Future Fashion & Mobility Trend Report:

Innovation out of Necessity

Part 2: Travel Technology & Style

The Future Mobility Trend Report is a collection of short stories, facts, and anecdotes about historical changes in fashion tech. Our series is a deep dive into some of the greatest changes in fashion that were born out of technological advancements. The first part of the series covered how materials allowed humans to travel into space. This is the second installment of our series.

Not long before we were traveling to space, we were getting around this planet with trunks of luggage. Yeah, so your luggage today may have biometric locks, can be tracked around the world, weighs itself, has a bluetooth speaker, acts as a power source, has a security alarm and is, of course, indestructible with a lifetime guarantee. But before all of these modern-day features, luggage simply was used to haul around your stuff and at best, protect it from the rain and bandits. Trunks didn’t need to survive a zombie apocalypse or airport security, they were just used to transport your goods.

During the 1600-1800s traveling just for the leisure and fun of it started becoming “a thing” — sometimes known as the Grand Tour where young, wealthy 20-somethings (mostly men) would travel around Europe. Eventually, over time, more and more individuals started participating in this type of travel, but overall, this travel required trunks of luggage that would fit on different modes of transportation that existed at this time.

One trunk maker from this time period is still making waves in the fashion industry today. When Louis Vuitton went to Paris at the age of 16, he started working for Monsieur Maréchal who was a master trunk craftsmen. After some years working there, he left to create his own goods. The first trunk he introduced was called The Trianon Canvas in 1858. This trunk differed from others because it had a flat top and bottom making them easier to stack and transport. Before this, trunks would have a rounded top so that rainwater wouldn’t collect on them. But these trunks also were created with the gray Trianon material which made the trunks much more lightweight and airtight.

Textiles Deconstructed

Trianon: Coated canvas that was commonly used on many of Louis Vuitton’s trunks and is still used today. This coated canvas is much more lightweight than leather and has a scratch resistant property to it.

Beyond the creation of this coated canvas material, the Vuitton’s would go on to create and patent an unpickable lock. The single lock system has two spring buckles on the trunks. This invention was viewed as revolutionary at the time as people needed to keep their trunks safe while traveling. Louis Vuitton’s son, Georges, who later took over the company, patented the lock and even challenged Harry Houdini to escape from the trunk. While this would have been a great PR stunt, it never happened but the lock system is still in use today.

Since its conception, Louis Vuitton solved specific problems that were caused by traveling. Over time the company has proved that they were material science and hardware innovators. They have also become a luxury fashion staple around the world.

But not everyone traveled so luxuriously.

In 1873, Around the World in 80 Days was published by Jules Verne. Verne’s fictional character believes he can, obviously, travel around the world in 80 days and is put up to the challenge by a friend. The rest of the adventure ensues. Fifteen years later a real-life journalist, Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, with the pen name Nellie Bly tries to convince her editor that she was equipped for this mission. At first, her editor denies her the chance because he believed she would need many trunks of luggage and a chaperone (insert eye roll).

Yet Bly insisted she would only carry one small handbag and was more than well suited to handle the expedition on her own. Finally a year later the editor at the New York World laments, stemming from numerous threats by Bly to go to another paper (fun fact: she was a boss and a bit ambitious for the times). This change in heart only gave Nellie Bly two days notice to prepare for her trip.

Bly’s first instinct was to go directly to her tailor, Ghormley’s, and request that a new dress be made that evening. During the visit at Ghormley’s, the tailor took the time to show fabrics and explain the varying properties that might be important for the travel ahead. They decided upon plain blue broadcloth with trimmed plaid camels-hair — it was viewed to be the “most durable and suitable combination”.

After Ghormley’s, she went to another tailor and had another dress made that was much lighter since it’s always helpful to have more than one option. Unfortunately, that dress didn’t fit in the small leather Gladstone bag she would use on the journey. This bag measured approximately 40 cm by 43 cm and was quite small. In her own written account, she said, “Packing that bag was the most difficult undertaking of my life; there was so much to go into such little space.”

In the end, Bly only took the dress that she was wearing, a plaid Scotch ulster overcoat and a cap, which was later famously worn by Sherlock Holmes, several pairs of underwear and only small items that fit into the bag. This was mostly pens and paper to write about the adventure.

She completed the journey in 72 days – again, ‘cause she was a boss. Along the route, she even met Jules Verne and went to his home in France. They shared dialogue and a little wine before she had to continue on in her journey.

While Bly and her tailor didn’t have time to create an entirely new material, she pushed the limits of what was possible and what individuals were perceived to be capable of at that time. She pushed this idea of traveling and exploration — she made it a continuous story on the front page news for over 72 days.

The need or desire to travel is still more alive than ever, and it’s going to continue pushing technology advancements and fashion along to adapt to our needs. Just like the spacesuit had to be made for a space expedition, or a waterproof trunk had to be made to safely transport goods, our needs are going to continue to evolve along with the technology required.

Stay tuned for the next part of our Future Mobility Trend Report Series by signing up to our newsletter.


Written by Erinn Springer. Edited by Lion Blau. Illustration provided by Kate Kilpatrick-Galbraith and to view more of her work go to https://www.instagram.com/vwolfeart/.

Louis Vuitton. Legendary History. https://eu.louisvuitton.com/eng-e1/la-maison/a-legendary-history#tumbler.

LV Trunks. http://www.lvtrunks.com/history#.W6IhYhMzbBL.

Maria Popova. How to Pack Like Pioneering Journalist Nellie Bly, Who Circumnavigated the Globe in 1889 with Just a Small Duffle Bag. https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/05/02/eighty-days-nellie-bly/

Nellie Bly. 1890. AROUND THE WORLD IN SEVENTY-TWO DAYS. http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bly/world/world.html

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 1). Around the World in Eighty Days. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:10, September 12, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Around_the_World_in_Eighty_Days&oldid=857496530

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 19). Louis Vuitton. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:06, September 19, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Louis_Vuitton&oldid=860240922

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 10). Nellie Bly. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:10, September 12, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Nellie_Bly&oldid=858972085