A Guide To Vintage Luggage

My love of vintage luggage can be traced to my days running one of California’s finest luggage shops, El Portal Luggage in Century City.   It was a little Rodeo Drive under one roof - the things we sold were amazing.

El Portal had started as a 400 square feet store on Las Vegas’ Fremont street in 1936.  Their focus on selling only the best brands and merchandise meant by the end of the century they were an international operation with stores all over the world and 17 in California and Nevada alone.

 Mateo at El Portal Circa '99

Mateo at El Portal Circa '99

I had started with El Portal in their Cerritos, Ca location where we sold tons of Gucci and Louis Vuitton, before the brands decided to sell exclusively in their own boutiques. I went on to work with  El Portal in La Jolla while I studied at UCSD and after graduation found myself running their Century City Location.

Century City  was an exciting place to work in the 90’s. This was before The Grove opened and the mall was always packed. Every day it seemed that some celebrity or super star would walk in asking for their favorite brand of luggage.

And the brands were amazing!  Here’s an insight into just a few of them - if you ever come across one, snap it up immediately because quality, handmade luggage like this is increasingly rare nowadays.

Goldpfeil

 Goldpfeil Luggage

 

A competitor to Louis Vuitton - it was all made in Germany, they has such strict control of their production they fed their cows a particular diet because they wanted the hide to come out a certain way

Hartmann

 Hartmann Legal Attache

Was one of the oldest American Luggage Companies- they were very expensive, handcrafted in Tennessee - they used belting leather - an industrial grade leather that had a way of tanning itself the more it got used - it was super popular with lawyers - a status symbol for them to have a Hartmann attache going for anywhere between $500 up to $1,000

Zero Haliburton

 Zero Haliburton Luggage

They’d been around since the 30’s - they were crafted out of aircraft aluminum - they were popular with the gun collectors and drug dealers because they had such tight seals.  The problem was that they become so synonymous that the bad reputation started to impact on sales.  They were fun because they were customizable inside - you could custom cut the foam to fit technical equipment - cameras - and of course guns.  My favorite was a small gun case that ladies would use as purses.

Coach

 Coach Luggage from the 90's

Got famous for their simple and enduring styles and for being so durable - they used thick hides and all made in America.  You bought a coach bag and you’d be passing it down to your daughter due to the lifetime guarantee.  Of course they got bought out and production moved to China and quality declined but if you come across an American made vintage coach bag - buy it!

Ghurka

 Ghurka Luggage

I think they’re from San Francisco - just exquisite - the types of leathers they used were amazing with very simple but stunning designs.  You could get a pocket telescope and a wine bag carrier - top of the line as far as American leather goes.  Low production, hand made - and the quality of the hides was something unique.

Travel Pro Bag

 Travel Pro Bag

The company was started by an airline pilot that was tired of dragging his luggage around and in 1992 he came up with the idea of a vertical stick for air transport.  I remember seeing the first one that came into the shop - really really cheap quality - and yet - the fact that you could push the handle in and out - within two years it exploded.

The French Company

 The French Company

California casual luggage that was handcrafted here out of unique tapestries and fabrics.  The French Company was for a limited time the only company in America that was licensed to produce Louis Vuitton in America!   There was a time in the 90’s that the company was very popular with celebrities and Saudi Royals, every august they would come and always leave with tons of French Company custom made plastic covers to keep their luggage looking fresh

Today At Casa Victoria

 Vintage Luggage at Casa Victoria

To reflect my love of these beautiful items we started a vintage luggage section in the store two years back.  At the moment it is mainly The French Company and some vintage Samsonite but this section is growing and if you’re ever in the Silverlake area you should pop in and see what we have.

Get The New Vintage Email

Sent out twice a month with the latest vintage finds that arrive in the store