A good way to look into the future is to research the past. Former technologies in fashion and mobility can give us some excellent hints about what’s coming. One good example is luggage.
Have you ever thought about how much technology your suitcase carries? We are not talking about your laptops and iPads inside. The invention of the luggage itself was a great design with tech improvements that have become fashion icons.
Our luggage today may have biometric locks. It can be tracked around the world, weigh itself, includes 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, the big innovation in luggage simply was to protect our things.
From the 1600s through the 1800s, traveling for leisure became “a thing”, like the Grand Tour where wealthy twentysomethings (mostly men) would travel around Europe. This required trunks of luggage that would fit on different modes of existing transportation.
One trunk maker stood out from this period and is still making waves in the fashion industry today. Louis Vuitton went to Paris at the age of 16 and started working for Monsieur Maréchal, who was a master trunk craftsmen. After some years, Vuitton left the old master to create his own house.
He introduced his first trunk, The Trianon Canvas, in 1858. This one greatly differed from others by using a simple design feature: the flat top. At that time, all trunks had a rounded top, making it difficult to stack and transport them. Making it flat, like a box, made the process much simpler and enabled people to carry a larger amount of luggage in the same carriage.
But the rounded top was designed to avoid rainwater collecting on the trucks. Monsieur Vuitton solved this basic but important issue by creating a new coated canvas material to use on his trunks. The grey Trianon material protected trunks from the rainwater and also made the trunks much more lightweight and airtight.
The House of Vuitton was full of inventors. They created and patented an unpickable lock, a single lock system with two spring buckles on the trunks. This invention was viewed as revolutionary, 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 it. While this would have been a great PR stunt, it never happened, but the lock system is still in use today.
In 1873, Around the World in 80 Days was published by Jules Verne. Fifteen years later, the journalist Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, with the pen name Nellie Bly, tried to convince her editor at the New York World that she was equipped for a real-life version of the adventure.
A year later, she finally convinces her editor, and boarded the steamer Augusta Victoria. But due to negotiation circumstances with her editor, she only had two days’ notice to prepare for the trip. She went directly to her tailor, Ghormley’s, and requested that a new dress be made that evening. During her visit at Ghormley’s, the tailor took the time to show her fabrics and explain the varying properties that might be important for her trip. They decided upon a plain blue broadcloth trimmed with plaid camels-hair, the “most durable and suitable combination”.
At first, her editor denies the idea, because he believed that she would need many trunks of luggage and a chaperone. Yet Bly insisted she would only carry one small handbag and was more than capable of handling the expedition on her own.
After Ghormley’s, she went to another tailor for one more option, and had a dress made that was much lighter. Unfortunately, that dress didn’t fit in her small leather bag, which measured approximately 40 cm by 43 cm. 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 small items that fit into the bag (mostly pens and paper). While Bly and her tailor didn’t have time to create an entirely new material, she pushed the limits of what was possible with the materials and capabilities at that time.
She completed the journey in only 72 days. Along the route, she even met Jules Verne and went to his home in France. They shared some dialogue and a little wine before she had to continue on with her journey.
Nellie Bly challenged herself to carry only a small bag, and nowadays we’ve done the same for different reasons — to flight light, to enjoy cheapest fares, to avoid producing a bigger carbon footprint, etc. But we still need a smart and small handbag that can carry anything we may need while keeping our belongings safe.
When space tourism becomes a reality, what kind of luggage are we going to carry? The teenager trainee astronaut Alyssa Carson, in collaboration with Horizn Studio, has created the world’s first luggage for space travel: Horizn One. It’s made of graphene-enhanced carbon fibre and has an electromagnetic base to ease access in zero gravity, besides several features such as energy storage, biometric security and a vacuum function for space economy.
The journey to develop the perfect luggage is ongoing as we keep changing our demands as consumers, pushing harder and harder. Yesterday the innovation was a flat trunk to store more luggage while traveling, and today it is to vacuum our clothes to save space during our trip to Mars. What about you? What innovative features do you want on your next suitcase?
We are exploring the Future of Fashion and Mobility to discover what else the two disciplines have in common and how they shape what’s next. Please keep an eye on our chapters and on the full content of The Future Fashion and Mobility Trend Report. If you would like to read the entire report now, please contact us via email@example.com
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