Louis Vuitton is an really iconic brand, whose designs have remained trendy and in fashion for over a century. It is a revered luxury brand, that is an icon and staple of good taste. Whether on the runaway or in the most common places, you can see the instantly recognizable brand that signifies luxury, class and most of all style. The Louis Vuitton monogram stands today as one of the most easily recognizable logos. The brand that was created in 1854, and is now 200 years old, making it the third oldest luxury brand to still be used today. Only Hérmes and Cartier, which were created around the first half of the 19th century are still in business today.

Early beginnings

Born in 1821 in Anchay, a small village in Eastern France, Louis Vuitton was the son of a
modest family. His father was a farmer, and his mom was a milliner, perhaps that is where he
got his inspiration to design accessories. Despite his modest upbringing, his parents made sure
to pass on the right values and teachings to young Louis Vuitton. Hard-work, persistence and a will of steel were some of the character traits that helped shape young Louis Vuitton’s personality. Although his parents had limited resources, they focused on passing all of the knowledge and enriching their son with the best qualities they could. Young Louis Vuitton would soon deal with one of the most challenging losses anyone can bear. When he was just 10 years old, his mom passed away. His father quickly remarried, and rumour has it that his stepmom was so unpleasant to him, that it was one of the reasons he would soon move somewhere else.

Anchay in Eastern France, was nearly 300 miles away from Paris. At only 13 years old, the boy young Louis Vuitton decided to hit the road, heading to Paris by foot. He would pick jobs along the way, and earn enough money to sustain himself. He finally arrived in Paris when he was just 16. A young boy from a small village, Louis Vuitton could not believe his eyes, when he saw all the industrial plants, and just around the time of the first trains.

Louis V the apprentice

Louis Vuitton was soon looking for a job. He wasn’t sure what kind of job he should choose, but
he noticed people were starting to travel. The invention of the train also made it possible for long distance travel to become common and widely available. He noticed a workshop in a corner street, where a man was working with large wooden boxes. He gained enough confidence, and knocked on the door. The older gentleman inside noticed, and opened up the door. Little did he know that his young man would be such an influential creator or hand luggage that would endure for centuries. Monsieur Maréchal ran this little workstore where he created luggage for wealthy clients.

Monsieur Maréchal instantly offered young Louis Vuitton an apprenticeship, where he would teach him all about this new craft. At the time, people would travel either by carriage, or train or boat. So most of the baggage would be sturdy and made essentially of wood. During several years, Louis Vuitton would perfect itss craft of building luggage boxes that would be used for traveling. He quickly gained the attention of Monsieur Maréchal, who passed along all of his teachings. He would design and build trunks and luggage of any size, to fit every customer’s needs. Louis Vuitton soon started making a name for himself, as one of the best and most ingenious designers and builders. Soon all of the wealthy customers wanted Louis Vuitton to build their luggage. His fame and recognition was such that when Napoleon became Emperor of France, his wife Eugenie de Montijo hired Louis Vuitton as her personal luggage designer and builder. Just like that Louis Vuitton went from being the favorite craftsman of many affluent and wealthy families, to being the number one luggage maker of royalty and noblemen.

 

Starting the brand

Louis Vuitton was now in high demand. Customers from all over would come and ask him to
design and build luggage according to their requirements. It was then that Louis Vuitton decided to become an entrepreneur, and start his own company bearing his own name. He was now a
highly respected craftsman that was held in high regard by all of his customers. In 1954, Louis
Vuitton had just married his wife Clemence-Emilie Parriaux and in that same year, he opened
his workshop in 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines – marking the start of the Louis Vuitton brand.
Louis Vuitton initially took the same business model that Monsieur Maréchal taught him. He
received each customer’s requirements, and tried to build luggage that would fit their needs.
Louis Vuitton soon realized that this method of working was taking too long, and it would always require new designs for each customer. So he decided to create a standard design that would fit most of its customers’ needs. The trianon canvas trunk was one of his first model creations that went on to be produced in large quantities. It was the perfect rectangular design to carry in trains and in boats. It offered enough space to carry multiple clothing and items, and it was sturdy and irreverent. It was built mainly out of wood, and had a grey colour. They were also easily stackable.

Due to being easily copied by competitors, Louis Vuitton decided to experiment with other
colours and fabrics. The trianon canvas trunk evolved from grey into a beige and red stripe
design that was more difficult to copy by other manufacturers and made it even more irreverent.
It is incredibly interesting to see how the human psyche does not seem to change despite an
almost 200 year difference. Today Louis Vuitton is one of the most counterfeited luxury brands,
with certainly more fakes on the market than authentic ones. The same was also true in 19th
century Paris.

Louis Vuitton expands and its Designs

The demand for his luggage was such that its workshop in 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines was now too small. His new standard design also allowed him to produce more items, and make more sales. In 1859, Louis Vuitton decided to look for a larger workshop, where he could also set up some machinery to help with his work. Louis Vuitton settled in Asniere, a suburban area of Paris, where he would build a larger workshop and it would also be his residence. Louis Vuitton also hired 20 new workers to help him with all the orders. To this day, Louis Vuitton still has ateliers in Asniere where workers still craft some of the most iconic luggage to ever be created.

