A Silhouette Inspired By History
It was 2014, and Nicolas Ghesquière had just succeeded Marc Jacobs as creative director of Louis Vuitton. Eager to make a lasting impression with his first collection, Ghesquière embarked on a journey back to the luxury brand’s creative roots. Inspired by Louis Vuitton’s earliest travel trunks, he designed the Petite Malle, or ‘Small Trunk.’ A modern interpretation of Louis Vuitton’s most classic silhouette, the Petite Malle was the standout crossbody accessory of the Fall/Winter 2014 collection.
Considering Louis Vuitton’s rich history, it comes as no surprise that the Petite Malle is imbued with details from the French house’s earliest days. Despite this small, structured bag’s range of pattern and leather options, the Petite Malle is best recognized for one consistent motif: three floating X’s on the lower, right-hand corner. According to fashion lore, this small detail is an ode to Vuitton’s first custom trunk, as designed for the famous banker Albert Kahn. Three white X’s was Kahn’s trademark signature, ensuring that the outside world knew these unique trunks – designed with a striking red toile exterior – belonged to him. Today, this clever design remains a signature emblem of the Petite Malle bag.
The Beauty In The Details
At its core, Louis Vuitton is about master craftsmanship, and the intricate construction of the Petite Malle is a modern-day marvel. As reported by The New York Times, the Petite Malle is meticulously constructed by a dedicated team of thirty artisans in Ducey, France. Designed in the same fashion as Louis Vuitton’s full size trunks – with golden brass detailing, a calfskin leather trim, and signature LV engraved S-lock – the Petite Malle is strikingly complex.
Petite Malle Souple: The Trunk's Softer Little Sister
Transitioning perfectly from day to night – and worn seamlessly as a clutch or crossbody – sporting the Petite Malle is like wearing a piece of Louis Vuitton’s rich history on your shoulder. Various iterations of the Petite Malle have been designed by Ghesquière since its inception, often reimagined in bright colors and with unique embellishments. Most notable, for the Pre-Fall 2020 collection, Ghesquière launched the Petite Malle Souple: a trunk-inspired design that “features a compact, yet wearable new shape with a softer feel than its big, but little, sister.” Features like the riveted corners and leather luggage tag both preserve Louis Vuitton’s most classic house codes and infuse the bag with a modern spirit.