel, which is a reminder that the House was founded by an artisan, who left home at the age of 14 to seek his fortune in Paris. It could be described as an ode to craftsmen and the workshop, echoing the harsh yet noble environment from which Louis Vuitton emerged.”

“The early 20th century saw the advent of transatlantic travel, and Louis Vuitton’s Steamer bag became a symbol of modernity on the move, as significant in the history of the House as the trunk. Also known as the Inviolable, it enabled passengers to keep essential items – pajamas, for example, or a travel rug – with them during a crossing, while leaving their trunks in the liner’s hold. A soft bag in plain canvas and leather, it could be folded up small inside a cabin trunk. Anticipating the trend towards soft bags, the Steamer bag was the forerunner of the contemporary travel or sports bag. Its ingenious design has evolved over time to become a luxury item, and Nicolas Ghesquière paid homage to it in his recent Cruise collection, when he created the New-Steamer with its signature clasp.”
“Rail travel and expeditions were another source of inspiration for Louis Vuitton, and led to the invention of a whole system of flat trunks, the forerunners of the modern suitcase, as well as rigid bags in thick leather designed to withstand long journeys and dusty conditions, and were favored by explorers. There is quite a contrast between these hard, robust pieces and the delicate, fragile nature of what they contained – often bottles, brushes, and grooming accessories.”

Tags: Grand Palais, Exhibition, Heritage