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The Romance of Packing

Planning what to pack for our upcoming summer trip to England would be easier if I knew all my careful, neat folding wouldn’t end up a jumble. We’ve all seen the footage of baggage handlers pitching luggage like baseballs; it seems they particularly enjoy entertaining themselves with mine.

Oh, for the days when travelers packed a trunk. Particularly a Louis Vuitton trunk.

What would become a label synonymous with luxury and quality began with the now-infamous trunk. Louis Vuitton introduced his first trunk—a flat-topped version capable of being stacked—and soon replaced customary dome-top versions.

Timing in fashion (and luggage, apparently) is everything. Vuitton’s creation coincided with the rise in steamer and rail travel. Think about one of these vintage steamer trunks, and romantic images of sea voyages and grand tours come to mind. According to “Investor’s Business Daily,” Vuitton’s fortune turned when Empress Eugenie, who had hired him as a personal packer, took some of the designer’s luggage to Egypt for the opening of the Suez Canal, thus introducing him to the global market.

Battling product knockoffs even in 1888, Vuitton soon replaced the Trianon canvas he used with beige and brown striped canvas, then a checked pattern. Trying to stay one step ahead of trademark crooks, Vuitton changed his trunk’s look a few more times.

Vuitton, who arrived in Paris as a teen, began as a professional packer for the elite. The inventor and designer began his trunk business in 1854.

After the creator died in 1892, his son took over the brand and introduced the signature monogram so identifiable today on everything from luggage to handbags and sunglasses to swimsuits. Vintage Louis Vuitton trunks are highly collectible and often used today in home décor as coffee or bedside tables. Looking to buy a vintage Vuitton trunk? Prices range wildly depending on age, condition, and, of course, who owns it. On eBay, they range from $1,500 to $30,000. The vintage pieces are simply a steal considering new LV trunks range from $30,000 to $143,000.

Until my steamer comes in, I’ll pack that travel iron.


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