Trunks and Luggage

A short introduction

The demand for beautiful travelling trunks came with the increase in travel on trains such as the Orient Express and fabulous steamships crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the early 20th century. In recent years the simple smart craftsmanship of this handmade luggage has coming to the attention of collectors and investors who realize these objects are special. Prices have risen and make a good investment. The most sought after makers are French companies Goyard, Moynat and Louis Vuitton. Requirements for the modern trunk was a blend of solidity and lightness- a trunk too heavy increased transportation costs, too fragile it would not stand up to the hardships of travel. Much previous luggage had been made from bristly pig skin with a domed lid but these makers used canvas.

Desirable makers are French companies Goyard, Moynat and Louis Vuitton who would make each piece of luggage original and different, according to the specific requirements of Hollywood film stars and European aristocracy for travel on Orient Express train and luxury steamships travelling the world from ports such as Shanghai to New York.

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Goyard was founded in 1792. The defining motif of Goyardine canvas is a criss cross imitation cane pattern in which the ground is black or brown and the motif in white. In 1930s Goyard launched a range of pet accessories and developed travelling trunks that are attached to the back of a Rolls Royce and other top car marques. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were patrons of the company as were Princess Grace of Monaco and Indian Maharajahs. Today Karl Lagerfeld only buys Goyard.

Moynat opened in 1849 on Fauborg St Honore in Paris. They were the first company to use natural rubber from a gutta percha tree in South East Asia to waterproof their trunks. In 1880s Moynat brought out what they called the “English Trunk” consisting of a wicker frame, covered with a varnished canvas and leather trimming.Moynat offered made-to-measure colours, adapting each automobile trunk to the exact tone of the vehicle’s bodywork. Moynat luggage has a variety of pattern and design, ranging from plain white or with beige stripes launched in1860s, a chequerboard pattern from 1880s and the distinctive Moynat monogram zig zag pattern from 1920s onwards. Moynat canvas is amber in colour (a mix of orange and yellow) and the leather tanned a yellow and brown colour.

Louis Vuitton a farmer’s son, worked as an apprentice to a box maker in Paris. His first trunk The Trianon was made from grey canvas with beech wood slats. The Empress Eugenie wife of Napoleon and the Khedive of Egypt commissioned trunks from Vuitton. The Khedive wanted a rack for fresh fruit in his. After the Trianon came the red striped trunk and a chequerboard colour in black and cream woven squares. However these were widely copied so in 1897 so the LV logo was devised complete with flowers. In 1920s Louis Vuitton’s son George made wardrobe trunks with drawers and hangers, even trunks that folded out into desks as well as exotic luggage in African animal skins. In 1930s the “Louis Vuitton Keepall” was the first soft bag. For Queen Elizabeth of England the company made a dolls case. During World War Two the company scaled back their operations but in 1950s and 1960s a new young breed bought into LV including Hollywood stars and Brigitte Bardot. At this time Gaston Louis grandson of the founder made a drawstring bag for five bottles of champagne.

The Eaton Collection has been very privileged to find well preserved examples of trunks and luggage that have been hidden in attics of the houses French, English and American families for a century. Some rarely pieces from us are museum standard which only could be seen in private collectors’ home.

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