Beyond the iconic Monogram canvas used to create must-have handbags and legendary trunks crafted since 1854, Louis Vuitton has ventured into virtually every luxury category in its 167-year history. But one collection in particular highlights the Paris-based brand’s commitment to showcasing global artisans: Objets Nomades, a curated selection of furniture and home accessories by designers from Hong Kong, Milan, London, and points beyond.
The result is a highly varied collection of artful, limited-edition pieces that puts an emphasis on both the beauty of handcraft and the unique visionary approach each artist brings to Objets Nomades, while also inspiring conversations about form and function in design. This is also a collection that unquestionably is best experienced in person at the brand’s boutiques, as the pieces transcend the somewhat simplistic idea of furniture and home accessories to stand on their own as works of contemporary art.
Next year Louis Vuitton will celebrate a decade since the house first invited designers from around the world to participate in Objets Nomades, which marries the individual aesthetics of each artist with the skills of the in-house craftspeople. “Having the opportunity to create innovations against the backdrop of Louis Vuitton’s long-standing heritage is exciting,” says Hong Kong-based designer André Fu, who created the Ribbon Dance two-person chair, a graceful statement that combines form and function. “The challenge has been to seek a conceptual expression of a sculptural place for two: a place articulated with the dynamics and fluidity of a floating ribbon that appears to dance.”
Many designs also honor the brand’s passion for travel, including Louis Vuitton’s iconic Bed Trunk, produced in 1874 for French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, which often serves as a touchpoint for inspiration. As a result, many works highlight nomadic crafts and lifestyles, though often in wholly subtle ways. For Andrew Kudless, a San Francisco-based artist and professor at the California College of the Arts, that translates to the Swell Wave shelf crafted of undulating oak, which is suspended using leather straps.
“I travel in order to experience new things: sights, smells, tastes,” notes Kudless, whose work can be found in the permanent collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the San Francisco Museum of Art. “As you travel, you are pulled between the appeal of the new and the comfort of home, between the rush of movement and the endless waiting, between the desire to go and the inertia of staying. I wanted the objet to resonate with these forces and represent a balance between all things.”
Selected by Louis Vuitton’s in-house Objets Nomades team, designers are often invited to participate precisely because of the global-meets-contemporary approach to their work. From their Treviso studio in northern Italy, Giorgia Zanellato and Daniele Bortotto conceptualized screens and lanterns inspired by craft first discovered in Mongolia and Siberia. “It came from the weaving, patterns, and typical motifs used in certain nomadic populations that use fabric and leather to build baskets, rugs, and other everyday objects,” the duo explains. “We used leather because it is an iconic material for [Louis Vuitton] and the Objets Nomades collection; the result is so detailed and well-worked, thanks to the house’s innovative techniques and craftsmanship.”
In Milan, design duo Alberto Biagetti and artist Laura Baldassari were inspired by the Adriatic Sea to create their Anemona table, a glass-topped, free-flowing sculpture crafted of leather in contrasting tones. “We thought about a table—the domestic object par excellence—because it brings people together; it is convivial and inspires the telling of stories and sharing of tales,” the pair notes.
While their styles differ, Objets Nomades artists agree that each project is not only a chance to work with the exceptional artisans within Louis Vuitton, but their collaborations also enable them to be showcased on a global stage. “Designing a piece for Objets Nomades meant we could combine our creativity with the brand’s savoir faire and values,” Zanellato and Bortotto point out. “For example, we were able to explore the potential of different leathers and their unique characteristics. The objet is the result of our experimentation in weaving and pattern processing; the form is the result.”
Working with the artisans in the Louis Vuitton workshops also was a highlight for each participating designer. “I often tell my own students that they will learn more from fabricators and materials than they will learn from me,” Kudless says. “As much as I can teach them, so much more is gained by talking with expert craftsmen and trying to make things themselves. There is no substitute for knowledge gained through working with your hands.”
That blend of curating a variety of creative visions and weaving each project through the house’s own handcraft ultimately positions Objets Nomades as a wholly unique proposition within the luxury market. “The fact that the company was able to not only sustain this level of innovation and commitment to craftsmanship over 160 years, but to consistently build on it and expand the business beyond the iconic luggage to architecture, fashion, and furnishings has been inspiring as someone who works between the worlds of art, design, and architecture,” Kudless adds. “When you see a Louis Vuitton product, you know it is well made and well designed. It’s the pinnacle of a success story.”