In strict chronological terms, the Noé is the second oldest Louis Vuitton bag. Its birth date of 1932 places itself at the start of an exceptional decade that saw the creation of other Louis Vuitton icons: the Speedy, the Alma and the Keepall. In spirit, however, the Noé is as young as any bag around, still tinged with the carefree air of those newly liberated women who wore short skirts, shorter hair and carried it – just so – swinging from their shoulder.
The story of its creation is the stuff of legend. Looking for a stylish way to transport his valuable vintages, a champagne producer placed a special order with Gaston-Louis Vuitton. He designed a timelessly simple bucket shape, which could hold four bottles upright and a fifth upside down, secured with a supple leather drawstring. He called the bag Noé – in reference, it is said, to the biblical hero who, when he left the Ark after the Flood, planted vines on the mountains of Ararat.
The original Noé was crafted from natural leather, pale gold like the champagne it was destined to carry, and light as its exuberant ribbons of bubbles. Since then, Noé has appeared in many guises – most famously, of course, Louis Vuitton’s emblematic Monogram canvas, which by the 1960s could at last be made supple enough to do justice to the bag’s generous forms. Today, Noé and its cousin Petit Noé can be found in a myriad incarnations, from Damier Azur to colourful Epi leather – each time different, yet still, somehow, the same.
And now there is a new version of the Noé: Noé BB. Irresistibly cute, unmistakeably contemporary, a diminutive reproduction of the original which comes with its own innovation: an extra-long shoulder strap that enables it to be slung casually across the body. In Monogram or Damier Azur canvas and candy-bright Epi, Noé BB is just waiting to be discovered by a new generation. Will it, one day, like its larger namesake, be handed down from mother to daughter, its distinctive drawstring symbolic of an enduring bond of elegance?
Noé, Petit Noé, Noé BB. The legend lives on. Noé forever.
Images via Louis Vuitton