In browsing the LV website earlier in 2017, I discovered the Volez, Voguez, Voyagez exhibition that had already graced Tokyo, Paris, and Seoul was coming for a stint in NYC. Having read a short biography on Louis Vuitton and being a collector for at least a decade, I am quite invested in this designer and have fawned over many collections, runway shows, and collaborations over the years. My husband reserved us tickets for the final weekend of the exhibition, so I thought I would recap my experience attending Volez, Voguez, Voyagez at 86 Trinity Place in NYC.
"In the beginning, you never invented something for fashion."
Oliver Saillard, for FLAUNT Magazine
The product of historian and fashion curator Oliver Saillard, the exhibit traces the timeline of Louis Vuitton. Louis Vuitton was just a boy with big dreams who morphed into a household name among the elite due to his masterful skill and daring innovation. He was, of course, the first to decide that trunks for travel could have flat lids if they were made of more water-resistant material, which also meant they could be packed more efficiently under boats and trains. A simple design change that no one had thought of yet - except Louis. (If you are interested, I highly suggest reading "Vuitton: A Biography of Louis Vuitton" by Fergus Mason. It's a super short biography but interesting and informational if you appreciate the roots of the Maison. I also suggest it if you are someone who does't really "get" designer brands and think it's just an overprice bag with a silly pattern on it.)
The exhibit is shorter than I imagined but still an absolutely jaw-dropping curation of pieces from the start of Vuitton's career to the most prolific collaborations with Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince (my two favorites), Supreme, et al. It was a fashion lover's dream to see trianon gray trunks, secretary trunks, Murakami and Richard Prince canvases of raw inspiration, and red carpet gowns together in one place, displayed so pristinely.
I went on the last weekend of the exhibition, which I expected to be nearly empty as most of NYC and beyond had already had months to view it, but I was dead wrong. Our reservation times meant nothing and we stood in line with everyone else for at least forty-five minutes. Upon entering the exhibit, a brief background shifts the House into perspective for those unfamiliar with its roots. Next, two rooms of some of the earliest trunks and their functions. They had a collection of trunk stamps, labels, and even books that listed who every LV trunk key belonged to. When you build and pack trunks, you need to be able to open and close them! (PS - Is this still a thing? Can someone come pack for me next time I go away?) What a world of luxury was blossoming. Another room, holding a sailboat, presented variations of steamer bags both new and old.
Following these boat and train-travel trunks came the invention of the car, and the trunks that followed. (Ever wonder where the "trunk" of the car originated?) Picnic trunks, silverware trunks, hat boxes and more accompanied the modern traveler. Another room hosted an enormous plane flying out of the wall, decorated - of course - with a variety of new and old Vuitton travel bags.
Stepping into the next room, you actually feel as if you are stepping onto a train from decades and decades ago. A mix of new and old, accompanied by time period-sensitive outfits, these traveling "train cars" exhibited bags that could be packed or carried as well as the iconic labels from hotels and cities alike that would decorate said bags.
Soon the more modern Vuitton bags reign: After passing secretary and library trunks, you arrive into a small room of worldwide specialty trunks as well as my favorites - colorful Murakami pieces from the spring of 2003 and Richard Prince's color-splattered pieces from his spring collection five years later. It was so inspiring to me to see Richard's Prince's paintings that inspired him and the bags that were carried down the runway. Personally these are two of my favorite collections of all time, and I do wish selfishly that there were more pieces on display. While there's been some beautiful work lately, I personally don't think NG has yet lived up to Marc Jacob's iconic reign. ICONIC, yes. I know it is still early in Ghesquière's career at LV, but nothing was cooler than seeing Jessica Simpson or Paris Hilton carrying the rainbow LVs, and I still get compliments weekly on my multicolor Zippy and key case. Long live the early 2000s. With that change a few years back and Kim Jones' exit following his most recent (and last) runway show, the face of LV is still going to evolve much more in the coming years.
Following rooms showcased a variety of luggage, outfits, and collaborations - gowns, wardrobe trunks, skateboard trunks, travel shoe cases, and even Cindy Sherman's studio-in-a-trunk from 2014's "Celebrating Monogram" project twirling like a carousel (and just as colorful as one) at the center of the room. The colors of the drawers, I overhead from a tour guide, were allegedly in honor of her pet bird.
The final room of the exhibition - nicknamed the style room - was a jaw dropping experience; first, because the walls of this enormous room were covered in hot pink Stephen Sprouse graffiti (should have banked some selfies) up to the ceiling, and second, because of the mannequins sporting runway and red carpet looks. These included Taylor Swift's Manus x Machina MET dress, Ruth Negga's mesmerizing silver gown from the Golden Globes last year, Emma Stone's pale, romantic SS18 gown, and even the edgy Richard Prince nurse outfits straight from the 2008 runway. This was a spectacular end to the exhibit.
Following this was a small store, mostly filled with books, perfume, and SLGs like card cases and trinket trays. The most unique item was a card case for $220 with a VVV emblem on the back - only available from the exhibit. A man stood hot stamping on site, which was a very intricate and interesting process to watch. I skipped out on the card case but I found a book I have been trying to get my hands on for months.
The fun continued afterward as we walked through the Oculus and the Brookfield Place mall to stay warm, discovering the Louis Vuitton pop-up store currently inhabiting it. The small store is fully-functional and has a sizable inventory of classic pieces. Additionally, they have the largest collection of Petit Malle pieces I've ever come across in a LV store. Client advisor Georgia noted them as "by far the coolest things in the pop-up" (no disagreement there). To fit the VVV theme, this pop-up also gives you the ability to design and accessorize a bag with patches and more as a nod to trunk travel labels. Although the exhibition is over, the pop-up will be sticking around until at least March and hopefully a permanent LV will make its home at Brookfield soon. If you're near this side of the city, I highly suggest stopping by and asking for Georgia - she is super informative and doll to work with. The pop-up is a great supplement to the exhibition, which allowed me to see truly legendary LV pieces, and the day was a wonderful experience overall. I don't know where the exhibition is off to next, if anywhere, but I hope I covered it for anyone who didn't get to go. If anything similar comes around again, be sure not to miss it!