Right after it opened, the glittering new Moynat boutique easily shot to the top as one of the city’s glamorous shopping addresses. Bernard Arnault, CEO of the luxury behemoth LVMH, acquired the venerable luggage company last year with the clear intention of revamping the once-iconic manufacturer much as he did with Louis Vuitton in the 1990s.

Moynat Malletier (trunk maker) was founded in 1849—before both Louis Vuitton and Goyard—when an enterprising young woman named Pauline Moynat teamed up with the Coulembier trunk manufacturers to capitalize on the popularity of train and boat travel. The company enjoyed a huge success because its innovations matched the times: Train cases were lightweight and precisely measured to slide under seats; instead of vulnerable leather, steamer trunks—often stowed in humid ship holds—were covered in sturdy, moisture-resistant linen canvas treated with gutta-percha, an early latex.

With the advent of automobile travel, the trunks were ingeniously curved to fit the contours of a motorcar’s roof, or opened laterally for easy access. Moynat’s success was fueled both by her talent for anticipating travelers needs and her ingenuity—one reason why Ramesh Nair, the designer behind the new Moynat, has gone to great lengths to incorporate some of her signature flourishes, from the subtle curves of the women’s handbags to elegant brass T-locks on men’s briefcases and false bottoms for hiding sensitive documents.

Destined to be one of Moynat’s key pieces, the reversible two-toned tote in Taurillon, a supple and durable bull-calf leather, comes in bone/coral or mocha/taupe, and can be easily reversed with no discernable difference. With two handle lengths, the bag is simple, lightweight and durable. The serigraph tote, made of a waterproof cotton/linen blend and reminiscent of Goyard’s wildly popular version, is another instant classic. Men’s briefcases are brilliantly engineered with one convex side to accommodate a wide stride without banging against the leg. Small leather goods are lined with a burnished orange leather that compliments all of the company’s other colors. Every item is masterfully and discreetly crafted—top quality without instant logo recognition, in line with the times.

Prices are commensurate: totes start at about $900, custom luggage can easily exceed $20,000. A generous silk scarf ($400) or keychain ($220) are nice consolations for those who want a little piece of the glamour without spending a fortune. Boutique locations can be found on the Moynat website.

348 rue Saint Honoré, 1st. 01.47.03.83.90. website

Originally published in the March 2012 issue of France Today

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