In the lifestyle universe, 1896 and 1906 are the twin turning points in the legend of Louis Vuitton. In 1896, Georges Vuitton, son of the founder of the brand, created the iconic monogram canvas, bearing a repeated pattern of shapes regularly interspersed with a monogram that intertwines the letters L and V, the founder’s initials. The motif drew on medieval European and Japanese designs to deliver a product that held an almost heraldic appearance, lending the items made with it an aristocratic air that Louis Vuitton’s customers were only too pleased to adopt.
Then, in 1906, the motif was applied to a trunk designed by Gaston-Louis Vuitton, as seen here.
Its proportions, beech wood reinforcements, brass corners and rivets, patent lock and monogrammed exterior made the trunk a certificate of savoir faire. As the 20th century brought the world closer together, Louis Vuitton created a range of trunks to assist in reaching far-flung parts in style: flat-top trunks, wardrobe trunks, bed trunks for explorers, secretary trunks, streamer trunks, auto trunks and aero trunks. A library trunk for transporting books and a typewriter became a desk when opened. A trunk for carrying paintings would keep an artist’s canvasses safe. Henri Matisse owned one.
Gaston-Louis’ original trunk is one of the exhibits in Louis Vuitton’s Volez, Voguez, Voyagez exhibition in Kioicho in central Tokyo, which runs until June 19. Louis Vuitton and Japan have a long association. Among Louis Vuitton’s first Japanese customers were Goto Shojiro and Itagaki Taisuke, founders of what was to become that country’s first political party. Another customer was Jiro Shirasu, a public servant and businessman who set a sartorial example for Japanese men. Collaborators with the brand include Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama and Rei Kawakubo – all creative legends.