Louis Vuitton has luxury living in the bag

MELBOURNE – In reimagining its iconic travelling trunk, Louis Vuitton turned to globally influential product and industrial designer Marc Newson.

The 60-year-old Australian was involved in the design of the Apple Watch in 2014. His works are also in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the V&A Museum in London.

And he has collaborated with the French luxury fashion house to create the Cabinet of Curiosities – a travelling trunk that transforms into an elegant display case with 19 leather-covered modules inside to showcase small objects of desire.

Louis Vuitton, founded in 1854, has a long history of making luxury luggage. But its trunks, handcrafted at its atelier in Asnieres, France, are nowadays more likely to be displayed as objets d’art in stylish living rooms than transported in the cargo hold of an aeroplane.

The Cabinet of Curiosities is like a piece of furniture and is the first trunk engineered to be opened 180 degrees, allowing its contents to be displayed like objets d’art as well.

Newson, who lives in Britain, says: “Although in some ways I had a greater level of freedom as I do with art pieces rather than products, the trunk is a fundamentally practical object with a distinct function and history, and I did not want to stray from this.”

At $370,000, the limited-edition trunk – of which just 40 pieces are available – is pricey, but Newson’s designs have become collectibles.

Design aficionados will know that in 2015, his Lockheed Lounge (1988) – a chaise longue with riveted aluminium panels – was auctioned for £2,434,500 (S$4.1 million), making it one of the most expensive pieces of modern furniture.

For Newson, design is “largely an exercise in problem-solving”.

“The challenge I often face when working on projects with Louis Vuitton, or companies with similar heritage, is how to express their DNA while also expressing mine,” he tells The Straits Times in an e-mail interview.

For example, the modules’ rounded edges hint at the futuristic aesthetic for which Newson is known. 

“I’d like to think you could look at something I’ve designed and recognise it was by me, and in my handwriting,” he adds.

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