Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Thursday, March 8, 2012

LV, The Romance of Travel & The Best Paris Fashion Show Of All Time

They're already calling it the most beautiful fashion show ever staged. Even more spectacular than Karl's Last Year in Marienbad number for Chanel. As Ms Sarah Jessica Parker eloquently put it: "it was cinema, it was literature." Supermodel Natalia Vodianova (the girlfriend of LVMH scion Antoine Arnault) went one sartorial step further and declared it a “fashion orgasm”.

It started with a train of all things; an elegantly beautiful Orient Express-style steam train, with navy-and-gold livery and smartly dressed passengers glimpsed through the windows. There was even ornately arching ironwork overhead, and a navy LV-monogrammed station clock like the one in Hugo. When the engine chugged into the catwalk station with a romantic whistle and a cloud of theatrical steam, the crowd sensed that a truly spectacular fashion show was about to begin.

One by one the models emerged, stepping down the platform-cum-runway in vertiginous heels and 1900-style high hats, looking for all the world like 19th-century literary heroines – travelling protagonists meeting their illicit lovers on a Parisian platform. There were even uniformed, white-gloved porter to carry the model passengers' handbags, hat boxes, jewelled holdalls and LV cases; all nostalgic nods to Louis Vuitton's start as a humble luggage maker.

It was a show that had everything – references to cinema, literature, glamour, and turn-of-the-century fashion – but mostly it was a show about the romance of travel. As designer Marc Jacobs explained:"We just imagined this romantic notion. It's the idea of the trip."

It was glorious. Extraordinary. A remarkable, joyous juxtaposition of fashion and travel. Mr Lagerfeld, you're going to need to come up with something magic to top this. You can see some of the show here, courtesy of The TelegraphAll Depart at Louis Vuitton Paris Fashion Week {Images also via The Telegraph} 

And so, as a tribute to LV's grand, glamorous contributions to travel over the years, I thought I'd do a railway-inspired post. Yes, my dear library readers, get ready to embrace the romance of trains.

The train station as film star: Martin Scorsese’s enthralling 3D film Hugo, which was set within a Parisian railway station in the early 1930s. The station was built at Longcross Studios near London but has the atmosphere of the original d'Orsay station (now the Musée d'Orsay). London’s Victoria & Albert Museum stood in for the Parisian workplace of Hugo’s father.

The train station as fashion set: Catherine Deneuve looking like the star she is in an ad for Louis Vuitton. One wonders if this was the image that inspired Marc Jacobs to do a fashion show in the same thread?

Steam as a romance starter: The famously moving scene from Downton Abbey. Oh Mary! We feel for you. We really do.

The station as cinematic backdrop: Anthony Hopkins (Henry), Emma Thomson (Margaret) and her glamorous companion reunite on a platform in the film Howard's End. (I've always loved that white coat and hat.)

Travel as an art form: French fashion designer Paul Poiret's travel trunk, designed by Louis Vuitton. It's a particularly fitting image because Marc Jacob's collection (above) was partly inspired by Poiret's shapes. The image is from the book Louis Vuitton: 100 Legendary Trunks. To see one of the most beautiful advertising campaigns ever produced, go to the Louis Vuitton Youtube video, which was produced to coincide with the launch of the book. It will make you want to pack a LV steamer trunk and start looking at vintage maps for ideas! It's here LV Video or here LV Video 2

The platform as a plot device: The 1945 film Brief Encounter  not only features a railway platform at the start and end of the story, but the setting is integral to the plot. Based on the story by Noel Coward, it was voted one of the best movie romances of all time by the British in 2010, according to The Guardian.

The waiting room-inspired interior: Look at this incredible space. Isn't it extraordinary? Conceived by designer Amitha Verma, its designed so that the panelling hides all the cabinets and shelving units. Reminiscent of a magnificent waiting room in a grand Parisian train station, it balances light and dark, height and room proportion perfectly. Just as a well thought-out train station does.

The station hall-inspired library: Anthony Hopkins' penthouse in the film Meet Joe Black. I could watch this film over and over again just to see the set design.

The Orient Express-inspired ensuite: This beautiful room is from the always-gorgeous blog by Slim Paley {}. It's her own bathroom from her beach house at Santa Barbara. I think this must rate as one of the most elegant ensuites ever designed.

The Grand Central-inspired hangbag: Just had to include this Kate Spade bag! I love the design. And doesn't it remind you of the architecture and aesthetics of a great old train station such as Grand Central? The brown, mahogany-toned leather, the black and white lines, the whole simple-but-sophisticated aesthetic?

The perfect toiletry set for a private carriage: An antique travel case from Louis Vuitton featuring the original toiletry jars. Look at the snake skin finish! Exquisite.

And finally... A woman who can sing about trains like nobody else... Gladys Knight and the Pips, live at Chicago's Regal Theater.  Just watch those Pips dance!  Click here -  Gladys baby


  1. I nearly dropped off the sofa on Wed night when I clicked onto The Sartorialist's You Tube video that he'd just posted on his Twitter account from his seat in the front row of the LV show. Nothing short of stupendous I reckon & the accompanying music OMG! We should have been there & I put out a tweet to LV indicating as much. Strangely I've yet to receive a response. You are correct about train stations evoking such gorgeousness, I defy an Airport to elicit the same romance & elegance of design. I have a train post today too mate, & for all the right reasons.
    Millie xx

  2. There is something so terribly romantic about train stations.
    And I do love that bag.

  3. It was only a matter of time before these shows became major, major productions and now this will be the benchmark that everyone else has to compete with!!! WOW!!!
    What a lovely trip you gave me today, I have a passion for trains, steam trains, and have many good and some horrendously bad memories of train travel as a teenager!
    The orient express is my idea of heaven! xxx

  4. Beautiful post! The LV show was stunning....and "Brief Encounter" is one of the most romantic films ever.

    I think there's something about a steam train whistling that evokes such an emotional response.

  5. As a big LV and Marc Jacobs fan I just loved this post. The creativity of that man knows no bounds.
    Do you know I was at a friend's home this evening and age showed me a beautiful book about Paris. K looked at the author's name and thought it looked familiar. I came home to find it was you and that I had your blog bookmarked for a long time. :)
    A gorgeous book. Have a lovely weekend!

  6. Hi Mills,
    Congrats on the big news! I was so thrilled to receive your email - and even happier to know you're back on the right 'train track'! Hope the knee improves soon. A few blocks slowly around Stirling and it should be as good as gold!
    Janelle xx

  7. I love the bag too Sharyn. I even love the rough horizontal lines. Kate Spade's bags have been a little ordinary this past year, but this is lovely. It would be a great business tote for laptops / folders / books, etc

  8. Hi Jules and Simone,
    So lovely to hear from you! I haven't seen 'Brief Encounter' but I now plan to, if I can find a copy. It looks fabulous. To think it's so popular after all these years...
    J xx

  9. Hi Sarah B,
    Thank you so much for stopping by.
    I just had a look at your blog and love the tea towels! I'm sure they'll sell like proverbial hot cakes!
    Thanks again for taking the time to post a comment.
    PS Was thrilled about the book sighting, too.

  10. Ooh! This was *such* a treat of a post, Janelle. Merci beaucoup! I am looking forward to seeing 'Hugo' - how I adored visiting the Musee d'Orsay way back in 1989. And yes, that Kate Spade bag is scrumptious. Loving seeing so many of my bloggy friends here at The Library! J x

  11. The Louis Vuitton fashion show really was sensational.
    One of my favourite train scenes is one from 'North by Northwest' where Eva Marie Saint hides Cary Grant on the train.

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