Louis Vuitton’s secrétaire bureau 2.0 (foreground) with its vintage predecessor.

Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

In July 1929—when the Roaring Twenties were still roaring—celebrated British orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski commissioned Louis Vuitton to design and produce a portable secretary. By then, the Paris luggage company, founded by French master trunk maker Louis Vuitton in 1854, had produced an impressive, if curious, array of specialty designs. The Bed Trunk, which contained a folding cot, was favored by 19th-century explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza; the Library Trunk was commanded by Encyclopædia Britannica to deliver its 29-volume 11th edition to customers; and the Shoes Trunk was requested by American opera diva Lily Pons for her ample collection of pumps.

Upon receiving Stokowski’s order, the design team—led by Louis’s son Georges at the company’s original workshop in the Paris suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine—set about reconfiguring the traditional malle, or travel trunk, to meet Stokowski’s needs. When opened, a desk swung up and perched on foldable legs. There were bookshelves, a typewriter compartment, and drawers large enough to hold sheet music. (There was no need for a baton; Stokowski famously started the trend of conducting with his hands.) While the exterior was enveloped with the luxury house’s traditional Monogram canvas, an ecru–and–burnt sienna jacquard with geometric and floral motifs and the founder’s initials, the interior was lined with soothing gray swallow Vuittonite, a waterproof material introduced by Louis in 1854 and later popularized for automobile luggage.

An archival sketch of the 1929 Secrétaire bureau, commissioned by conductor Leopold Stokowski.

Another original version of the Stokowski.

An original version of the Stokowski.

For many years, the Stokowski, as it became known, was one-of-a-kind. But it was such a smart and enviable design that the company eventually made it available for special orders, adding a compartment for a folding stool. It has remained in production ever since. Versions now reside in the company’s archives and in La Galerie Louis Vuitton, located at the Asnières-sur-Seine compound.

Coinciding with the 200th anniversary of company founder Louis Vuitton’s birth, the brand has introduced the Secrétaire Bureau 2.0, an update of the Stokowski with modern needs in mind. The desk is larger, to accommodate laptops, as are compartments for storage. There is a cable passage for efficient wire management, a “smart top” that keeps the trunk organized when closed, and a lid lining that can serve as a bulletin board. As with all Vuitton trunks, carpenters craft a structure made of three types of wood: poplar for framework; okoume, a light, resistant African wood, for the body and lid; and beech for decorative and reinforcing laths. The interior is available finished with varnished beechwood or straw marquetry. And like all specialty Vuitton trunks, it is made to order, price upon request. Delivery time: one year. At a time when remote working is increasingly the norm, this luxurious take is anything but ordinary. louisvuitton.com 

1854

Louis Vuitton pioneers waterproof canvas, originally offered in Trianon gray and encircled with iron slats (1879 version shown).

1872

Stripes—first red, then beige—begin to appear as a new brand signature.

1889

Georges Vuitton presents the Damier checkerboard design, developed by his father, at the World’s Fair.

1896

Georges creates the iconic LV monogram, a tribute to dad made up of three botanical/geometric motifs and his initials.

1996

In celebration of the Monogram’s 100th anniversary, Helmut Lang designs a DJ box.

2001

Marc Jacobs taps Stephen Sprouse for their graffitied (and now iconic) take on the Louis Vuitton logo, an innovation that would lead to collaborations with Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama.

2021

Louis Vuitton Men’s Artistic Director Virgil Abloh debuts his own watercolor variation on the Monogram, seen here on a skateboard trunk.