I have a very stylish friend who only ever travels vintage! She’s done this for as long as I can remember. Any chance to travel and she’ll grab her grandmother’s beautiful old leather suitcases. She’ll never struggle with one oversized, overstuffed creaking synthetic bag, looking sweaty, out of breath or as if she ever grabbed a discount in her life!
Both suitcases are reasonably small and perfectly balanced in each hand, glowing like conkers in the autumn sunshine and she is a picture of elegance and self-control.
At one time, the luxury of spare time and travel was a pastime of the aristocracy, mainly young men on the grand European tour, taking in the arts and culture of the visited countries. With this came the huge domed trunks packed by servants and transported ahead of the owner only to be unpacked by servants at the other end.
With the emergence of the middle classes came interest in transatlantic travel and trunks were then designed with flat tops for ease of storage and stacking and became much more lightweight.
One of the leading masters of luggage design was the Frenchman Louis Vuitton in the 1880s. His designs oozed style and practicality and they soon became status symbols of the affluent, later introducing the iconic interlocking ‘LVs’ in 1896. They are as highly valued today as they have always been.
As travel changed so did the style of luggage to accommodate it. When rail travel became the favoured means of transport so the design of luggage followed. The leather Pullman case named after the rail coaches that pulled the passengers was a huge hit. The design was perfect. It could be easily carried by hand and could fit snuggly under the seat or above in the racks provided.
These desirable objects are in high demand today and they add a nostalgic factor to our homes. When we glance at the old labels that adorn many of these beautiful masterpieces, I’m sure I’m not the only one that fantasises about the journeys they have taken and the people who have taken them.
My old cases are propped and stacked around the house, Containing in one case my great Aunt’s fur wraps and beautifully handmade leather gloves some that have never been worn, all echoes of her life. Each case has her personalised initials on the outside to identify the owner clearly.
I simply love the fact that vintage luggage comes in all shapes and sizes and fits into modern day homes in different guises. Flat topped leather trunks in a house are now coffee tables adorned with books. The beautiful leather and stud work is highly decorative and often intricate. Overlaid onto a camphor wooden body that would have been used to keep out moths and other such insects from clothes. Many were used as campaign trunks and no doubt have travelled the globe several times.
Aluminium cases once used for storing and transporting film have now been laboriously stripped and then highly polished to reveal this wonderful reflective surface, giving a more modernistic and industrial feel.
A once very practical and humble case has now been restored, ideal for storing linen and blankets in today.
My favourite way to display and use leather cases is to have them on beautifully made stands, that turns them into the perfect bedside table.
So next time you’re at Granny’s house, get looking in the attic. I bet you’ll find at least one of these beauties hidden away, ready to be introduced into the modern world for a new lease of life.