Industrial designer Marc Newson lightens Louis Vuitton’s luggage load

Australian industrial designer Marc Newson has designed kitchen appliances for Smeg and aircraft interiors for Qantas Airways.
Australian industrial designer Marc Newson has designed kitchen appliances for Smeg and aircraft interiors for Qantas Airways.PHOTO: LOUIS VUITTON

The French luxury house partners industrial designer Marc Newson for its new lightweight rolling luggage

French luxury house Louis Vuitton, known for its rich travel heritage, has introduced a new luggage range designed by Australian industrial designer Marc Newson.

He is best known for his wide range of projects that run the gamut from kitchen appliances for Smeg to aircraft interiors for Qantas Airways.

And Louis Vuitton could not have picked a better person, according to the designer himself. "I'm basically travelling up to three times a week for work, more than anyone I know, so I feel in a sense that I am uniquely placed to solve the problem for Louis Vuitton."

In a telephone interview from London, where he is based, Newson described the job as a "very serious responsibility". He was tasked to redesign the brand's luggage "in a way that is meaningful to the contemporary traveller".

And so, Louis Vuitton's New Rolling Luggage is almost 50 per cent lighter than its previous luggage range because of its ultra-light and shock-absorbent shell, made of a new material comprising several mesh layers of polypropylene and bonded with an ultra-thin titanium layer.

Unlike most suitcases which have two zip pulls, these have one zip that ends with a luggage lock at the bag's hinge. According to Newson, this lessens the chances of tearing and breaking, which happens mostly when people do not fully open the zippers of their bags.

The four-wheeled bags also have 15 per cent more storage space because of an external cane handle, which doubles as the luggage frame. The extendable cane of a suitcase is typically found embedded in one side of the bag, which eats into the luggage space.

Newson explains: "From a psychological perspective, it's just so nice to have this big, flat area where you can put anything. You don't need to fit small objects into cavities that you know aren't necessarily meant to be there."

These design innovations took Newson 18 months to develop and have resulted in three patent applications, which are pending.

The New Rolling Luggage comes in two sizes: the 50 (mini) and 55 (cabin). A larger check-in size will be released later. They are available in the brand's iconic Monogram and Damier Graphite in canvas, Taiga leather and natural cowhide. The Epi leather range comes in seven colours. For those worried about getting their luggage scuffed, the bags come with a protective cover for use when checking in.

Just like the luxury brand's historic trunks, corners of the luggage and its handles are covered in natural cowhide.

Prices range from $3,650 for the mini size in Monogram or Damier canvas and up to $8,100 for the cabin size in natural cowhide.

The range was launched last Friday at Louis Vuitton boutiques in Singapore, Paris and Australia. It will be available worldwide by the end of September.

This is the first time the 162-year-old brand, which started out making lightweight canvas trunks for travel, has collaborated with a designer on its luggage range. But it is Newson's second collaboration with the brand. In 2014, he designed a backpack in shearling and the brand's Monogram canvas for its Celebrating Monogram project.

However, he says that he was more excited about this project because it was on a much larger scale.

"This is something slightly more industrial and that's really more of what I'm doing - designing things that appeal to a larger audience. The backpack was a very limited production."

He says his favourite piece from the New Rolling Luggage range is the one that comes in the Louis Vuitton Monogram.

He says: "The Louis Vuitton Monogram canvas is very iconic, but, from a functional perspective, it's very lightweight, incredibly strong and waterproof and, for a product like this, it's really an ideal material."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'Louis Vuitton rolls out new luggage'. Print Edition | Subscribe