Luggage Labelling


"Travellers have always been proud to show off their worldly experience."

Whether it's fonts and graphic types or advertising and the imagery of the era, luggage labelling is a wonderful source of inspiration.

Representing a time when travel could take days or weeks to reach your destination, the luggage label wasn't merely proof of destinations visited, it soon became a visual travel diary.

Travellers have always been proud to show off their worldly experience. A study of antique travel scrapbooks shows that in the 1880s people made passable hotel labels out of cut letterheads and other printed paper items. The most common representation of an early hotel labels often depicted a line drawing of a building printed in black on white or coloured paper. These simple yet effective tags became popular and hotels and travel operators soon realised the value in advertising this way. It wasnt long before steamer trunks, suitcases and all sorts of luggage were covered in labels applied by hotel staff the world over, ensuring a safe journey for their guests essential items.

During the 1890s the graphic design of the labels evolved very little but advances in print application meant more sumptuous colours, glossy finishes and even foiling for the high-end traveller. With changing times and the advent of the Art Nouveau movement new styles started to appear. The link between posters and labelling became apparent. Evolution in paper-making and label papers within Europe meant graphic styling became more popular and would be seen on most paper items, including the humble hotel label. In the early 1900s independent label companies started to form, this gave customers more scope with imagery. Self-adhesive or gummed labelling meant your sticker would stand the test of time and travel.

Nowadays you will be hard pushed to find a half decent luggage label. Certainly nothing emblematic of your journey, the golden age of travel has changed. Journeys are now completed in hours and bar-codes, digital printing and RFID tagging has replaced these iconic graphical representations.

If you're serious about your luggage labelling we'd recommend the book World Tour: Vintage Hotel Labels from the Collection of Gaston-Louis Vuitton. A 1920s Louis Vuitton slogan once read, “Show me your luggage and I’ll tell you who you are.”

See a few more of our favourites here

Words by L.Carless