Louis Vuitton presents “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton” , a new exhibition at Grand Palais of Parigi cup to February 21st, 2016.
An exhibition that retraces the great Louis Vuitton journey started in 1854 , according to a path divided into 9 chapters.
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I. THE TRUNK OF 1906: A TRULY MODERN DESIGN.
In 1835, at the age of fourteen, Louis Vuitton left Anchay, his native village in the Jura Mountains of eastern France, close to the Swiss border. He undertook this long journey by foot, ending up in Paris two years later.
Upon his arrival, he was hired as a box maker/packer apprentice by Romain Maréchal, whose work was based on manufacturing boxes and crates.
Some years later, in 1854, Louis Vuitton founded his own company and began to attract the admiration of fashionable people, such as Empress Eugénie. His designs were ergonomic, made for strength and lightness. His perfection of the flat trunk is now considered the beginning of modern luggage. He updated fabrics and patterns, as much as to set the products apart as to protect against counterfeiters. In 1875, the creation of the first vertical wardrobe trunk, with each part being thoughtfully designed, guaranteed the success of a company already specializing in travel. The rest of the story would be written by his son Georges, and his grandson Gaston-Louis. In 1890, the tumbler lock was a major invention that allowed the same customer to open each piece of luggage with a single key. In 1896, the birth of the famous Monogram canvas proudly honored the founding father, who died in 1892.
II. WOOD—A PASSPORT TO FREEDOM: THE ORIGINS OF LOUIS VUITTON.
Of all the materials involved in the manufacturing of a trunk, wood occupies a symbolic and critical position. It reflects the humble origins of Louis, the company’s founder. It is also a reminder of the forest landscapes of Franche-Comté. Wood was at the heart of his profession as it was for the five generations that preceded him. Armed with his knowledge of cooperage, Louis Vuitton became a box maker and packer upon his arrival in Paris. A box maker’s tools are similar to those of a joiner, a carpenter, or a cooper—cutting, fitting, splitting, sharpening, and assembling a repertoire of unchanged movements. When he was developing the trunks that would make his fame, he used poplar to assemble the barrel. He cut the reinforcement strips from beech. For the interior, he used camphor trees to keep pests away or rosewood for its pleasant perfume.Even today, special orders follow this same use of materials. Whether simple and unusual, requests are always designed in the workshops of Asnières-sur-Seine with the finest woods, using framework most conducive for a nomadic lifestyle.
III. CLASSIC TRUNKS: A REFINED INVENTORY OF FABRICS, SHAPES, AND LOCKS.
Since its foundation, the House of Louis Vuitton has stood out among its contemporaries due to a series of inventions and innovations that today make up a lexicon of timeless patterns and shapes. The gray Trianon of 1854 was following a striped canvas, available in 1872 in shades of red and brown, then beige and brown. The Damier canvas, created in 1888, preceded the iconic Monogram canvas, which juxtaposed plant motifs, geometric shapes, and the initials “LV,” by eight years. After developing and perfecting the flat trunk, the House continued to enrich its vocabulary of volumes, functions, and other signatures. Wardrobe trunks, mail trunks, secretary trunks, hat trunks, short and tall trunks, as well as the double-top “Idéale” trunk, confirm the reputation of Louis Vuitton, which “safely packs the most fragile objects” with a “specialization in fashion packaging.”
IV A. THE INVENTION OF TRAVEL: EXPEDITIONS TO FAR-FLUNG LOCALES— THE BLACK JOURNEY AND THE YELLOW JOURNEY.
Organized between 1924 and 1925 by André Citroën, the Croisière Noire (Black journey) was primarily a project of technological and human nature. Traveling through Algeria, Mali, and the Congo aboard vehicles developed for this exploratory excursion—such as the Golden Scarab and Silver Crescent half-track—went beyond sporting and technical achievement to open the door to missions covered by various French governmental departments, as well as to the scientific, ethnographic, and geographic study of these countries.The House of Louis Vuitton accompanied the expedition at the request of Mr. Citroën. Special orders were developed so as to offer trunks that were suited to climatic and logistical constraints, as well as to the necessities of daily life for these explorers (such as tea sets, toiletries, etc.).The second expedition organized by André Citroën, a Croisière Jaune (Yellow journey) took place a few weeks before the official opening of the Colonial Exposition of 1931. Its intent was to traverse the legendary Silk Road through Asia.
IV B. THE INVENTION OF TRAVEL: THE RISE OF YACHTING.
In the early twentiethcentury, the invention of the Steamer Bag by Louis Vuitton turned the creative industry of hand luggage upside down. Originally designed as an extra bag, the Steamer Bag can be folded and stored in a wardrobe trunk compartment. It can hold all of the previously worn clothing until the trip has ended. Its modern size, lightness, and convenience foreshadowed the flexibility of today’s gym bag, which is its successor. Its astute closing system on a canvas or leather frame served as a prototype for highly successful future appropriations in the fashion industry. The Steamer Bag was intimately associated with the sea travel craze. From the 1910s, on floating palaces of increasing speed, wardrobes also breathed new life into the hours of the day and the social events of the evening. In the 1930s, beach pajamas, beach clothes, and summer suits would beckon the sun on the ship’s deck.
