The essentials: suitcases that made history

Between holidays and business trips, have you ever wondered what's hiding in your suitcase besides socks, t-shirts and jackets?

“Monsieur is going to leave home?”
“Yes,” replied Phileas Fogg. 
“We are going round the world.”

Jules Verne, Around the World in 80 Days

Up to the late century travellers were mostly aristocrats travelling with trunks over long periods of times, journeying from city to city with a crew of hands ready to carry their luggages.

Everything changed at the end of the 19th century, when tourism first took off, Europe’s large railway stations were inundated with porters, who would help passengers with their bags. In 1858, a young Louis Vuitton sensing this shift left his box-making apprenticeship on the rue de Saint Honoré to open a store of  ‘specialty packing for fashion’. He invented a flat-trunk, designed to be stacked, and therefore the first modern luggage. He also established as an object of fashion by replacing the dull canvases with elegant ones – the now ubiquitous monogram came under his son, Georges and was copyrighted in 1905.

Across the ocean, in 1910, Jesse and his father Isaac Shwayder opened a family suitcase company the Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company with the motto ‘strong enough to stand on’. The original name of the luggage was Samson in reference to the strength of the biblical figure and soon these luggages came to be known as Samsonite. From there, the evolution of the suitcase skyrocketed with the rapid evolution of transport and travelling habits.

One of the most crucial inventions was probably the ‘rolling luggage’ in 1970. An American luggage executive, Bernard Sadow, unscrewed four castors from a wardrobe and fixed them to a suitcase. Then, in 1987, US pilot Robert Plath created the modern cabin bag. He turned Sadow’s suitcase on its side and made it smaller.

City trip, business trip, long trips, most of us might now have to wheel our suitcases but we can all do it in style.

Opening image: Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh, limited edition, Spring Summer 2019. Courtesy Vestiaire Collective

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