A TALE OF TRAVEL. Louis Vuitton displayed its heritage from 1854 to the present day at, quite appropriately, the Grand Palais of Paris
The Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées opened its doors in 1900 for the Exposition Universelle of 1900. Fifty million visitors attended the fair to marvel at the various machines, inventions and architectural wonders—including the Grand Palais itself—of the day. Naturally, a leather and travel goods section was also arranged, and the displays at the time were curated by none other than Georges Vuitton—son of legendary designer Louis Vuitton. A great many of the company’s luxurious wares were exhibited, each prominently featuring the LV logo that has now become a global icon.
The brand returned to the Grand Palace of the City of Light, and from early December last year to late February, it celebrated the long and proud heritage of Louis Vuitton.
The festivities at the Grand Palais, quite aptly titled “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton,” attracted the most important the movers and shakers of France’s creative industry. At the opening ceremony, Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, along with Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton, were on hand to welcome Emmanuel Macron, France’s Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs.
Also seen among the attendants at opening night were conceptual artist Daniel Buren, contemporary artist Bertrand Lavier, architect Christian de Portzamparc, prominent violinist Laurent Korcia and many, many more. No less impressive was the curator of the entire exhibition: Olivier Saillard, one of the world’s premier fashion historians and curators. Meanwhile, taking on matters of artistic direction and scene composition was Canadian opera director Robert Carsen.
It was, in essence, a veritable tour de force of France’s art de vivre and the incredible support behind this way of life.
As impressive as the guest list may be, “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton” is, first and foremost, a thematic journey exploring the legendary designer’s journey and his development as an artist, as a creator and—eventually—as an icon of style. This tale is told through objects and documents from Louis Vuitton and on loan from the archives of Palais Galliera, Musée de La Mode de La Ville de Paris (the Fashion Museum of Paris) along with portraits of the brand’s founders and those who are even now weaving new stories for the brand’s future.
Furthermore, the tale is divided into nine different chapters and organized as a thematic path covering the brand’s history from 1854 to the present day. The very first chapter begins with a vintage case from 1906—arguably Louis Vuitton’s most famous design. A medley of other curios and unique pieces combine to explain how the design house grew into prominence.
Some rooms offer more focused stories, such as the exquisite perfume bottles bearing the LV logo. Still, the highlight of the “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton” was the invention of Travel Room. As the name suggests, this particular room is dedicated to the brand’s history as a purveyor of luggage pieces and how Louis Vuitton’s products have evolved through the years. Trunks used for the expeditions of yore to exotic destinations such as Algeria or the Congo were prominently displayed; and the keen-eyed observer would notice a shift in the materials being used, from wood to leather.
The end of the exhibition had a section dedicated to the way the brand treated merchandising and personalized gifts. Some, like the CD holders, were mundane yet still charming, while others, such as instrument cases, were certainly intriguing.
Luxury brands of Louis Vuitton’s caliber offer more than just products but a certain level of artistry. This, in turn, is the result of decades—or even centuries—of growth and evolution, adaptation and development. Seeing this heritage
unfold in an appropriately artistic manner is certainly a boon to connoisseurs of the brand. It is one thing to own a Louis Vuitton bag that you carry around on weekends; it’s a whole different story when you are shown that it is the culmination of so many personal stories. So, keep an eye for the next major exhibition by the brand—if it’s even remotely like “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton,” then it’s an event you won’t want to miss.
This article was first published in DA MAN April/May 2016 edition.