Pleasure pursuits: Alain Ducasse on vintage luggage

Words by
Sphere Life

5th January 2017

When he’s not overseeing his numerous restaurants across London and France, the Monégasque chef enjoys adding to his extensive collection of vintage trunks

Alain Ducasse was born in 1956 in southwest France and has been cooking since the age of 16. Among his many restaurants are three with three Michelin stars, including The Dorchester in London. He is also the proprietor of La Bastide de Moustiers in Provence. Later this year, he opens two new restaurants in France: Champeaux, a chic brasserie in Paris’s Les Halles neighbourhood; and Ore, a restaurant at the Palace of Versailles. He has been collecting trunks for the past 25 years.

The first piece I bought was from the Marché aux Puces in Saint-Ouen, Paris. Inside the lid, the previous owner had written the cities he had travelled to with the trunk. To me trunks represent a golden age of travel.

I now have more than 400 pieces, mostly from Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Moynat and Goyard. I keep half of them in my house in the Basque Country, ordering them in the way I might do with my books. If I put all my trunks together, they would stretch for 100 metres.

Alain Ducasse outside his rural inn La Bastide de Moustiers in Provence
Alain Ducasse outside his rural inn La Bastide de Moustiers in Provence

Alain Ducasse outside his rural inn La Bastide de Moustiers in Provence

I once flew from Paris to New York with a 100-year-old Goyard travelling wardrobe, which I used to transport my suits to the Viceroy Hotel. It was so big that I was charged the highest airfare possible and it also had to come on the next plane.

My favourite trunk is a Louis Vuitton vanity case designed by Sharon Stone that I bought in Cannes at the amFAR auction for HIV/AIDS research. There were only three made; it is a most beautiful piece.

The most unusual place I found one was in a car boot sale in the South West of France. Here among the humble bric-a-brac, I found an ivory and crocodile Hermès trunk.

Vintage trunks, including items from Bentley in London
Alain loves the artisanship, patina and diversity of Alain loves the artisanship, patina and diversity of vintage trunks, including items from Bentley in London

Alain loves the artisanship, patina and diversity of Alain loves the artisanship, patina and diversity of vintage trunks, including items from Bentley in London

If I hadn’t been a chef I would have been a traveller or an architect. Buying trunks is a bit of an addiction, but I have to be careful. I spend between 1,000 and 10,000 Euros per trunk.

I am fastidious about looking after them. They are kept in two different rooms. One is for the wooden framed trunks. The temperature is about 16°C and the humidity is 50%, to avoid the wood and fabric cracking. The other room, which has the same humidity, but a temperature of 20°C, is for the leather ones.

I have more than 400 pieces… if I put all my trunks together, they would stretch for 100 metres

I love the history behind each piece.  I have a Louis Vuitton suitcase from 1970, which was designed for travel in Africa. It was made from camphor wood, which repels insects. I also have some trunks by Louis Vuitton and Goyard that were specially made to be strapped on the back of the earliest cars. These are great fun.

I have had some specially made for myself by Goyard. I have a temperature-controlled, custom-made shoe trunk in which I keep my Alden cordovan shoes. I have another for my knives. I also have one that can store Michelin guides dating from 1900 all the way through to 2020. It weighs around 80 kilos.

What I love most about the trunks is the artisanship, the patina and the diversity. Each one is different. Today, design is a lot less varied; if you go to the airport the suitcases all look the same. In fact, the other day in Hong Kong, someone took my wheelie bag as it was identical to his. I should have brought one of my trunks!