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How Louis Vuitton Became Synonymous With Luxury Travel

To honor the Louis Vuitton founder’s bicentennial birthday, we look back at its globetrotting history.

Louis Vuitton

COURTESY OF JENNA BRILLHART; IMAGE: APIC/GETTY IMAGES

By Kristen Shirley

Sep 21, 2021

FEW NAMES ARE AS SYNONYMOUS with the glamorous life of luxury travel as Louis Vuitton. No matter how decidedly unglamorous travel can sometimes be today, a hint of its signature monogram or a sleek Horizon suitcase can brighten up today’s voyages by reminding us of travel’s golden era. 

Today, Louis Vuitton is one of the most well-known and influential luxury brands in the world. It’s difficult to imagine that it all began with a young boy, Louis Vuitton himself, who left his hometown in Jura, France at just 13 years old, to walk to Paris. It ultimately took him two years to make the voyage by foot. After an apprenticeship, he opened his own boutique and quickly became one of the most sought-after trunkmakers, even working for Empress Eugénie. 

His trunks weren’t just stylish, they were revolutionary for the time. Vuitton created a waterproof coated canvas that protected the contents of the trunks from damage and designed trunks with flat lids, which allowed them to be stacked more easily. In 1896, his son, Georges Vuitton, designed a signature monogram print that combined his father’s initials with geometric and floral motifs. This print would identify trunks as authentic Louis Vuitton pieces and become a signature of the house. 

Throughout the years, Louis Vuitton designed many exceptional and whimsical trunks that were crafted for very specific travel needs. Its artisans crafted toiletry cases replete with crystal bottles with silver toppers, trunks that opened into camp beds for intrepid explorers with excellent style, and trunks that stored even more trunks, like the Autoski trunk, which held three suitcases and could be affixed to the top of a car. 

Today, the house continues this tradition of hyper-specific trunks, but for the modern era. If you want hyper-modern evidence of how Louis Vuitton does luxury travel today, see the new Tokyo flagship store. There are watch cases and trunks, boxes just for sunglasses, trunks that keep sneakers pristine during travel, and a host of fine-dining trunks. Whether you’re traveling for high tea, caviar service, or the chicest picnic we’ve ever seen, Louis Vuitton’s master artisans can fashion a trunk to match every desire.

FROM LEFT:  Audrey Hepburn with a Louis Vuitton bag at Heathrow Airport on November 5th, 1966. Photo by Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images; Elle Fanning at Nice Airport with Louis Vuitton luggage in 2019. Photo by Marc Piasecki/Getty Images

Of course, these trunks cost thousands of dollars, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a piece of Louis Vuitton with you on your next trip. The house has several stylish dopp kits to keep your toiletries safe (sadly, crystal bottles are not included), as well as tech items to make your travels more seamless. The new Horizon speaker has a futuristic, triangular design that evokes a spaceship, or the house’s spinning top handbag. When upright, it plays music at 360 degrees, ensuring everyone can hear the fantastic acoustics. There’s also an illuminated band that says Louis Vuitton in a glowing rainbow. 

If you want the modern version of a luxury travel trunk, we recommend the Louis Vuitton Horizon suitcase. This piece was created in collaboration with industrial designer Marc Newson. The suitcases are light and have unique handles integrated into the exterior of the luggage, so you have a smooth packing surface on both sides of the interior. It comes in the signature monogram, chic epi leather, and, for pure glamour, crocodile leather. 

Naturally, you can never go wrong with the house’s iconic Keepall Bandoulière 50. Virgil Abloh recently designed a sustainable version of the monogram from organic cotton, recycled wool, and Lurex. Today, as it did centuries ago, the house of Louis Vuitton continues to innovate and push the boundaries of travel. 

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