Being extended an invitation to tour the 
Louis Vuitton family home and atelier in Asnières is a real privilege. It is a special access to a realm rich in history, fascinating evolution and unwavering determination but above everything else, it is a journey that embodies a storied past and an enduring legacy. Here, each corner whispers the tales of a timeless brand.

The narrative unfolds five years after the inception of the maison, as Louis Vuitton found his Parisian headquarters no longer sufficient to contain his burgeoning ambitions. In 1859, he established his new workshop in Asnières, a quaint village nestled a few kilometres northwest of Paris.

Asnières’ strategic location along the tranquil banks of the River Seine proved providential for the evolution of Louis Vuitton’s atelier. It facilitated the arrival of raw materials via boat, including the prized wood used to fashion the iconic trunks that would soon achieve global acclaim.

Just across the river was the first Louis Vuitton store on Rue Neuve-des-Capucines, a symbol of luxury and craftsmanship. The village’s accessibility was expanded, thanks to the network of trains, as it was among the pioneering beneficiaries of France’s nascent railway lines, with a track passing through its midst.

Due to its confluence of expansion and proximity to Paris, Asnières was the ideal canvas for the workshop’s growth. It provided the space to expand the workshop to the suburbs, yet was still close to Paris. The journey from the city to Asnières today is an effortless 30-minute drive and it transitions between metropolitan vibrancy and suburban retreat seamlessly.

The atelier’s architecture echoes the renowned Eiffel style, a harmonious interplay of glass and steel reminiscent of the tower that would later grace the Parisian landscape in 1889. The bright and spacious workshop serves as the epicentre of Louis Vuitton’s savoir-faire. To create an optimal workspace, the artisans enjoy abundant natural light, along with state-of-the-art lighting.

Within its hallowed confines, the most distinguished creations of the heritage house are all made by hand, spanning rigid trunks, designs in rare or exotic leathers and special orders. It is here that bespoke orders, destined for destinations around the globe, come to life.

Elevating the importance of proximity to production, Louis retained the uppermost floor of the atelier as a family abode. Over time, the family moved into a nearby structure, erected circa 1878.

Remarkably unchanged, the wood atelier on the first floor remains a testament to time-honoured traditions. For well over a century, artisans have honed their craft with three wood varieties: poplar, birch and the exotic okoumé, each prized for its supple yet resilient attributes.

The wood is then covered with either canvas or leather. Every part of the trunk is constructed with utmost detail and care, using the finest materials like the Iozine leather trim knocked in firmly by tiny nails. It requires thousands of nails to make a single trunk, apparently.

The section dedicated to exotic leather offered a delightful visual spectacle, thanks to its diverse textures and captivating array of colours. Equally exciting was the area dedicated to its unpickable locks, a legacy that dates back to 1886 when Georges Vuitton revolutionised luggage security by introducing an ingenious, patented closure mechanism, effectively turning travel trunks into veritable treasure chests. These locks can be personalised with unique serial numbers and come with the convenience of using a single key across all their trunks. In the event of key loss, acquiring a replacement is simple — the brand retains all the lock combination information in their safekeeping.

Louis Vuitton fulfils all types of customised trunks but it will not accept requests for coffins or ammunition boxes. Otherwise, there are plenty of options to choose from — Cabinet of Curiosities by Marc Newson, Malle Sneaker, Casino Trunk and the coveted Infinity Party Trunk which comes with a price tag of $570,000. Access to the atelier is completely restricted, except with prior special permission.

 

Enter the Art Nouveau family residence, though transformed through minor renovations and no longer inhabited, which stands as a sanctuary of memory. Transmuted into a gallery, it plays host to exclusive gatherings for VIP patrons, celebrities and the media. At its entrance, an evocative portrait of a youthful Louis, rendered by the skilled hand of China-based artist Yan Pei Ming for The Art of Travel exhibition in 2018, welcomes you.

Within the dining room, trunks amassed by Louis’ grandson Gaston form a reverent tapestry. Credited as the archivist of the maison, Gaston’s insatiable passion for collecting yielded an eclectic array of curios. In this space, Louis’ innate simplicity is reflected in the decor, a quiet counterpoint to the opulence that pervades the rest of the dwelling.

Conversely, the living room, an embodiment of French Art Nouveau style, resonates as a vibrant testament to Georges’ vision. This segment of the abode, revamped by Louis’ son in the late 19th century, dances with the hues of masterful paintings and carefully curated embellishments.

A rare, ornate fireplace, a relic even by contemporary Parisian standards, stands as a pinnacle of pride. But it is the trunks that steal the show. From a pink striped trunk converted into a coffee table to the Malle Fleurs holding the freshest blooms, Louis Vuitton’s creations have woven their way into the hearts of many, capturing a profound adoration for the brand’s exquisite blend of artistry and functionality.

Here’s a good reason to venture into Asnières on your next trip to Paris. There is an exhibition celebrating the iconic 
Malle Courrier until Feb 17, 2024. This renowned model, inspired by the 1858 flat trunk and patented in 1867, embodies Louis Vuitton’s expertise with features like rivets, locks, leather elements and Trianon grey canvas.

As a symbol of travel, elegance and innovation, the Courrier trunk has served explorers and modern society. The exhibition showcases its history and codes through historical trunks, anamorphic videos and curated installations that explore various aspects of the brand’s heritage and craftsmanship. The journey concludes by delving into the essence of Louis Vuitton’s soul, dedicated to the magic of travel.  


Book your slot for the exhibition at la-galerie-louisvuitton.seetickets.com/timeslot/malles-courrier

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