IV C. THE INVENTION OF TRAVEL: THE AUTOMOBILE, SPEED AT ONE’S FINGERTIPS.
Tied to the top or the back of curve-hugging cars, car trunks in Vuittonite or Monogram canvas carry wardrobes and transformative hats. Footrest briefcases, picnic trunks, and coolers make stops along the way essential. Wrapped in a car cover—there was often no roof then—wearing a cap or a protective veil, and sheltered under thick glasses, the fashionable passenger held a flat moroccan leather bag in her arms. Its simple form, in varying sizes, stored readily available items: gloves, stole, vials. It was the prelude to the handbag and fashion bag, which have flourished in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
IV D. THE INVENTION OF TRAVEL: AVIATION, TRUNKS, AND BAGS IN THE SKY.
In the early twentieth century, Louis Vuitton closely followed innovators who, from the airship to the airplane, pioneered new airspace. To equip aviators and then passengers, the Aéro trunk could hold “2 pieces of clothing, 1 overcoat, 10 shirts, 3 night gowns, 3 pairs of underwear, 3 waistcoats, 6 pairs of socks, 12 handkerchiefs, 1 pair of shoes, 18 detachable collars, gloves, ties and hats” all while weighing less than 57 pounds. Its dimensions were identical to the Aviette, a more feminine version. Since then, Louis Vuitton has never stopped using ingenuity to design increasingly lightweight and functional luggage.
IV E. THE INVENTION OF TRAVEL: TRAINS, DEPARTING FOR NEW HORIZONS.
In the nineteenth century, the evolution of transportation reduced distances. Steam vessels were put into service in 1830, linking Europe to the Americas. The invention of the automobile in the 1890s and the advent of commercial airlines in the 1900s and railways in 1848 ushered the world toward new habits and life experiences.Peaceful fishing ports along the coast of the North Sea, the English Channel, the Basque Country, and also the Mediterranean transformed into resorts that were easily reached destinations. Technical inventions favoring the traveler’s comfort were developed. Clothing, also subject to improvements, was adapted to the new modes of travel. Suits, coats, and overalls in neutral tones kept company with the stylish people. Traveling became a way of life. The cabin trunk was able to slide under the sleeper wagon seat. The “square mouth” and Gladstone travel bag models, garment bags, and night bags in cognac- or coal-hued leather were displayed on the arms of contemporary nomads.
V. HEURES D’ABSENCE: WRITING IN THE WORK OF LOUIS VUITTON
Secretary trunks, library trunks, writing desks, mobile offices, spells and incantations: the house of Louis Vuitton went along on the journeys of notable writers and anonymous amateurs for whom writing was a necessity and a pleasure before any means of modern telecommunication existed. This way of life, telling stories and venting feelings, and this art of correspondence would have been appreciated by Gaston-Louis, grandson of Louis Vuitton, more than anyone else. Writing and the love of books occupied an important place for him. His devotion to the art of typography met his passion for monograms, whose renewed and expanded usage he advocated. A true enthusiast, Gaston-Louis also became an editor through his bibliophile societies. Les Exemplaires, created in 1926, published novels, short stories, or essays including Gold by Blaise Cendrars, Colline by Jean Giono, and Le Bal du Comte d’Orgel by Raymond Radiguet. His commitment to paper, which he collected, was based on his activities as an author and skilled draftsman, which he developed both in his spare time and while in service to the company.
VI. THE TABLE TRUNK: A CONVERSATION WITH ART
n 1927, René Gimpel, a prominent art dealer, ordered the construction of a trunk that could accommodate him during his frequent trips between Paris, London, and New York, the places where he did business. Oversized, it opened to drawers where the indispensible frames could find refuge without risk of damage during transport.
Louis Vuitton’s history with art began with this type of customer attention, where the care of the packer and the original box maker was recognized. This relationship was developed throughout the twentieth century. At times there were painters and visual artists who were well-known customers, such Henri Matisse and Francis Picabia. At times they became artists in residence, and were invited to reinvent the fabrics, patterns, or shapes of the house, as was the case of Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, and also Damien Hirst.
VII. INTERESTING TRUNKS: THE HISTORIC COLLECTION OF GASTON-LOUIS VUITTON
“Old trunks have some characteristic signs that allow me, without seeing them, to realize, little by little, what they are. Please answer the questions below.” Gaston-Louis Vuitton drafted a questionnaire that he sent to those who, in turn, could ask to buy an old trunk for him. In this document, still preserved today, the types of covers are listed in the form of pictograms that the owner can check off. There are many questions regarding the dimensions, the materials, the locks, and even the interior of the trunks. This is how Gaston-Louis, starting in the 1900s, gathered together one of the finest collections of trunks, chests, and boxes of all time.
