Deep in the heart of Tokyo currently lies a treasure like no other. A pale blue timber rectangular structure, not much larger than the ground floor of one of your favourite French departments stores, nestled amongst the towering Tokyo skyline. The woody aroma from within may seem generally unfamiliar in a cityscape such as this, but makes perfect sense once you enter Louis Vuitton’s current international Exhibition ‘Volez, Voguez, Voyagez‘, fittingly in English ‘Sail, Fly, Travel’.
A long running relationship with the Louis Vuitton maison, recently meant that I was honoured with the opportunity to travel to Japan in person to visit the exhibition and to produce some other very exciting content along the way. The exhibition, unlike any other, pays homage to 160 years of story telling, innovation and personal insights into the history of Louis Vuitton.
Individual rooms allow one to meander, and slowly discover themed spaces relating to the essence of the Louis Vuitton DNA. One of the first rooms being an entire space clad with the same timber utilised in the construction of the famous Louis Vuitton trunk, to provide an insight into the craftsmanship and artisan workshops significant to the process. Following on from this the Inventions Of Travel space, houses a large yacht mast placed central to a coveted collection of classic trunks and luggage, specifically designed for the beginning of an era where clients began requiring cases for their sea voyages, and the inauguration of the Steamer bag, the forerunner to Louis Vuitton hand luggage.
There is much to be discovered about the origins of the Louis Vuitton maison throughout the exhibition. Whoever would have imagined a young Louis Vuittton leaving home at the age of 14 to venture to Paris to secure a job as an apprentice trunk maker on Rue Saint Honore, rather fittingly a street now notorious for being one of the world’s most famous shopping destinations. In 1854 Louis Vuitton established his business after working closely with some of Paris’ elite, customising trunks for their personal needs in his job at Romain Maréchal, and as they say .. the rest is history.
What resonates clearly and with significant beauty, is the array of personal sketches, typography, and letters within the exhibition written by Louis, his son Georges and other Vuitton family members to clients as reference material for custom orders. One of my personal highlights of the exhibition is an entire wall of beautifully curated client customer order cards from couture clients such as Mr Christian Dior himself and Mr Yves Saint Laurent, highlighting the respect that Louis Vuitton luggage had amongst its peers. Just one glimpse was enough to conjure visions of the kind of treasures that these trunks may have held inside.
Imagine if you will, rooms filled with custom designed cases for perfume bottles, hair brushes, record collections, even a trunk specifically designed for one discerning customer’s spare tyre, there is no limit to the inventiveness of the designs on display. This left me dreaming about my own custom order .. perhaps being a solar panelled Laptop Trunk fully equipped with everything a digital nerd requires.. who’s with me?
Just when you thought that no more discoveries could be in sight, around the corner lies a room themed appropriately encompassing the beauty of the Japanese culture, highlighting the long running relationship, and respect that the Louis Vuitton brand has for Japan. With collaborations from artists such as Murakami and Kusama, alongside examples of special order trunks for Japanese clients with requests such as bespoke cases to store antique tea sets, allows the observer an insight into how the two cultures meet as one.
The Louis Vuitton ‘Volez, Voguez, Voyagez’ exhibition is so much more than just a journey through time, curator Olivier Saillard has created the type of experience that will leave you awe inspired and perhaps fighting the urge to be ‘accidentally’ locked inside without a single key in sight.
To sail, to fly and to travel it seems, is engrained in our DNA, and no one seems to understand this like Louis Vuitton. What better way to celebrate this innate urge, than to visit the exhibition to inspire your own adventures.. and with LV on your side, what very stylish adventures they would be ..
A very special thank you to the Louis Vuitton Australia team and Louis Vuitton Global team .. xx
Photography: Amanda Shadforth + Rodney Deane