Throughout the 20th century, this secretive French malletier created luggage for discerning travellers from Coco Chanel to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Amelia Hungerford steps into the world of Goyard.
Jean-Michel Signoles began his love affair with the French brand Goyard as a collector in 1974, amassing a collection of nearly 700 trunks, suitcases and bags that embody the glamour of travel, as well as the privately owned company itself in 1998. Throughout its history, the House of Goyard has been a name that whispers luxury. At its 20th-century peak, the maison had boutiques in Biarritz, Bordeaux and Monte-Carlo, a pet accessories line known as Chic du Chien, and a clutch of awards in celebration of its creativity. Even now, with Signoles at its helm, Goyard has retained an air of mystery. It may have new boutiques across Europe, Asia and the Americas – and an Instagram account – but the maison eschews marketing and ecommerce. Its focus remains entirely on creating exceptional luggage, handbags, briefcases and accessories that celebrate French savoir-faire and elegance.
Signoles’ fascination was piqued upon seeing the Goyard shopfront at 233, rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, a wood-panelled relic from the 19th century. It was in this store in 1845 that a young apprentice, François Goyard, started his career at Maison Martin, a crate-packer and trunk-maker of note. He honed his craft under Pierre- François Martin and his successor, Louis-Henri Morel, before taking over the company, then changing its name – and direction – in 1853. It was François’ son, Edmond, who created the signature Goyardine canvas in 1892. The jacquard pattern references the family’s historical occupation as log-drivers in Burgundy, using dots to evoke the firewood they transported along canals. When other trunk-makers were using linen, Edmond looked to the hard-wearing but soft waterproof cotton and linen mix sported by his ancestors on the rivers.
Stories from the archives
The Goyard client records are full of illustrious names that have added their own flair to the coveted trunks, suitcases and bags. Take the trio
of trunks that accompanied Cole Porter on his world tours. Although the black Goyardine is the signature of the Maison, the light-blue and navy stripes are pure Porter, bright and bold as one of his Broadway-ready hits. Marilyn Monroe’s suitcases and hatboxes, in contrast, are muted and feminine in white maroquin with gold geometric accents. This fine goat skin had never been used to cover trunks before, creating a pared-back aesthetic that would be copied into the 1960s, along with Marilyn’s style. Coco Chanel also opted for an unusual choice – black leather – for her trunk, adorned with golden fixtures and stripes of red and silver, while her successor, Karl Lagerfeld, chose a classic three-piece for his first Goyard order in 1972. Open the unassuming trunk of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and you’ll discover a portable writing desk, complete with typewriter and bookcase. French tennis legend Suzanne Lenglen was such a style icon that she had her own uncluttered, modern canvas design, discontinued after her death in 1938. And when it comes to travelling in style, few did it with more panache than the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who commissioned an array of trunks, as well as Chic du Chien accessories, between 1939 and 1986.
This article appeared in volume 28 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.