Globetrotting fashion lovers can pick up great travel tips at Louis Vuitton's Hong Kong pop-up store, L'Aventure. Anthea Loucas talks to Tyler Brûlé, the style guru behind the concept.
Amid the blockbuster fashion shows and glossy celebrity advertising campaigns, it's easy to forget that luxury house Louis Vuitton's foundation was built on travel and, more specifically, the ease of passage. When M. Vuitton created lightweight canvas, flat-topped stackable trunks in the 1850s, it was a revelation (trunks previously had domed lids, making them unstackable) and so an empire was born. To celebrate this heritage, the company turned to jetsetting style guru, magazine publisher and travel columnist Tyler Brûlé, who conceived and curated pop-up store L'Aventure, which launched in Paris last year and has now opened in Hong Kong.
"So much attention on the brand has been in ready-to-wear and other areas of the business," he says from Hong Kong, "and this has been a defined way to focus on their travel offer."
Brûlé knows a thing or two about travel; he spends about 250 days a year ("give or take") on the road, covering cities as far-flung as Auckland to Toronto, New York to Helsinki, Bangkok to Zürich this year alone, with many of his adventures popping up in his weekly Financial Times column. On this trip, he's come via Lisbon. "I think of it as the Berlin of southern Europe; it's got this grandeur but it's also got cheap rents." Aside from publishing interests (he was founding editor of Wallpaper and is editor-in-chief and chairman of Monocle, which extends to radio and retail interests), Brûlé owns a marketing and branding company, Winkreative, which works largely in the travel sector. Projects have ranged from the relaunch of Switzerland's national airline ("it was a complete overhaul, new logo, aircraft interiors, uniforms, music, tray set-up, catering - the works"), image consulting to the Thai government and, recently, Brisbane Airport -"it's mainly a brand-refresh and will be rolled out in July".
"Vuitton came to our agency because they saw we had a great tradition of doing branding work in the travel sector, as well as doing retail work," he says. "It seemed like a good marriage."
With L'Aventure, Brûlé has created a retail space that shines a light on the brand's travel offer, showcasing trunks from heritage to our favourite, the Whisky Trunk (yours for $53,500), or limited-edition items such as the leather hammock designed by Swiss firm Atelier Oï from the Objets Nomades collection. The space also features a mural comprising postcard-sized travel guides covering his favourite cities, and offers services such as demonstrations on the art of packing (see tips below), personalisation (make any piece of luggage your own with hot-stamping or painted monogramming) and after-sales care, including repairs. "The LV experience doesn't stop as soon as you walk out the store with your luggage; they're in it for life with you. We associate the brand, especially its luggage, with pedestals now: something to covet, purchase and then protect. That shouldn't be the case - their bags should be taken around the world on adventures covered in stickers and contain everything you need."
And the destinations Brûlé's luggage has seen this year? "I go to Japan every single month and have been doing that for more than a decade. I like that they continue to do things their own way and there's such a focus on quality and service. The more I travel I see how so many parts of the travel experience are cut down to the bone; Japan's an exception."
But the destination he is most excited about isn't as exotic as you might expect: northern Italy. "I'm really interested in the region from Bolzano to the Austrian border and west to the Swiss border. I think mixing the Latin with German precision works really well; there's an incredibly alluring climate and exceptional architecture. I have been spending a lot of time there. Who knows, maybe an apartment is on the cards."
And while Brûlé is a dedicated four-wheel suitcase man, ask him what his favourite Vuitton piece is and he'll nominate soft luggage, the Keepall in Epi leather. "I could get by 72 hours travelling very easily with that, knowing it will fit anywhere and I don't have to worry about it and it's a little bit of luxury to travel with, too."
L'Aventure, Louis Vuitton Pacific Place, Level 4, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong, until mid-June.