The oldest piece dates from the fourteenth century. Some are from Europe, North Africa, the Americas, and Asia. Their sizes and their uses vary. To conclude the document, which was not without poetry and fantasy, Gaston-Louis added: “Besides old trunks, I also collect everything relating to the trunkmaking business, especially old tools such as hammers, pincers, planes, putty knives, jointers, joists, etc. Old paper, including invoices, stationery, cards, address labels, flyers, advertisements, etc. I am, furthermore, interested in wood [. . .] and in general, in any object that displays an artistic nature, while also sparking interest.”
VIII A. BEAUTIFUL FASHION: STARS ON BAGGAGE AND TRUNKS FOR STARS
A garment bag, dressed up in crocodile or moroccan leather, a toiletries kit, a flask and a jewelry box: Louis Vuitton’s art flourished in the 1920s and 1930s with excellent handheld designs. Mirrors adorned the collection, brushes with carved backs displayed their refined designs, and fragile bottles found refuge. The Milano was one of the masterpieces presented by the house at the Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels (International exposition of modern industrial and decorative art) in Paris in 1925. A ceremonial box with art deco lines was a manifesto of ingenuity and delicacy used for carved ivory and crystal brushes which it diligently guarded. Famous wardrobes found shelter in trunks where drawers sheathed in velvet still bore the memories of Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, or Lauren Bacall.
VIII B. BEAUTIFUL FASHION: BEAUTY KITS, VALUABLE FLASKS, AND DELICATE JEWELRY BOXES
In the spirit of diversification, Gaston-Louis Vuitton created the label’s first signature fragrance in 1927. Heures d’absence was presented in a box reminiscent of the milestones scattered along the road that lead to the second home of the same name belonging to the Vuittons. Je Tu Il followed in 1928 and Eau de Voyage in 1946. Anxious to embellish everyday life, Gaston-Louis turned to the craft of the decorative arts to create unprecedented bottles. Camille Cless-Brothier, Suzanne Auzanneau, Pierre-Emile Legrain, and Gaston-Louis Vuitton himself created designs and bottles based on plant themes in stylized patterns topped off by exquisite bottle stoppers.
VIII C. BEAUTIFUL FASHION: SOPHISTICATED DANDIES, MEN OF TODAY, AND EXAMPLES OF MEN’S LUGGAGE
Lucien and Sacha Guitry were loyal customers, as evidenced by the many foot trunks and wardrobe trunks bearing their initials. A whimsical couturier of the 1910s, Paul Poiret included the Beistegui family on a long list of customers in the late nineteenth century whose reputation rivaled that of Louis Vuitton. This territory of masculine elegance included garment bags and toiletry kits with the same refinement as today’s suitcases or bags. In the 1920s, Vuitton promoted elegance to the point of entrusting the creation of canes with carved heads to the artists of the day.
Be it a dandy’s unique nineteenth-century wardrobe or the fantasies of a man of contemporary fashion, mail trunks and garment bags were presented as passports for travel and for style.
VIII D. BEAUTIFUL FASHION: CREATING FASHION, MIRRORING TODAY
In 1996, fashion designers Azzedine Alaïa, Manolo Blahnik, Romeo Gigli, Helmut Lang, Isaac Mizrahi, Sybilla, and Vivienne Westwood were joined by the trunkmaker to celebrate the centennial of the Monogram canvas, surprising everyone with their bold creations. The following year, fashion design and ready-to-wear officially entered the list of activities for the Vuitton label. Marc Jacobs became the artistic director for almost sixteen years. His collections offered a commentary on the world of travel and brought about meetings with artists Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami, and Richard Prince, who are making their mark today.
Since 2014, Nicolas Ghesquière has presided over the future of Louis Vuitton’s ready-to-wear collections for women. This exceptionally gifted visionary, praised by an entire generation, has built a bridge between history and originality. He took on the uses of leather goods, drawing inspiration from obscure leather monograms that have been used for decades, driving them toward unprecedented contemporary territories.
IX. THE MUSIC ROOM: SPECIAL ORDERS, TRANSPORTED BY A DREAM
Since the birth of the House of Louis Vuitton, demanding customers have been able to make unique special orders that serve their own purposes and dreams. There is no fantasy or extravagance that cannot be packed. Shower trunk, altar trunk, bed trunk, or cigar trunk—in every situation Louis Vuitton matched the traveler’s ambition and unique needs with equal expertise.
Musical instruments, fragile and delicate, are probably the most vulnerable items to pack. Whether a violin, a guitar, or the conductor’s baton, protective cases were designed by the trunkmaker with kindness and crushed velvet. Following the contours of these distinguished guests, they have ensured the best journeys for the sounds and the music.
“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton”
Paris – Grand Palais. Up to February 21st., 2016.
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