Louis Vuitton - Mon Monogram
It can hardly be considered elegant to display one’s initials prominently on one’s clothing. If you are in danger of forgetting your identity, this is hardly much remedy. If you consider your name as important as the colours of your club or regiment, your ego isn’t worth contemplating. And if, finally, you do it simply to tell acquaintances that your clothes are made for you, I am filled with nothing but pity.
I will make an exception, however, for the initials on your luggage. Initialled clothing was originally so detailed in order to differentiate it amongst the laundry. Identifying luggage requires those initials to be on the outside – one could hardly expect every baggage clerk to open up your briefcase in order to confirm its owner; indeed its owner would probably not want him to do so.
That exception reaches its full potential with the initials and family colours that were traditionally painted on the outside of a set of trunks. Although such painting had been practised for years before the era of luxury steamship travel in the 1930s, it was that decade which made identification a necessity. The rich and the famous were travelling for days, amongst their peers, with a rich variety of social engagements along the way. They required a lot of clothes, therefore a lot of luggage, and it all had to be sorted out when they got to the other end.
Both French and British marked their travelling trunks in this way. But the British tended to be more reserved: the colours marked one edge of a trunk, or one corner; the initials were smaller and tended to nestle into a corner of the lid. It didn’t help that British luggage was normally leather, which wasn't such a willing canvas. The trunks of Louis Vuitton and Goyard, by contrast, were made of just that, canvas, plus a protective coating.
These are the reasons that I look a little more generously on Vuitton’s Mon Monogram service than others might. Yes, it is ostentatious. But at least it descends from a genuine and practical tradition of ostentation.
The service deals with soft luggage, unlike the traditional trunks, and for that reason as well as others the printing is done before the bag is constructed. The desired initials and coloured bands are printed directly onto a reel of Vuitton canvas, which is then used to make the bag. As with all Vuitton products, the monogram canvas is cut so that the house’s own initials, LV, are not bisected at any point. (That’s one easy way to tell a fake; another is the machine stitching and pre-inking of the handle.)
Mon Monogram is available on the Speedy handbag, Keepall travel bag, Neverfull bag and Pégase 55 suitcases. A set of two-tone initials of up to three letters, either vertical or diagonal stripes, or a combination of both initials and stripes can be chosen from a range of 17 different colours, resulting in more than 200 million possible combinations per bag.
Unlike the service offered to original steamship travellers, Mon Monogram also allows customers to preview what the design will look like on a computer simulation in the store. The timelines are similar, though, as the bag is being made from scratch – six weeks at best, eight on the outside.
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