In 1854, when people travelled by horse and cart, boat or train, Louis Vuitton started making trunks. He was the first to design rectangular suitcases with flat sides that could be piled up easily, reinforced with wooden slats and brass borders, and upholstered with waterproof material. When the Suez Canal was opened in 1869, Napoleon IIIs athletic wife, Empress Eugénie, carried her luggage in Louis Vuitton suitcases. From the banks of the Nile, the refined empress brought the French firm into fashion. Its heyday came 20 years later with the ingenious unpickable lock created by Georges Vuitton, Louiss son. By 1896 fake copies of Vuitton cases were already doing the rounds, and once again Georges came up with a solution that spread the brands prestige to the rest of Europe, the Americas and Asia, designing the unmistakable pattern with the LV initials and three kinds of geometric floral designs. In recent years, the legendary canvas has been reinterpreted by such renowned artists as Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince and Yayoi Kusama. This longstanding relationship with the world of art and design is constantly renewed with new ideas, like the recently-unveiled Objets Nomades Collection. Travel is to Louis Vuitton the core around which most of the brands products are devised, and with this concept the brand recruited various creatives to lend their own interpretation of nomadism to these products. Eleven designers, some of them well-known, others just starting to make a name for themselves, were given full artistic rein to create objects that reflect the art of travelling and the Louis Vuitton legacy.
Christian Liaigre is a renowned French interior and furniture designer who set up his studio in Paris in 1985, and recently opened a New York studio. He designed a light, easy-totransport table, made from rubber plant and sycamore wood, aluminium and leather. This handy, elegant table folds up into a briefcase. Renowned 20th-century naturalist George Adamson was Liaigres inspiration in creating a portable travel desk, as light as it is sturdy, to stand up to journeys in the wild. It has adjustable straps for a snug close, a handle, and a cover to protect it from dust and bumps.
Gernot Oberfell and Jan Wertel are two young German designers who six years ago founded an industrial design studio, turning out perfect, original objects at the forefront of contemporary design. Both studied at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design founded in 1761, once home to lecturer Oskar Schlemmer, the renowned German painter, sculptor and designer who left Bauhaus Schools mark on the academy, as did many other famous teachers.
Oberfell and Wertel have soaked up the vanguard spirit of Bauhaus, the movement that rewrote the rules of art, architecture and design for ever. The project begun by Walter Gropius in 1919 can be seen in the new generations. Their guiding principals are functionalist minimalism, with an absence of ornamentation, special attention to the objects function and the users needs, and mass production without scrimping on artistic flair.
Oberfell and Wertel are not afraid of technology. On the contrary, they use it as the main component of their creations. 3D printing techniques, increasingly used in design since the 1980s, is one of the resources they use in their creations, producing a three-dimensional object with a 3D printer and layering plastic material from a digital model.
Created in collaboration with Mathias Bär, the Fractal MGX coffee table, mimicking the shape of a tree, is a creative experiment inspired in the studio by the fractal growth of many plant species. The base of the table branches upwards into smaller, multiplying branches that support the table top. It is miraculously crafted from a single piece of epoxy resin. The design, a mix of plant and mathematic calculations, is on permanent display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Another coffee table idea is the Clover Collection, made with a Corian panel moulded into the shape of a clover. The off-cut left over is used to make a negative version of the table. Both the table formed from the edges of the clover and the clover-shaped one are then heated to 150ºC to bend the ends and form the legs. The design is an ingenious one and the designers have taken into account environmental concerns in using recyclable material.
The Dragonfly.MGX pendant lamp is inspired by a beehive construction with the inlets resembling insect eyes. These cells are closed at the top to gradually open out below, preventing glare and allowing the light to be dimmed to ones taste. Produced with epoxy resin, it is manufactured using the 3D printing technique.
Eggwave is an egg holder with the look of an architectural sculpture. With a similar texture, the duo worked with designer Tobias Schmidt to create this two-part object, one part in textured white plastic and the other transparent, fitting together in three different positions to accommodate six, eight or ten eggs. This product is the most revealing of the designers philosophy, that a near-invisible everyday object can be mass-produced without losing the beauty of a work of art.
Photos courtesy of WertelOberfell