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On a journey: unlocking Louis Vuitton’s treasures

Lola Saab interviews Rose-Marie Mousseaux, heritage curator for the Musée Carnavalet’s exhibition, Voyage en Capitale: Louis Vuitton et Paris

PHOTOGRAPHED BY PATRICK GALABERT/LOUIS VUITTON

 

The Louis Vuitton voyage The Musée Carnavale’s exhibition tracks the history of Louis Vuitton and the evolution of the famous trunk




Patrick Galabert/Louis Vuitton—copyright; used with permission

 

TRAVELLING AND CARRYING a virtual love for Paris link Louis Vuitton Malletier with Mme Sevigné, a woman who was constantly on the move from one district to another in the capital. The Musée Carnavalet, situated on the rue de Sevigné, hosts a new exhibition, Voyage en Capitale: Louis Vuitton et Paris (closing February 27, 2011). For a short time, the exhibition unravels the history of the Louis Vuitton brand, presenting visitors with more than just a fashion statement.

The exhibition invites spectators to go on what they call a voyage and what is perceived as an escape. The first room, the ‘Vuitton Trunk’, prepares the visitors to set sail as they pass under a large door in the shape of a ‘monogram flower’.

In the 18th century, travel played a large role in people’s lives. When thinking of travelling, we associate it to luggage and bags. At the time, baggage was considerably heavy and impractical. In the 1850s, new forms of transportation evolved and developed, and in 1890, packing techniques also ameliorated.

During this time, Louis Vuitton created spacious trunks with secure locks, facilitating travel. The other attractive feature of the Vuitton trunk was the organizational methods: there were compartments made for travellers to easily attain their desired item. There were trunk desks, trunks for storing plates, brushes, clothes, toiletry, and anything else to fit one’s needs.

The famous monogram was created by Georges Vuitton in 1896. He formed a more complex feature of a monogram with four patterns: an intertwined house initial, a lozenge with a quatrefoil flower at the centre, another larger quatrefoil flower and, finally, a flower with a four-leafed flower placed in the middle. In 1996, a shoe trunk was designed by Manolo Blahnik to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the monogram.

Apart from history, the exhibition presents a variety of items made from a series of materials including copper, monogram canvas and crocodile skin. Many of the LV bags we know of today were created back in the early years. The chrome bronze Sylvie Fleury bag was born in 1961 and reborn in 2001: proof that a trend never dies, it simply fades away, awaiting its revival.

As visitors pass into the final room, ‘The Extraordinary Voyage’, the dim lights and a tune in the background provokes an illusion of taking an actual trip.

To attain a deeper insight of the exhibition, we spoke to the museum’s heritage curator, Rose-Marie Mousseaux, who worked side-by-side with Raphaël Gérard, the exhibition director.

 

How was this exhibition made possible?

Jean-Marc Lèri, the director of the Musée Carnavalet, knew Raphaël Gérard very well. They sat down together and discussed this project. The next step was to look for a place to highlight the story of Louis Vuitton and la maison Vuitton. Since Vuitton is very much associated with Paris, they were looking for a place to present the exhibition in the city. Since Lèri is the director of the museum, he proposed that the exhibition be held here, at the Musée Carnavalet. And that is where I come into the story, sharing my archæological perspective and understanding to make this project more profound in detail.

It took us eighteen months to put together the details needed for this exhibition.

 

When you walked through the exhibition and you saw the work you put together alongside Raphaël, what was the first thing that went through your mind?

Once the exhibition was finally inaugurated, it was a moment of [with a wipe of the forehead] ‘Yes! We were able to finish everything before the deadline!’

It was, as a matter of fact, a race against time: as soon as we began to put this project together; we had to work very fast. During that time, Raphaël was also working on the 2010 Universal Exhibition in Shanghai, which, as you will see, we included a touch of in the exhibition. Another part of our job was to quickly choose a scenographer. We chose to work with the Jean-Marc Gady Agency. Gady, who works a lot with la maison Vuitton, has much experience in the Vuitton domain, so he was able to fit 220 objects into a space of 750 m² (7,500 ft²). I have to admit, they created such a majestic scene; I sincerely tip my hat off to them.

 

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Louis Vuitton?

Honestly, in the beginning when I thought of Louis Vuitton, I directly thought about the famous monogram. Finally, as I worked deep into this project I found myself studying about people who had worked on various techniques that were very much genius! These techniques where soon adopted by the generations that followed in the Vuitton family.

To sum up, when I think of Vuitton today, I think of genius techniques and æsthetic, which were not automatically what I thought of before, and, of course, I think of trunks. Trunks were the first things that were created the moment that Vuitton opened its doors, and now it goes down from generation to generation.

 

What changes did you notice from past Louis Vuitton designs in parallel to the current ones?

This is exactly what the exhibition tries to highlight; it is the progressive change, mainly in terms of the trunk’s forms. The shapes of trunks changed; in 1856, there were flat trunks. Eventually, the trunk’s canvases differed as well. There were various colours that were added; soon there was the monogram canvas that emerged. Not only were there exterior changes, but as one can see while looking around, there were also interior changes that evolved.

 

What would you like visitors to ponder upon as they walk through the exhibition?

I especially invite them to travel, which is why we called this exhibition a Voyage en Capitale. Our main goal is to allow the visitors to imagine what trunk they would use and which one would be a perfect fit for them. •

 

Apart from history, the exhibition presents a variety of items made from a series of materials including copper, monogram canvas and crocodile skin

 


Lola Saab is Paris editor of Lucire.

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