Trained as a luggage packer for wealthy Parisian families, Louis Vuitton opened his first store in Paris in 1854, soon after he had introduced a revolutionary new steamer trunk using leather and lightweight gray Trianon canvas. Before these flat-top trunks, travelers used round-top trunks, which deflected water, but could not be stacked. Vuitton's luggage was a success among world-traveling aristocrats, such as French empress Eugénie.

The now-renowned luxury goods company opened its first store in London in the 1880s. To combat knockoffs, it replaced the Trianon with beige-and-brown checkerboard Damier canvas, with a monogram reading "marque L. Vuitton deposee," meaning "L. Vuitton registered trademark." After Vuitton died in 1892, his son, George, took the helm, and led the company to international success.

George created the iconic Monogram gold-on-brown canvas with the quatrefoils, flowers, and "LV" logos. Based on Asian-inspired designs that were popular with Europeans in the Victorian Era, the design was launched in 1896 and patented globally. In 1901, the company introduced the Steamer Bag, a little piece of luggage meant to be carried inside larger trunks. Some consider it an early predecessor to the handbag.

In 1913, Vuitton opened the world's biggest luggage store in Paris, as well as boutiques around the world. The bags, recognized as status symbols thanks to their immediately recognizable Monogram print, got progressively smaller and more flexible, and in 1930, Louis Vuitton produced the Keepall, a smaller travel bag with two handles.

Its first popular handbag, the bucket-shape, drawstring-top Noe, was actually designed to hold champagne bottles when it was introduced in 1932. The 1930s Speedy, however, was designed as a purse, with a zippered top and heavy leather handles. Both featured the LV Monogram as their pattern.

World War II is a murkier period in the company's history. A 2004 book by Stephanie Bonvicini asserts that the Louis Vuitton company, under the leadership of his grandson, Gaston-Louis Vuitton, cooperated with Nazis while France was occupied by Germany during the war. But these allegations have not been made until recently.

In the 1950s, the Monogram canvas was redesigned as a more supple material for suitcases, purses, and wallets. By the 1960s, counterfeiters were going wild trying to copy this famous print, an issue the company has struggled with ever since...

The 1980s saw Louis Vuitton sponsoring its own yacht race, the Louis Vuitton Cup, and also expanding deeper into Asia. Its famed lightweight and supple Epi leather line appeared in 1985. Later in the decade, the firm consolidated with high-end liquor companies Moët Chandon and Hennessy to form luxury lifestyle behemoth LVMH.

In recent years, designers have had fun playing with the Monogram canvas, from making it smaller, as in the 1999 mini monogram line, to covering it with graffiti, as Stephen Sprouse and Marc Jacobs did in 2001. In 2003, Jacobs and Takashi Murakami came up with the Multicolored Monogram in 33 different colors on a white or black background. Murakami also invented the limited-edition Cherry Blossom pattern, which interspersed cartoon faces in pink and yellow flowers.

The company, whose travel bags are still made by hand, is popular with modern-day celebrities such as Elizabeth Hurley, Sharon Stone, Kanye West, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and the Beckhams.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Bag Lady University

Bag Lady University

Bag Lady University is the place to learn about handbag makers from Adrian's, which made Bakelite bags, to Whiting … [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Louis Vuitton Hampstead Azur Mm Bag With Original Receipt Rrp$2,000+Louis Vuitton Amethyste Purple Monogram Vernis Alma Mm Bag S/s 2014 New$1820.00 Auth Louis Vuitton Alma Bb Black Epi Electric Leather Handbag Crossbody$2960.00 New Auth Louis Vuitton Limited Edition Doc Pm Black Epi Naturel BagLouis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Tivoli Gm HandbagLouis Vuitton Coral Red Leather Essentiel Pochette Flap Bag Cruise 2014 NewLouis Vuitton Citron Yellow Epi Leather Alma Pm Bag NewLouis Vuitton Monogram Never Full Mm Handbag In Very Good ConditionAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Mm With Dust Bag Excellent No ReserveLouis Vuitton Bronze Monogram Vernis Tompkins Square Bag$2030.00 Authentic Louis Vuitton Audra Black Multicolor Handbag Bag PurseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Artsy Mm Shoulder Bag - M40249100% Authentic Preowned Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Trevi Pm Size BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Zippy Damier Ebene Canvas Clutch Wallet$2410 Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Trevi Damier Ebene Bag Pm Good Cond. No StrapAuth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Speedy 25 Boston Bag Purse N41534 NrAuthentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 35 Monogram Classic Bag - Must See - Sp0914Authentic Louis Vuitton Delightful Gm Shoulder Bag Purse Hobo Monogram Tv06247New Authentic Louis Vuitton Inclusion Gm Bangle Bracelet Beige Purple Red Gold100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Tote BagLouis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull PmLouis Vuitton Speedy 35 Monogram Authentic Brown Perfect Bag100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Hand Bag Purse Damier N41553 Bv13172100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Hand Bag Purse Monogram Graffiti Bv13173100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Damier Tv10959Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Mm Tote Handbag Shoulder Bag Shopper Purse Lv100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Damier Bv13659Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Pm Bag Hand Tote Shoulder Free Ship!Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Pochette And Coin Purse Pouch Neverfull SpeedyLouis Vuitton Damier Ebene Speedy 30 Bandouliere & Receipt & Organizer!Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Backpack With Lv Speedy 25 BagLouis Vuitton Monogramr Neverfull Mm Authentic Tote Shoulder Bag! (2408)Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Pm Authentic Tote Shoulder Bag! (2434)Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Damier Purse N51108 Bv013658Authentic *limited Edition* Louis Vuitton Griet Mirage Noir Lv Neverfull SpeedyLouis Vuitton Monogram Speedy 30 - Mif EucLouis Vuitton 100% Authentic Eva Clutch Damier EbeneAuthentic Louis Vuitton Pegase 70 Travel Carry Hand Bag Purse Monogram Bv13061Rise-on Louis Vuitton Monogram Speedy 30 Handbag Purse #342Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier ToteAuth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag M40156 NrVintage Louis Vuitton Leather Purse / Tote - Super Roomy!$1860 Louis Vuitton Galliera Pm Monogram Canvas Handbag Shoulder Bag No ReserveAuthentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 35 Damier Ebene EucAuthentic Louis Vuitton Alma Monogram Classic Bag - Must See - Ba0975Louis Vuitton Zippy Wallet Coin PurseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Sully Mm Handbag Purse Shoulder Bag100% Auth Louis Vuitton Eva Pouch Hand Bag 2-way Monogram Leather - Great Condi!Authentic Louis Vuitton Odeon Mm Monogram Canvas Shoulder Messenger Bag100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Hand Bag Purse Damier Azur France Sr0022Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - France100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Damier Tv11784Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Damier Bv13772100% Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Hand Bag Monogram Leather Free Ship Rb424sAuthentic Louis Vuitton Lv Monogram Keepall 45 Duffle/travel Bag W/padlock & Key~~auth 2014 Louis Vuitton Pm Alma Bag In Dune Vernis New In Box ~~Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram BagAuthentic Barely Used Louis Vuitton Eva Clutch/crossbodyAuthentic Louis Vuitton Brea Gm Blanc Corail Monogram Vernis Leather Hand BagRise-on Louis Vuitton Monogram Keepall 55 Travel Strap Bag #267