When the young French carpenter Louis Vuitton first set out on a 248-mile journey (on foot!) to Paris in 1837 to begin his career as a trunk maker, he set in motion a life’s work that would far outlast his lifespan. His pièce de résistance? The travel trunk, a then-revolutionary luxury item that has left its monogrammed mark on design history.
Now, on Vuitton’s 200th birthday, his predecessors have taken his inventive “art of travel” dictum one step further: turning the emblematic trunk into a blank canvas. The traveling exhibition 200 Trunks, 200 Visionaries, on view in Los Angeles through September 6, showcases a mosaic of 200 talents who were invited to dream up their own versions of the trunk. “Louis’s lasting legacy is the trunk—the flat-top, canvas trunk that he designed—and so it seemed the evident medium to work with,” said Louis Vuitton’s visual image director Faye McLeod.
The show is staged in a stunning orange-and-white-striped building a few strides from the fashion house’s flagship store on Beverly Hills’ illustrious Rodeo Drive. Inside, the Louis Vuitton team constructed sprawling wall-to-wall scenography that pays homage to Vuitton’s signature patterning and early trunk motif. One installation highlights the designs of Frank Gehry, the starchitect who not only designed the Louis Vuitton Foundation building in France, but also uncapped a new perfume bottle design with the famed fashion house in 2021, which came with its own custom trunk.
Among the talents tapped: Design brand Fornasetti’s trunk features a historic sketch of Lina Cavalieri peering through a keyhole surrounded by classic lock-and-key Fornasetti motifs; Milanese architect Hannes Peer goes maximalist, with a collage of retro travel stickers; and architect Peter Marino’s edgy black leather biker trunk seems as if it were almost pulled directly from his closet. For his contribution, Brooklyn Balloon Company founder Robert Moy held nothing back, enveloping his colorful trunk in an immersive room of real balloons (a real-life Up moment).
“This project has always been about creativity—a real tribute to Louis’s ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit,’ Faye said in a press release. “We get to see how such a cross-section of talents answered the same brief while also taking a moment to appreciate the man himself.”
The exhibition was first unveiled in December at the brand’s historic residence in Asnières-sur-Seine, France, followed by a stopover in Singapore in April. After opening its doors in Beverly Hills, it will make its final appearance in New York City. In 2023, all trunks will be up for auction at Sotheby’s, with proceeds going to charity organizations supporting young creatives.
See below for a sneak peek of the reimagined trunks at the L.A. exhibition—then head over to La La Land for a live viewing.
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