In 1876, the initial trianon canvas design was getting old, and customers complained about damage on the wooden sides of the trunk. Louis Vuitton decided to reinvent his early design, and build a much more durable and fashionable trunk. He came up with the rayee canvas design. It took inspiration from the stripes, and added some metal protection on critical areas. Beige and brown were the chosen colours for this new design. He also included some latches that prevented the luggage from opening during travel.

Louis Vuitton Continues to innovate

No matter how much Louis Vuitton tried, many craftsmen still counterfeited his designs. This
pushed Louis Vuitton to constantly innovate and come up with different ideas. Louis’s son,
George Vuitton, was an ingenious young man, and he was actually responsible for the creation
of the first locking system to be used in a Louis Vuitton luggage, in 1886. After many of his
customers complained that the luggage was easily opened by robbers on long boat and train
trips.

Together son and father they created a new design, the damier canvas. This is where some of the brand’s iconic design starts to appear. Damier is the pattern that is easily recognizable as the Louis Vuitton pattern. At the time in 1888, when the design was first introduced, it had two colour schemes. The rare white and dark red, and the more common dark and light brown. The design also featured his George Vuitton’s lock design, which is still in use today.

George would later challenge Houdini to do one of his eternal magical tricks, escaping from a Louis Vuitton bag. George Vuitton was so confident of his design, that he risked the potential damage to the Louis Vuitton brand, if Houdini actually tried and completed the challenge. Houdini never accepted the request, and he certainly tried the lock before. Around the same time, in 1885, Louis Vuitton opened his first shop outside of Paris. London, a well known luxurious city was the home of his new shop. The prestigious Oxford Street was the chosen location, and it allowed the brand to become well known all throughout England.

George Vuitton Takes Over

Like father, like son. This common expression is certainly true in this story. George Vuitton was educated with the same principles and discipline that his father was taught. Louis Vuitton eventually passed away in 1892. George took over the company and decided to continue his father’s legacy. He is responsible for making Louis Vuitton what it is today, expanding the brand outside of France.

George Vuitton was responsible for creating the prestigious LV monogram that we know today. In 1896 he created the Monogram Canvas design, which featured the monogram, and resembles some of the most recent Louis Vuitton designs. The monogram was also an easy way for George to completely eradicate the counterfeiters, as it was patented. It also included some flower motifs, and it was George’s creation to honour its father’s legacy.

20th Century Louis Vuitton

By the 1900’s, Louis Vuitton had over 100 people working in the Asniere workshop. George Vuitton kept his father’s innovative spirit and continued to work on new designs. After some customers requested smaller bags to be easily carried, he designed the steamer bag. This would fit into a larger trunk and it would allow customers to travel in between places, with bags that were not so heavy.

George Vuitton also started experimenting with different colours and shapes and launched the
Vuittonite Canvas design. Similar to older designs, and the building materials were also similar.
This design differentiated itself on the colours and tones used. Some of the most extravagant
include red, orange, black and yellow.

New Materials and New Designs

George Vuitton continues to experiment with new materials and designs. In 1930, a new design
emerged as the need to have lighter bags was increasing. The Louis Vuitton Keepall was a
lightweight travel bag, for travelers who were spending some days out of their home. It was
much more comfortable to travel with than the old trunks made mostly of wood. A smaller
version of the Keepall was also created, and named speedy for its more convenient use.

Audrey Hepburn was one of the biggest and first fans, she loved the comfortable and easily carried bag That offered convenience, style, luxury and prestige, all in a small carry-on bag. The french being french means that some things are only understood by them. This pretty much sums up the creation of the Noé bag in 1932. The first bucket bag, that was designed initially to be able to carry multiple champagne bottles. Around 1934 women had a longing for smaller carry-on bags, and that is when he created the Alma design, specifically for Channel. This compact and easy to carry bag was the perfect choice for everyday use, and it remains timeless to this day.

Second half of the 20th Century

George Vuitton eventually passed away, but Louis Vuitton’s legacy would be once again passed
from father to son. His son Gaston-Louis Vuitton took the reins of the company. During a time
where fashion and trends were changing at a fast pace. Gaston-Louis Vuitton was responsible
for constantly updating Louis Vuitton’s product line in order to suit the rapid changing fashion
trends of the era. Louis Vuitton was now much more than a travel bag company, the brand has
become synonymous with prestige, luxury, comfort and everyday use bags. In the 1960’s they
came up with the papillon model, a cylindrical shape design that is still used today. In 1970 Gaston-Louis Vuitton passed away, and his son-in-law Henry Racamier took over the company. This marks the era where Louis Vuitton became a widely worldwide brand. Recognized in the four corners of the Earth, with shops all over the world. In 1987, Louis Vuitton decided to join forces with other French luxury brands. Moet et Chandon and Hennesy, well established beverage companies that are also luxury brands decided to merge. Creating LVMH, a powerhouse of luxury brands that stretches worldwide.

Today Louis Vuitton still remains one of the most iconic and important luxury brands in the world. Its
rich history, with a deep family tradition has remained one of its differentiating aspects. Today
the brand is as big as it gets, and I doubt that young Louis Vuitton could ever have imagined the
impact he would have in the world.

This year it was also 200 years ago Louis Vuitton was born. A superstar of luxury bag brands and a true role model for all entrepreneurs out there who has a dream. This story tells us that no matter how hard it is, hard work and to belive in yourself will always pay off in the end and make your dream come true.

Happy birtday LV!

LOVE M