Louis Vuitton’s labels

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A couple of years back the Musée Carnavalet in Paris hosted an exhibition dedicated to the iconic travel baggage of Louis Vuitton, which I was lucky enough to visit. The incredible vintage pieces on show included trunks that doubled as camp beds and wardrobes, one made for a maharajah to transport his silver tea sets and another custom-built to hold 36 pairs of shoes. There was a lavish catalogue that went with the show, which came in an LV-monogrammed slipcase adorned with vintage luggage labels.

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Hand-tooled leather trunks and luggage labels belong to the same world, so no surprise that legendary trunkmaker Gaston-Louis Vuitton (grandson of the original Louis Vuitton) should turn out to be a label collector. A compulsive voyager, after every trip he would carefully remove the labels from his trunks and place them in albums. He added to his collection by writing to printers and hotels. He amassed around 3,000 labels, which these days form part of the LV archive. A selection of 900 of them are reproduced in World Tour: Vintage Luggage Labels from the Collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton, just published (in its English version) by Abrams of New York.

The book itself is a piece of art, with its embossed leather cover, tipped-in postcards and page edges printed with the names of far-flung destinations. Some of the vintage photography is gorgeous, and there’s an informative essay on the history of luggage labels by Joao-Manuel Mimoso, who’s probably the world’s leading expert on the subject (he was also kind enough to provide me with images of some of his labels to reproduce in Grand Hotels of Egypt). The rest of the text (by travel writer Francisca Mattéoli), a grand world tour, is as deep and meaningful as a holiday postcard but then nobody’s buying this book for the words.

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