The Love-Lock Charm: Folklore and fashion
As inexpert on the subject of French fashion houses as I am, even I recognised the handbag of the woman passing me on the street as a Louis Vuitton. That was not what caught my attention though. It was, instead, the decorative chain running across its front, hung with keys and loveheart shaped padlocks. They looked very much like the objects I had spent the last few years researching – love-locks – but I could not be certain; I had only caught a brief glimpse of them. And so later that day I searched for “love-lock” on the Louis Vuitton website and quickly found what I was looking for: the “Twist MM LV Love Lock Charms handbag”. It is, the website explained, a handbag adorned with “a removable ornemental [sic] chain hung with locks, keys and other charms in silver and gold-tone metal.” Tellingly, there was no price. There was, however, a “You may also like” section on the webpage, featuring images of other Louis Vuitton handbags and accessories, such as keyrings, similarly incorporating love-locks into their names and designs. How had the twenty-first-century folklore motif of the love-lock become so wellestablished, both as a term and as a symbol, that it had been adopted by one of the most widely known luxury retail companies in the world? And what can this tell us, both about the establishment of the love-lock custom and about the relationship between folklore and fashion? These are the questions at the centre of this paper, which will begin by exploring the padlock’s history as a charm or pendant, before detailing the rise of the love-lock custom and consequent revival of the symbol within fashion.