At age 14, Louis Vuitton set off on foot from his hometown of Anchay in eastern France. Two years later, he found himself in Paris, where he began apprenticing as a trunk maker and packer. And 17 years after that, in 1854, the young malletier opened his own luggage and packing shop near the Place Vendôme. Vuitton’s flat-topped canvas steamer trunks, designed to be stacked one on top of the other, marked a revolutionary departure from the dome-lidded and inclined cases of the day, and the house soon became known for its standing wardrobes and leather travel goods. Along with trunks, it also designed custom vanity cases to hold champagne, tea services, jewellery, perfumes and board games from chess to backgammon.
At the same time, on the other side of the world, mahjong — a Chinese game of skill and luck played with dominolike tiles — was emerging in the Yangtze River Delta. By the 1920s, the game had become popular in America, enjoyed by the likes of President Warren G. Harding and at Hollywood soirees. In the 1950s, Vuitton’s maison created its first mahjong travel trunks: slim, rectangular malles, lined in satin, with interior compartments to hold the game’s tiles, sticks and rulers.
The brand’s latest mahjong vanity set is trimmed in natural cowhide and gleaming brass fasteners, with a monogrammed canvas exterior that unbuckles from the top to reveal a six-drawer vanity with a deep emerald green lining. Tucked inside the trunk’s compartments is a complete mahjong set — 144 tiles, four wooden rulers, dice and a wind indicator shaped like the brand’s iconic floral logo. The intricately carved tiles, topped in composite stone and backed in American walnut, are hand-painted with colourful patterns for suits and honours that also riff on the house’s signature four-petal botanical motif. Streamlined yet timeless, the trunk evokes a sense of nostalgia for an era when everything had its place.