Louis Vuitton’s runway reveal of its men’s fall-winter 2021 collection featured Virgil Abloh’s design of a plane-shaped bag which drew immediate derision from the critics. ‘Impractical’ they shouted – how could you fit it in the overhead locker? ‘Expensive’ they jeered – at $39,000 Jeanne Moos of CNN reported you can buy a real plane for less.
This analysis is certainly valid, but these critics are viewing things from the perspective of someone who’ll never possess this bag, which, of course, would include most of us. But for a person who can afford to buy such an item these issues become immaterial: anyone who has that kind of money isn’t going to be having problems with overhead lockers as they’ll be travelling in their roomy private plane. Which will no doubt cost more than $39,000. What’s also missing from the critic’s assessment is the bag’s importance both from a fashion perspective and a philosophical one.
True to its origins
Louis Vuitton has, by producing this travel carry-on, kept true to the nature of its company’s origins. The man Louis himself gained notoriety by making high-quality travel luggage in the 19th Century, just as travel became popular for Europe’s wealthiest citizens. Fame was achieved when he was hired by Napoleon III’s wife Eugénie de Montijo to provide her with his packing services. His pièce de resistance came however, with the creation of a revolutionary travel trunk. It wasn’t just the quality of his trunk that was important but also its unique design: light, waterproof and, unlike the circular-shaped cases available at the time, rectangularly designed making it easier to stack. This innovative travel luggage ideology is embodied in Abloh’s plane-shaped carry-on. Though being less easy to stack.
The child in us
Practicality in design doesn’t appear to be Abloh’s goal, so then what is? Is it perhaps to indulge the inner-child? Spend any amount of time in an airport terminal and you will see kids being wheeled around on their plane-shaped suitcases. Don’t we subconsciously crave to do the same? Can’t we admit to being a little jealous of the fun they’re having? Have Louis Vuitton simply created an adult version to satisfy our childish urges and to make travel more fun?
Louis Vuitton’s plane within a plane
But what if Louis Vuitton have stumbled across something even deeper, something that signifies order in a world of chaos in the form of a fractal? A fractal is by definition a self-similar pattern created through repeatedly applying the same rule on itself. A snowflake is a common example: if you look closely at a snowflake you can see that from each of the branches of ice extending out there are similar branches of ice extending out, which continues ad infinitum. A snowflake within a snowflake. In much the same way, is a plane-shaped bag within a plane not also a representation of the structure of our universe?
Or is it just a plane-shaped bag in a plane?
What complicates things further is if the bag isn’t even taken on a plane. The theory immediately becomes redundant if instead the bag is deployed to pick up a few bits from Aldi.
And what if, perish the thought, it’s just simply a fashion accessory? (sharp intake of breath!)
Here there may still be an intrinsic significance. A fashion designer’s raison d’être is to create future trends usually a season ahead of time. This travel-influenced item was part of a show exhibiting the 2021 fall-winter collection, and there’s a great anticipation that later in the year there’ll be more freedom to move around the planet. Perhaps then the bag can at least be viewed as a symbol of travel hope.
In any case, time will tell if Louis Vuitton’s new fashion accessory with all its philosophical cues will make an effective migration from fashion runway to the real one.