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This Louis Vuitton exhibition in New York showcases the evolution of travel and luggage

Volez, Voguez, Voyagez, an elaborate exhibition about Louis Vuitton, demonstrates how designs changed with the evolution of travel.

fashion and trends Updated: Nov 09, 2017 10:06 IST
Associated Press, New York
Louis Vuitton,Travel,Fashion
Louis Vuitton luggage are displayed as part of the Volez, Voguez, Voyagez exhibition.(AP)

As travel changed, so did luggage. That’s the story told by an elaborate exhibition about Louis Vuitton, the luxury luggage and fashion brand. The exhibition, free to visit and on display in Lower Manhattan through January 7, is called Volez, Voguez, Voyagez, which means fly, sail, travel. It showcases the company’s history, products and craftsmanship, demonstrating how designs changed with the evolution of travel. Luggage was designed first for transport by wagon, then for travel by sea, on trains, in cars and planes.

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Trunks and bags are behind glass like works of art in a series of museum-like galleries. Lids open to reveal intricate compartments as if they were the contents of treasure chests. Included are cases and carriers designed for everything from toiletries to hats, from picnics to art supplies. Trunks with small drawers protected fragile objects; standing trunks had roll-out wardrobe racks so clothes could be hung, not folded. A plane is on display, along with a boat. There’s even a room where human artisans show how they cut leather and snip threads for luggage tags and handles, living proof of the craftsmanship behind the brand.

The company’s history begins with Louis Vuitton himself. He started a trunk-making business in Paris in 1854 after leaving his village in eastern France and working for a box-maker. His designs were strong but light, distinguished by patterned motifs. The luggage has been a favourite of the rich and famous going back to Napoleon’s wife Empress Eugenie, with later clients ranging from artist Henri Matisse to banker JP Morgan. John Wanamaker began to sell Vuitton luggage in his American department stores after meeting Louis’ son at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. In recent years, big names from the world of art and fashion like Damien Hirst and Michael Kors have designed for the brand, and it continues to be a favourite among Hollywood stars.

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The exhibition’s timing coincides with the holiday shopping season, and the location is in New York’s financial district. But most visitors will likely lack the means to buy Vuitton products, which can run in the thousands of dollars. Still, attention-getting temporary displays like this are becoming a standard way for brands to tell their story. “Many of these brands pop something up, draw a big audience, get some publicity, get reporters to talk about it,” said Larry Chiagouris, professor of marketing at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business. “You don’t need to be there 12 months a year. You just need to establish a little publicity and move on.”

Chiagouris says this type of showcase can also be far more effective than a traditional ad campaign. “Ads are very fleeting and don’t generate the kind of independent interaction with a brand the way an exhibit would,” he said. A show like this “takes something that has almost become wallpaper and suddenly puts it into your current mindset and consciousness.”

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First Published: Nov 09, 2017 10:03 IST