A Voyager, Even Now

  • Jill Newman

At the beginning of the 20th century, the maker of the most stylish and practical custom luggage in Paris was not Louis Vuitton or Goyard, but Pauline Moynat. The only prominent female practitioner of the era, Moynat created distinctively curvaceous bags and witty conceptual pieces, such as a round trunk designed to hold a spare tire that could also, in a pinch, be filled with water to serve as a bathtub. She founded her business, Moynat, in 1849, and by 1854 she owned the patent for canvas coated with gutta-percha, a natural tropical latex that guaranteed a watertight finish. She developed the first frame trunk made of lightweight wicker covered with watertight canvas, and when motorcars became a staple of modern life, she adapted her designs to suit them, making custom luggage that matched the exteriors of Bugattis, Binders, Voisins, Labourdettes, and other marques. In 1902 she received five patents for her signature piece of luggage, the Limousine trunk, which featured a curved bottom that fit snugly onto the rounded roof of a car.

But for all her technical accomplishments—and the aesthetic appeal of her designs—Moynat gradually faded into obscurity, and the brand’s single Parisian shop finally closed in 1976. Fortunately, Moynat’s legacy captured the interest of Bernard Arnault several years ago. A master at reviving storied brands, the chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton purchased Moynat through Groupe Arnault, his private holding company, and set out to restore its grandeur for a new generation of 
travelers. Nearly four years later, the Moynat name once again rejoins the exclusive ranks of fashion, appearing on the fronts of boutiques in Paris and London that stock its full range of handbags, small leather goods, and luggage. Yet unlike most leather-goods producers, Moynat’s hallmark is...

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