In this age of mass-production and cheap knock offs, Louis Vuitton stands above all others to remind us what we can hope to attain.
Louis Vuitton was founded in Paris in 1854, as a practical product for the avid traveller. The flat-bottom trunks with trianon canvas, were lightweight and airtight and had something that no other trunk had – a flat top. This ingenious style meant that the luggage could be stacked easily, making travelling with a lot of luggage effortless. In the days of transatlantic journeys this was a blessing.
Immediately the luggage industry started to compete with Vuitton, copying his style and design. Not deterred by the competition, Vuitton decided to make his products unique by adding a brown and beige stripe. To completely halt counterfeiters, the company launched the signature Monogram Canvas and patented it.
The range soon expanded to include smaller pieces, hand luggage and purses, with each range more popular than the last. The 1900s saw LV become the epitome of fashion, with high society, and royalty, buying full ranges to go on their travels.
The trunks were not only practical but beautiful too.
It is no wonder that these objects are still sought after today, they invoke a bygone era of luxurious travel for the affluent classes. The excellent workmanship that went into the finished product also means that these pieces are a solid investment.
Collectors rarely use their luggage to travel – the experience of visiting other countries is nowhere near as gentile as in the days of the Orient Express. Baggage handlers care little for luxury goods. What many collectors see in these objects is something of beauty, an item to be adored and to put on show.
Flat trunks can be used as coffee tables, or stacked up in a living room to highlight their worth. Luggage is a rather solid investment; the items are relatively low maintenance and are continually increasing in value. Even with the Global Financial Crisis, that saw some luxury vintage items discarded to eBay, luggage has kept itself afloat.
In March 2011, the Duchess of Windsor’s Louis Vuitton vanity case, – 1960s, with faux tortoiseshell address tag bearing the name and Paris address of the Duchess, stencilled in yellow to one side panel `the Duchess of Windsor’, with LV monogram canvas and brown leather exterior, tan canvas interior, narrow lift-out tray; sold for £40,000 (Kerry Taylor Auctioneers, lot 105).
In December 2011, Christies sold Elizabeth Taylor’s long-haul travel essentials – a classic set of Louis Vuitton porte manteaux including a hat box -spread over three lots that fetched $245,000 in total.
For those who are considering buying a 1930s or 1940s piece it is important to be very careful not to damage it and preserve the piece in its original condition. When thinking about buying vintage items, remember that aside from the brand and size of the luggage, the main factor that determines the value of a piece is aesthetics. Structure a collection around a theme; whether it is material or a specific brand – this will give it coherence and add to its collective value.
According to Bain & Co. consultants, in 2008 the global luxury goods market was estimated at 170 billion Euros, with a 4% annual increase.
No matter at what socioeconomic level, there is a desire for luxury that we all have. We see models and celebrities wearing brands and we want to emulate them. Counterfeiters are trading in on this need to provide us with the objects we desire.
However, counterfeiting is a real inhibitor to the luxury industry volume growth, resulting in important revenue losses. Buying a replica Louis Vuitton may not seem like one of the major world problems but the underlying fact is that it destroys the brand and impacts hundreds of jobs.
A brand hasn’t designed a product, researched the material, and spent time advertising for a copycat in china to reproduce it using lower quality parts.
But, then again, isn’t imitation the sincerest form a flattery?
Counterfeiters don’t always have a negative resonance. Having a bag on the marketplace is the first sign that there is a demand for that luxury product. Some brands have been known to use the sales of counterfeit items to predict demand for that product.
With average costs of luxury handbags ranging from £1000, it is no wonder that people are flocking to the market to pick up an alternative version for £50. Interestingly, a recent study by law firm Davenport Lyons, found that 20% of the 3m Britons who bought these fake goods had household incomes in excess of £50,000 a year. So, if it isn’t money that is the issue, what is it?
Many who buy fake items will argue that they will buy the real thing eventually, but the same report discovered that only 20% of purchasers have bought an authentic piece.
For those who truly understand style and fashion, there is no substitute for the genuine article. Counterfeiters separate the wheat from the chaff. A true fashionista can spot the fakes a mile off; the people and the bags!
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