Inspired by 1930s airline travel and cutting edge architects.
Published on 23 November 2016
In 1937 airline travel had taken off, and it was supremely glamorous. Everyone flew first class, there was champagne, fine china, space to lounge and passengers always dressed well. A man called Giovanni Fontana was inspired by this innovation and seized the opportunity to style the jet set, with sophisticated, skilfully crafted and beautiful luggage. So Valextra was founded from an atelier in Piazza San Babila, Milan.
While the inspiration behind Valextra was innovation, Fontana matched forward thinking with a deep respect for the classic, evident in the brand’s craftsmanship and functional design. Valextra’s Avietta, or the famous ‘24 hour Bag’, is an overnight attachés of such enduring style it is exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Soon Valextra was sported by the world’s most stylish people, browse snaps of Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Onassis and they invariably have a Valextra on their arm, and so it is today.
Valextra’s keen commitment to advanced design keeps the brand at the forefront of fashion without losing track of its inherent restraint. The flat lines are there, frequently the wider top or bottom making a V for Valextra, the finest calfskin, striking colour palette, but always restraint.
Valextra has many collaborations with designers beyond the world of fashion, in particular a clean cut aesthetic gives the brand an easy affinity with the world of architecture. Bernard Dubois for one, recently masterminded the brand’s boutique at Galaries Lafayette in Paris. The Belgian architect, successful way beyond his youth, is renowned for his minimalism, so he immediately clicked with Valextra’s discreet geometry.
Martino Gamper who has exhibited sculptures at London’s cutting edge Serpentine Gallery and furniture designs at the V&A museum, created displays for the Milanese showroom. He innovated with magnets concealed in every bag, fixing them to walls, so each piece seemed to float in space. Lorenzo Vitturi, a rising star of the London sculptor and photographic scene, created the ‘Inside Out’ project, a towering sculpture in the centre of the Valextra showroom, and a series of graphically brilliant window displays.
"I played on a multi-disciplinary dimension," explains Venice-born Vitturi, "combining photography, sculpture and installation to subvert and re-imagine the brand’s signature elements."
Valextra’s detailing in craftsmanship is a complex architecture in itself. Every component is cut and assembled through specialised engineering techniques. In fact the craftsmen are the leading characters of the brand story, working with fine Tuscan calfskin and the traditional tools of their trade, stitching, cutting and creasing with care. When the atelier opened in 1937 the craftsmen always worked near the showroom, keeping them in touch with the clients, seeing how their bags were carried, who was carrying them, what was really expected from the finest designs. This artisanal team behind Valextra are the true masters, take a look inside any Valextra piece and you will find their personal monogramme. If a Valextra bag ever needs further attention it returns to the original craftsman, demonstrating a rare vested interest in what is usually the transient world of fashion.