The origin of luxury luggage can be linked to the point in time that tourism and travel became a popular pastime for those who were wealthy enough to afford it.
We take you on a journey through the history of luxury luggage, which led to the collectable status it holds today. For those who covet such items, from vintage monogrammed hatboxes to leather-bound steamer trunks, there are various features and attributes you should be looking out for.
The beginning of the 20th Century saw tourism only enjoyed by the upper tier of society; only the elite were able to afford such luxuries. Most ventures involved ocean liner voyagers, with a long stay on-board for the guests before reaching their destination. For the affluent passengers it was essential for them to have their quality clothes and accessories on hand, which of course led to the need for large cases and trunks. The style of luggage accompanying a passenger was of the utmost importance and a symbol of high status. There are a number of examples from luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, whose early cases date back to the early 1900’s. These original Louis Vuitton vintage cases have been known to fetch up to a staggering $21,000 at auction.
During the 1920’s there was a sudden emergence of train travel, which began to replace the longer and more arduous steam liner journeys. This easier form of travel opened up new parts of the world and country to more people. This compact style of luggage during the era was known as the Pullman; it acquired this name from the railroad car seats it slotted into so neatly. The history of luxury luggage reveals that it was commonplace to add personalised stickers to your case to mark the new destinations you had visited. One particularly outstanding brand that was prominent in this era is Globe-Trotter, established in 1897 and still revered today as a benchmark of quality hand-made craftsmanship. Even now their popular travel collections and accessories still reflect some of the traits of their original aesthetic. Each piece is manufactured in Hertfordshire, England using original methods that date back to the Victorian era. Queen Elizabeth II chose Globe-Trotter for her honeymoon luggage in 1947 and has been prone to opt for their cases to this day.
By the end of the 1940’s travel was increasing rapidly, it was no longer considered as a hobby reserved only for the rich and famous. This change in occupier meant that luggage materials were adapting, involving more affordable materials. These updated models often had plastic handles instead of leather for a more durable result. Hats had become extremely fashionable in this period therefore the need to transport them was met with a flood of hatboxes and carriers of varying sizes and styles. These hatboxes would often be personalised with the initials of their owner for a unique effect.
Cross-country travel became a necessary part of life during and after World War II. Suddenly there was a greater need for functional luggage rather than the focus being on aesthetics. Cases were beginning to lose the leather accents; instead they began catering to all manner of bespoke objects for transportation. Make-up holders, trinket boxes and even pet carriers all had a place in the market during this time. They colour involved in the designs of these carriers became a lot bolder and brighter.
As air travel skyrocketed, the need for suitcases and easily transportable holders increased. Weight limits on flights were dictating the removal of heavy trimmings, instead new lightweight materials were substituted in their place such as: vulcanised fibre, raffia wicker and of course plastic. The 1960’s were certainly the decade of hard case packers, with various colour ranges remaining to be a prominent feature of their overall look.
A Collector’s Guide to Luxury Luggage
Whether your collection focuses on vintage luxury luggage or consists of newly manufactured pieces, there are certain factors to consider when structuring your collection. With vintage pieces the quality and condition will have a direct link to its value. Another feature you should take into account for both modern and vintage cases is the material used to construct the piece, look out for genuine leather and trims of quality wood. The manufacturing process should also be deliberated; one of the most important marks of the quality of the case is the maker’s stamp. These marks are generally found on the leading edge of the case, inside the leading edge, or perhaps applied to the internal fabric of cotton, silk or chamois.
Our thanks go to Kensington Bespoke for their assistance with this article. Kensington Bespoke have over 60 years collective experience in high-end fashion, accessories, tableware and collectable items. The brands they present produce quality products that are all made by hand in Great Britain or Europe by the finest craftsmen in their fields. To find out more about their products visit: kensington-bespoke.uk
If you have enjoyed reading this article on ‘The History of Luxury Luggage: A Collector’s Guide’, click here to read more on Arts & Collections about the creation of artistic Italian handbags.