A 1920s Louis Vuitton slogan once read, “Show me your luggage and I’ll tell you who you are.”
Nothing screams out the golden age of travel more than these beautiful hotel luggage label stickers that came in all shapes, sizes, colours and fonts. If they gave them out now, I’d probably just book a room in a hotel if they told me they would slap one of these beautiful design labels onto my luggage upon checking in.
Like this magazine, they make me think of a time when travel was a true adventure that could take days or weeks to even reach your destination. Once you finally arrived at your hotel (which you booked by actually making a phone call or maybe sending a telegram), you had earned that luggage label and its unique design. It was a stamp on your travel diary of life; a testament to say, “I was there.”
Today, I stumbled on a vast collection on Flickr called, Art of the Luggage Label. It belongs to Tom Schifanella, a Florida based graphic designer and ad exec, who loved buying vintage travel posters (mostly Art Nouveau to Mid Century Modern) until prices escalated in the late 1980s. Then one day at a local antique show, Tom realised he could pick up luggage labels – often miniature versions of the same travel posters he loved – for a fraction of the cost.
“They were usually considered an afterthought by dealers,” he explains. Tom started buying up all the labels he could find locally, scouting them on frequent trips to New York and London and trading duplicates with dealers and other collectors. “I quickly realised that you could amass a pretty significant collection on a limited budget and began to acquire as many as I could get my hands on,” he says.
Tom estimates his collection numbers somewhere around 7,000 labels, plus another 600 historic travel-related items dating from the 1900s to the 1960s. “During this time these labels were used by hotels as advertising and eagerly applied to steamer trunks, suitcases and all sorts of luggage by hotel staff, mainly bellhops,” explains Tom. Along with other bits of travel ephemera, Tom displays the bulk of his vast collection on his wonderful Flickr site, Art of the Luggage Label, which I’ve had a flick through and chosen a few favourites.