Louis Vuitton founded his French leather-goods brand in 1854, and is known for the trunks he created. However, Vuitton didn’t start his career as a malletier (trunk maker) but rather as a packer. One of his first jobs in Paris was folding the clothes of Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, to meticulously fit into her custom travel cases. It is fitting that once he started his brand, his focus was chests and trunks that could be easily stackable. And thus, the iconic Louis Vuitton trunk was born.
Unlike other brands that constantly change and alter past items, the Louis Vuitton trunk has remained the same for 150 years. From this trunk, Nicolas Ghesquière took inspiration to create the now house staple Louis Vuitton Petite Malle, which translates literally to “little trunk”. The bag quickly made its way into the hearts and arms of Louis Vuitton lovers around the world and is now a cornerstone item for the brand. Each season, it’s reimagined in different materials ranging from the classic monogram canvas to exotic skins.
Today I’m here to share the making of this bag, which is a very detailed process from start to finish. Most of each begin their journey to being made at the company’s workshop in Ducey, France and Louis Vuitton has a team of 30 people dedicated to the making of the Petite Malle alone. The beginning of each piece starts with woodwork and ends with the careful placement of the metallic screws and corners.
Each Petite Malle can require up to 200 operations, depending on the specific style and material. One of the major complexities lies in the fact that the Petite Malle is an identical miniature version of the classic, much larger sized Louis Vuitton trunk. This means each bag needs just as much attention and craftsmanship on a much smaller scale, so attention to detail and precision are of utmost importance.
Speaking of size, the Petite Malle is truly small, with overall dimensions of 7.9 x 4.9 x 1.9 inches. The gold-color hardware is an ode to the original Louis Vuitton trunk as well and there’s a removable, adjustable leather strap that has a minimum of 20″ and max of 22″ drop. This allows for the bag to be carried by hand as a clutch, or worn over the shoulder or cross-body for hands-free use. The exterior features a magnetic closure and the interior you’ll find a flat pocket. Prices range from $5,500 to $30,000 on LouisVuitton.com.
These are the steps, in order, to create the Petite Malle:
- Creation of the wooden box in poplar wood
- The interior is then lined with a thin protective and reinforcing cotton
- Internal dressing and malletage are added (malletage refers to the geometric embroidery pattern)
- Next, The Petite Malle is covered in the desired fabric
- Lozinage technique is used to bind the Malle along the edges
- Wooden slats are added to the exterior
- All metal finishings, including small latches and locks, are added by hand
- Leather flap and strap are assembled