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First Class Luggage | The Louis Vuitton Trunk

Louis Vuitton Trunk

Photography courtesy of Lindsey Almquist

Travel is not as romantic as it was at the turn of the 20th century. One hundred years past, movement was a privilege rather than an errand. Porters cared for your luggage, gentlemen tipped their hats, and loved ones feverishly waved handkerchiefs in the presence of locomotion.

Before Boeing, in-flight entertainment, and wrinkle- free fabrics—trains took you there, sounds of shaking tumblers promised endless diversion along the way, and steamer trunks kept clothing crisp upon arrival.

Malletier to her majesty Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III, Louis Vuitton designed travel wardrobes worthy of the highest royal order. Elegant and fashionable, exactingly functional, and every trunk couture, Vuitton debuted his flat-topped luxury luggage in 1858. By 1870, steamer trunks had reached new heights of popularity, and Vuitton’s carriageable closets were oft-imitated. To set his luggage apart, the innovative designer outfitted his steamer trunks with his signature striped canvas, and, in 1889, introduced the now-classic Damier canvas at the Paris Exposition Universelle under the soaring studs of the Eiffel Tower.

In stark contrast to his predecessors, Vuitton altered the lids of his steamer trunks to be stackable, a function of the trunk’s flat top instead of the traditional bowed lid. incorporating stylish elements like leather straps and his coveted canvas, Vuitton’s steamer trunks were sturdier and better-suited to the time’s preferred mode of transportation: the locomotive. As train travel faded in fashion, so too did the tote-able trunks.

Although as traveling cases, steamer trunks may have hopped the tracks, the same nostalgia our generation feels for pre-war peplums and petticoats also informs our contemporary furniture fancies. Once always on the move, steamer trunks now steal the stage as coffee tables, bookshelves, and chic storage closets in modern home décor.

Connoisseur of the classically couture, Lindsey Almquist of LVtrunks.com incorporates Louis Vuitton’s rare pieces into her daily life as focal points of stylishly designed interior spaces. The pages that follow chronicle the rise and reinvention of the fashion house’s timeless trunks; flip through to explore Almquist’s unique collection.

Today, as large luggage succumbs to present-day parameters, Louis Vuitton impeccably redefines itself with more manageable couture carryalls. But whether the unparalleled fashion house constructs a wood- trunked nod to a whimsical past or a contemporary clutch, its hand-wrought luggage still epitomizes the paramount of luxury. Showing no signs of slowing, Louis Vuitton, the dynastic brand that began through dignified design and Damier canvas, celebrates its 158th anniversary this year, full steam ahead.

TRIANON CANVAS (1858-1876)

Trianon Canvas

Louis Vuitton Malletier, now commonly referred to as Louis Vuitton and operating under the luxury conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton • Möet Hennessey), was founded by Louis Vuitton, in 1854 on Rue Neuve des Capucines in Paris, France. Today, Louis Vuitton offers countless combinations of pattern interpretations, materials, and shapes, but it all began with the trunk, or “malle” in French. The Louis Vuitton trunk was introduced in 1858, featuring Vuitton’s gray trianon canvas. the Vuitton trunk was especially noteworthy upon

Its introduction, as it was the first trunk to have a flat top and bottom, so as to be stackable and more easily transported. Previously, trunks of the day featured rounded tops to facilitate water run-off.

RAYÉE CANVAS (1876-1888)

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 2.23.45


To protect against imitation, Vuitton replaced the trianon canvas with a beige-and-brown-striped canvas in 1876, named Rayée. The Rayée canvas was used until the introduction of the Damier canvas in 1888.

 DAMIER CANVAS (1888 – )

Damier Canvas

To further avoid imitation of his look, Vuitton introduced the Damier canvas in 1888. The antique Louis Vuitton Damier canvas appears in two color schemes: the rarer red (dark red dots over a dark brown background) and white checker (featured here) and the more common light and dark brown checker. Upon the introduction of the Damier pattern, Vuitton began placing “marque L. Vuitton déposée” inside each trunk, which loosely translates to “L. Vuitton trademark”.


Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 2.28.03Louis Vuitton died in 1892, passing control of the company to his son, Georges Vuitton. Georges had grand dreams for the Louis Vuitton brand and took great strides to catapult
the company into iconic prestige as a worldwide luxury corporation. In 1896, Georges introduced the signature LV Monogram Canvas and made worldwide patents upon the pattern. The monogram’s symbols, namely the graphic flower and quatrefoil, echo the Oriental design trend of the late Victorian era.


Vuittonite CanvasThe orange Vuittonite canvas appears on Louis Vuitton trunks largely dating from the turn of the century to the 1920s. Black and tan canvases are more common, whereas orange Vuittonites in excellent condition are beginning to fetch prices comparable to fine Damiers and monograms. The Vuittonite canvas exists in other colors as well. For example, a special- order red Vuittonite trunk, designed to transport photography equipment, was commissioned for early 20th-century French philanthropist Albert Kahn’s journey to India. Along with photographers Roger Dumas and Stephane Passet, Kahn hoped to capture the juxtaposition of the maharajahs’ and common people’s daily lives.


Calf LeatherCalf leather was used for certain special-order Louis Vuitton trunks. An antique calf leather trunk in excellent condition may fetch prices even higher than that of a Damier or monogram of comparable quality, as the calf leather specifically denotes a special order. Other exotic leathers and skins also appear on high-end custom orders.

Photographs credited to Louis Vuitton Courtesy of Lindsey Almquist.    


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