WRITER: Sara White Wilson
Louis Vuitton surprised us this year by collaborating with contemporary designers to produce a charming debut collection of foldable furniture and accessories.
There is something terribly romantic about the gentleman adventurer of yesteryear. He who leaves the comfort of society to explore faraway lands. While adventurer and Englishman, David de Rothschild might personify this today, in a former era, it might have been the explorer and Frenchman Pierre de Brazza, who opened up the Congo River to the French in the 1880s. The son of an Italian Count, Monsieur Brazza was known to call, from time to time, upon a trunk-maker by the name of Louis Vuitton, in search of custom-made equipment for his trips. Amongst Brazza’s most famous commissions was the ‘Bed-Trunk’, a foldable camp bed, an icon in the company’s archives.
This is the past that was evoked for the thirteen contemporary designers Vuitton called upon to come up with the 16 travel-inspired objects in their Objets Nomades series, all of which were made as unique pieces, limited editions or experimental prototypes. First presented during the Milan Furniture Fair in April 2013, they later appeared in LV boutiques and pop-up stores in Paris, Tokyo, Singapore, Taipei, London and New York.
“Nomadism and travel bring to mind the image of Pierre Loti, returning from the Levant with his trunks filled with souvenirs. I also thought about George Adamson, an English gentleman adventurer,” says Christian Liaigre, of the inspirations behind his Travel Desk, which boasts the French designer’s signature purity of line and modern simplicity. “Function was fundamental. It had to be light and hardwearing enough to travel around in a Jeep but also look like Louis Vuitton and be the stuff of dreams for furniture collectors.”
The Objets Nomades collection is an interesting move for Vuitton, which the maison defines as ‘organic’. Rather than be driven by structured seasonal collections, it is meant to grow as the conversations and encounters the brand has with contemporary designers evolve. Vuitton is playing the role of both editor and manufacturer, in this way making it more like Italian houses like Boffi or Cappellini. The long-term goal is to produce pieces of value that will eventually be sold at auction to collectors.
“It was a very interesting experience to work with a company like Louis Vuitton that pays particular attention to resolving the many details of such complex objects and combining so many artisanal techniques,” Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola said of her involvement. “Visiting the workshops and seeing the craftsmen execute the various elements of these objects with such great precision and passion was inspiring. It’s rare to find companies that still honour age-old techniques of craftsmanship in an increasingly industrialised society.”
In addition to her Swing Chair, which was designed as an experimental prototype, Urquiola also came up with Stool, a leather chair inspired by the foldable seats used by fishermen. When closed, Stool assumes the delicate shape of a handbag.
Other contributions include a leather hammock, a lamp and a beach chair that looks like an attaché case and the names involved in the project include Atelier Oï, Studio Nendo, Maarten Baas, Clino Castelli, Oki Sato, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Constance Guisset, Barber and Osgerby and Thierry Gaugain.
Whether on safari, climbing a mountain, sailing the Amazon or simply travelling between metropolises, these are the kind of objects that will enhance any modern nomad’s sense of freedom.
WHO Louis Vuitton
WHAT Objets Nomades collection
BY An assembly of contemporary designers
WHY Bespoke furniture made for travel, the collection shows that even while hearkening back to its legacy of the travelling trunk, LV is still determinedly cutting-edge.