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V&A Museum hosts tribute to history of luxury ocean liners

August 1, 2017

Ocean liners, since their inception, have been bastions of luxury. Image credit: V&A Museum


London’s Victoria & Albert Museum will host a new series featuring works and artifacts from one of the most luxurious industries in history: luxury ocean liners.

The "Ocean Liners: Speed & Style" exhibit, opening Feb. 3, 2018, will feature objects from ocean liners and artifacts recovered from sinking ships, with many of the pieces of jewelry on display being created by luxury brands that remain in operation nearly a century later in many cases. The Victoria & Albert's exhibit will also display one of the largest, intact fragments from the Titanic's first class lounge.

Ocean liners

Ocean liners, especially in their heyday at the beginning of the 20th century, were some of the most luxurious modes of travel the world had ever seen.

These massive ships were brimming with fine art, prestigious guests and high fashion.

The V&A Museum in London is celebrating this long history of luxurious travel with an exhibit that takes a look back at the culture and aesthetic of ocean liners and how they have evolved from the early days of Cunard's Queen Mary and the Normandie, to the modern luxury ocean liners of today.

A Cartier tiara recovered from the Lusitania. Image credit: V&A Museum

Among the exhibits, visitors to the museum will see relics of the brands that catered to the wealthy travelers of early ocean liners.

For example, one piece on display at the V&A is a Cartier diamond tiara that was recovered from the Lusitania as it was sinking in 1915.

Other artifacts include the Christian Dior suit worn by actress Marlene Dietrich as she arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary in 1950 and a Lucien Lelong couture gown worn for the maiden voyage of the Normandie in 1935.

Luxury travel
From the early days of the ocean liners until today, luxury has been an integral part of the entire experience. Ocean liners were billed as majestic experiences for the richest and most prestigious members of society to be borne across the waves on massive ships and catered to them with music, gourmet food and more.

This relationship continues today.

For example, luxury cruise line Cunard is encouraging 2017 bookings through a stylish film capturing its “Everything you wanted, nothing you expected” mantra.

A wooden panel from the First Class Lounge of the Titanic. Image credit: V&A Museum

Cunard’s film of the same name takes viewers through the experiences she may have while onboard its cruise ships. Broken down into three key themes, the film highlights time, space and a life less ordinary to underscore the experience had while cruising with Cunard (see story).

Other luxury brands have begun using cruises in their marketing materials as well, banking on the cruise aesthetic to sell a luxury lifestyle.

French fashion house Louis Vuitton extended the tropical vibes of its cruise 2017 fashion show by setting its corresponding campaign in the same locale.

The brand’s advertisement starred actress Alicia Vikander, who has become a frequent Louis Vuitton collaborator, as she played tourist in Rio de Janeiro. Like Louis Vuitton's previous cruise efforts, this campaign was primed to inspire wanderlust as it reinforced the brand's traveling spirit (see story).

As long as ocean liners still travel the world’s oceans, the connection between these ships and luxury will remain strong. V&A Museum’s new exhibit is a testimony to the bond between ocean liners and the luxury world and its enduring history.