Trunk shows

Last Updated: Sat, Dec 22, 2012 05:06 hrs

Swanky trunks in vibrant colours, different shapes and sizes are scattered across a well-lit, 1,500 sqft room in Jaipur’s Kartarpura industrial area. Standing tall and apart from the others is the gleaming “Bar Trunk”, made of luxuriant Italian leather and lined with suede shelves in cheerful orange. When closed, the “trunk” looks more like a small cupboard. It opens to reveal numerous shelves and compartments lit by LED lights, glistening with long-stemmed crystal wine and champagne glasses, trendy shot glasses and decorative ones for whiskey connoisseurs. A tray holds around 24 bottles of expensive spirits (presumably for display, not sale) with adjustable spacing; another tray is lined with accessories like chillers and shakers to spruce up the perfect martini. The trunk has wheels at the bottom along with a down connection, easy to plug in any corner of your home or office, and the extendable corian top can be used as a bar table. If you’re willing to dole out Rs 5.75 lakh, you can take it home — your very personal portable bar.

The Bar Trunk is one of the many quirky creations of Trunks Company Jaipur, founded by brothers Priyank and Paritosh Mehta, which has been making high-end bespoke trunks for the last 10 months. “The world is waiting to hear from India. International designers are coming to India, sourcing raw materials, and drawing inspiration,” says Paritosh Mehta. “We want to establish Trunks Company as an authentic Indian luxury brand,” he adds. This explains why the brand’s logo is reminiscent of the jaalis found across the palaces in Jaipur.

The Mehta brothers also run Attitudes, a company that manufactures and exports leather office furniture.

Trunks, till now, have been synonymous with Louis Vuitton — from erstwhile maharajas who ordered customised trunks from Paris to celebrities like Greta Garbo (her LV steamer trunk was recently auctioned for $37,500), Sharon Stone and Madonna, the luxury maison has loyal patrons in India and abroad.

While the owners of Trunks Company try to avoid them, comparisons with Louis Vuitton or Maison Goyard trunks (another famous French trunkmaker) are only natural. What gives Trunks Company an edge over its competition (apart from the lower price tag, between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 15 lakh, depending on the dimensions and features) is the sense of exclusivity that comes with every trunk — their customers, a niche segment of HNIs, well-heeled businessmen and celebrities, demand a high degree of customisation. Which is no two trunks look alike.

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Inside a 3,000-sqft factory in the same building, a handful of craftsmen are hunched over a wooden box. Under the direction of the company’s chief designer Livio Delesgues, the box will soon be transformed into a “Safe Trunk” (Rs 8 lakh). “Indians live in eternal fear of burglars. This is a safe and stylish way to store jewellery,” says Delesgues. What explains the stiff price tag, perhaps, is the raw material — the leather has been imported from Italy and France, while many of the high-tech locks have been brought in from Germany and Brazil. Each trunk, with its classic colour tones and customised brass handles, blends aesthetics, old-world charm and contemporary usage — the “Music Trunk” for instance, has built-in speakers, woofers, USB ports and even an iPod dock. Easy to move about, each trunk is fitted with wheels. “The wheels remind buyers that historically, these trunks are meant to travel,” smiles Delesgues.

Delesgues pulls out all stops to satisfy quirky customer requests. A few months back, a customer commissioned a “proper” storage container for his watch collection, worth nearly Rs 1 crore. And so after detailed discussions and emails, numerous visits to view samples, Delesgues designed a trunk outlined with teakwood, with suede drawers for accessories like cufflinks and even a watch winder. Each watch receptacle was lit up with an LED, adding an extra finish. The trunk sold for Rs 5.25 lakh. “For someone with such an expensive watch collection, the trunk is an investment, a utility that serves a purpose,” says Mehta.

While one industrialist ordered a bespoke trunk for his turbans, another from Lucknow demanded “a safe, dignified place” for his collection of over 20 rifles and shotguns. For the latter, Delesgues designed an intricate 1,300 kg-trunk equipped with handles for cleaning tools, German combination locks and an elaborate display for the rifles.

Each trunk is handcrafted by over 20 artisans from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, requiring around 100 hours of workmanship. The Bar Trunk is clearly their most popular creation (they have sold/received orders for over 15 in 10 months, the most expensive one sold for Rs 14 lakh). Also in demand is the chic Shoe and Bag Trunk (Rs 4.25 lakh). A buyer recently ordered a Trousseau Trunk (Rs 1.55 lakh onward) for her daughter’s wedding — Delesgues created one with traditional shelves for saris and silverware. Also being designed is a Poker Trunk with compartments for cards, poker chips and money.

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As Delesgues shows us around the factory, it is apparent that the French-Italian designer has adapted well to Jaipur. He has even picked up a few Hindi words. “Ready ho gaya trunk?” he asks one of the craftsmen. “We are trying to bridge the gap between furniture and fashion — these trunks are lifestyle statements. The craftsmen also know that,” says Delesgues.

Besides the small studio in Jaipur — which will soon give way to a bigger showroom for buyer meetings and sales — the trunks are being retailed currently through high-end furniture stores like Pinakin in Mumbai and RARO in Pune.

As we leave, Dhruv Singh, COO of The Ultimate Travelling Camp, walks in. His company organises luxury mobile camps across exotic destinations like the Kumbh Mela and Ladakh, and Singh plans to commission a few luggage carriers which “give a feel of the destination”. Standing amidst the intricate trunks, Singh exclaims, “I never knew stuff like these [trunks] were made in India. These pieces are mindblowing.”

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