Louis Vuitton, a pioneer of luxury travel and founder of his eponymous label, has carved a vast and significant history for fashion and leather goods that still resonates today. Last week, ‘Volez, Voguez, Voyagez’ opened at the American Stock Exchange and will run through January 7. The retrospective exhibition explores the label’s humble, working-class foundations and how it has progressed to become the internationally renowned fashion house it is today.
The exhibition, curated by Olivier Saillard, presents the heritage of Louis Vuitton; intertwining designs of the past with those of today. Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, proposed the idea for the showcase and “wished to avoid presenting the past on one hand and the present day on the other, but to combine the two.” Myriads of Vuitton trunks from the past three centuries are displayed together with intricate dresses, handbags and archive document and to alleviate the conventional format of a retrospective exhibition, Saillard requested to work with Canadian Opera Director, Robert Carsen. His involvement led to the creation of interactive and digital features to accompany the products, “I wanted to design the exhibition in a very formal way for those wishing to pass a diploma in trunks, but I also approached it with a sense of fantasy, as if Tintin was the curator, to appeal to a younger audience.”
Established in 1854 by the son of a milliner and farmer, the house of Louis Vuitton has an enormous history. Its heritage, in addition to the legacy of Vuitton himself, was something Saillard wanted to keep at the heart of the exhibition, “people forget that behind the names which have today become logos, real people have existed. I wanted to look back at the inventor, the man who lived in this happy era when everything was there to be discovered.” The most obvious homage to the founder is the classic monogram ‘LV’ pattern that features on many of the products, both past and present. Visionaire 18 FASHION SPECIAL is cased in a LV monogram envelope and the LV logo is also embossment on the box of Visonaire 30 GAME and the gold case of Visionaire 52 PRIVATE, a collaboration between the creative director of LV at the time, Marc Jacobs, Visionaire and Mert & Marcus.
Like the history of the house, the exhibition becomes a journey and visitors are invited to weave through the rooms, all featuring different scenery and theatrical props: an airplane, a giant sail and a train being just some of the set pieces. Saillard also wanted to highlight the craftsmanship of the house so dedicated the first room to Vuitton’s obsession with wood, “it was also necessary to remind people that Louis Vuitton himself was from the Jura, a region where wood plays a key role.” The variety of elements included in the exhibition make it not only educational, but inspiring. It illustrates the beauty of travel; both through the innovation of modern transport and the development of an iconic luggage maker from rural France.