Luggage labels… pretty? No - we’re not talking about those flimsy, messy pieces of paper that are wrapped around your suitcase’s handle by the check-in staff.
We’re talking about those arty travel stickers of yesteryear, those vibrant labels depicting far-flung places, elegantly stuck onto a well-travelled, brown leather suitcase.
Back in the days when travel used to be glamorous, an assortment of exotic luggage labels dotted over your travel trunk documented all of your adventures and epitomised the true nature of luxurious escapism.
Why Were Luggage Labels Used?
Relics of the golden age of travel, these bright and bold stickers adorned every high-class traveller’s case from the 1900s to the 1960s. But what was their purpose?
Advertising With Luggage Labels
Originally designed by the highly esteemed ‘Grand Hotels’ of the time, luggage labels made attractive advertisements for prestigious establishments.
A clever marketing ploy, these iconic labels ensured the hotel’s image travelled across the world on the crème de la crème of travellers’ suitcases and thus seen by a global audience. Kind of like a retro, real-life Instagram feed, if you catch our drift.
As luggage labels were designed to attract international clientele for the world’s most glamorous hotels, no expenses were spared when it came to cutting-edge design.
Iconic Art Nouveau and Art Deco artists were commisioned to illustrate these eye-catching travel stickers. These included the Italian graphic artist Mario Borgoni, the famous 1920s Austrian artist Franz Lenhartwere and the Italian artist Filippo Romoli.
The labels conjured up exotic images and inspired travellers to visit fabulous, far-off places using a selection of diverse designs - from simple, yet bold, black and white images to vibrant, romantic paintings of a city’s delights.
Unsurprisingly, these artistic accoutrements became extremely sought after. Leather travel cases loaded with these beautiful advertisements became like travelling pieces of art.
Exotic labels from Brazil, Chile, America, Paris and India indicated how well-travelled and fashionable you were, as well as generating a talking point with your fellow explorers.
Conversations such as ‘Ooh, you’ve visited the Hotel du Louvre in Paris? You must tell me all the details darling…’ offered the perfect occasion to brag about one’s seasoned traveller status.
Not just aesthetically pleasing, luggage labels also had a functional aspect to them.
Many hotels sent their labels to guests in advance. This helped porters sort through the luggage on arrival at the dock or train station and ensured delivery to the correct hotel.
If the luggage was misplaced and the owner’s details lost, the luggage handlers simply cross-referenced the hotels in the area with the stickers.
Consequently, the guest’s belongings would be promptly sent to their correct destination. Ships, steam trains and aircrafts also got in on the act, with porters stickering traveller’s trunks according to their class.
What Happened to Luggage Labels?
Of course, this sort of frivolity doesn’t happen anymore. Blame budget travel, cheap Airbnbs and throwaway suitcases. Who’d want a Ryan Air sticker on their suitcase anyway? Not us.
Even the grandest hotels aren’t willing to pay esteemed artists to design luggage labels anymore. Why bother when a couple of promoted Instagram posts from powerful travel influencers promise to reach a wider audience? Even if luxury luggage labels did re-emerge onto the travel-sphere, they wouldn’t hang around for long thanks to fast fashion and cheaply made suitcases.
But yet, we’re still fascinated by these little vintage stickers that ooze a romantic nostalgia of bygone travel.
Collecting old-fashioned luggage labels has become a prestigious hobby for many explorers, whilst books such as ‘WORLD TOUR: Vintage Hotel Labels from the Collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton’ by Francisca Mattéoli, have ignited a passion for luggage labels within the Fash Pack.
Recreate the Magic
Although beautiful hotel labels are a thing of yesteryear, it is possible to recreate the glamour and romance of the golden age of travel today.
How? Vintage luggage labels can be found online, in thrift stores, at antique shows or car boot sales. Replicas and luggage label sticker books are a great alternative if you can’t get hold of original designs.
Start a collection, and whenever you visit a resort or hotel check your stash for a corresponding label and attach to your suitcase. Or you could cheat and attach any label you find…. we won’t tell – promise!
Before you transform your suitcase into a travel scrapbook, it’s paramount to invest in an exceptionally well-made design that will last a good few years. Once the suitcase is discarded, those pretty little labels are lost forever.
For the ultimate vintage-style luggage, choose retro-inspired designs. The authentically crafted leather cases from Jekyll & Hide, or the 60’s style, ridged aluminium hard-sides from Rimowa are perfect.
New Modern Ways to Track your Suitcase
One of the functions of luggage labels was to track your suitcase. Luckily, now there are more advanced ways to keep tabs on your luggage in the modern day. Maybe travelling in the millennium ain’t so bad after all?
Rimowa Electronic Tag Suitcases
The golden age of travel may be long gone, but the technological age sure has its advantages.
Not only can these futuristic cases be checked-in from anywhere in the world, but can also be electronically tracked from your phone. Being separated from your beloved Rimowa is enough to bring any traveller out in an unsightly sweat.
But now, thanks to the brand’s E-Tag technology, you're guaranteed to be reunited with your case after your travels – even if it does go walkabout. Phew!
The Tumi Tracer is a handy system created by Tumi to ensure lost and found bags are reunited with their owner. Each Tumi product has a unique 20-digit code printed on a metal plate.
The owner simply registers the code, along with their contact details, on the Tumi website. If the luggage is found, the Tracer team contacts the owner to inform them how to retrieve their product.
If your Delsey luggage is lost, simply search the database to see if it has been found.
Alternatively, a member of staff contacts the customer and connects them with the person who found it.
This free service is only available in certain lines, however, which include the CHATELET HARD +, CHATELET SOFT +, HELIUM AIR 2 and MONTMARTRE PRO collections, and the CHATELET, HELIUM, HONORE +, MONCEAU + and EXCEPTION collections. Don’t own a bag from those ranges? Not to worry, a unique serial number can be added to any piece of Delsey luggage for £8.50.