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    

Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Mm Ar0124 Shoulder Bag Fs Pre-ownedAuthentic Louis Vuitton Saleya Pm Hand Tote Bag Damier Azur N51186 16063js BtLouis Vuitton Used HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Brea Mm Indian Rose Monogram Vernis Leather Shoulder BagLouis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Gm 126538Authentic Louis Vuitton Noefull Mm 2way Hand Tote Bag Monogram Denim 16071js BtAuthentic Louis Vuitton Manhattan Pm Monogram Canvas Satchel Hand BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Eva 2way Chain Shoulder Bag Monogram M95567 16089js AAuthentic Louis Vuitton Lockit Hand Tote Bag Purse Monogram M40613 16091js BtLouis Vuitton Auth Monogram Canvas Turenne Pm Shoulder Bags Handbag Lv M48813New Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Wristlet / Clutch W. Receipt MonogramAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Hand Tote Bag Purse Damier N51105 14243jsLouis Vuitton Lockme Ii Bb Messenger & Cross Body Authentic Louis Vuitton Alma Pm Monogram Rose Velours Vernis Satchel Hand BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Clutch Pochette Milla Eva WristletAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Milla Mm Chain Purse Pochette Vi4018 Fs Pre-owned Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azul Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag 6i060030mBrand New Authentic $2700+ Tax Louis Vuitton Crossbody Chain Louise Mm Calfskin Louis Vuitton Monogram Palermo Gm 139586Louis Vuitton HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Keepall 50 Damier Ebene Travel Handbag Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Tote Bag Brown 6i060020mAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Brown Neverfull Shoulder Tote Bag 6h090500nLouis Vuitton Used HandbagLouis Vuitton Sully Mm Monogram M40587 Excellent Shape! W/paperwork!Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Handbag PursesLouis Vuitton Brown Monogram Canvas & Leather Keepall 45 Travel Bag100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Pochette Metis Monogram Crossbody Bag Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Mm 139703Louis Vuitton Neo Cabby Black Denim Noir Monogram Shoulder Bag HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Summit Drive Amarante Vernis Leather Tote Hand BagAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Damier N51105 Ts13399 RkAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - FranceLouis Vuitton Neverfull Gm **excellent Condition**Authentic Louis Vuitton Alma Hand Tote Bag Purse Damier N51131 Vintage 15802js AAuthentic Louis Vuitton Tote Bag Browns Damier 104606Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Bosphore Cross Body Bag Mi0056 Fs Pre-ownedAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Tote BagAuth Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Hand Bag Monogram × Grenade V Line M41533 16110js K100% Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Gm Tote Hand Bag /409Authentic Louis Vuitton Alma Pm Monogram Dune Beige Vernis Satchel Hand BagLouis Vuitton Brown Cipango Gold Epi Leather Speedy 25 Top Handle BagM3577 Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Ca5007 Griet Shoulder Bag M55210 GhwAuthentic Louis Vuitton Alma Gm Black Epi Leather Satchel HandbagAuth Louis Vuitton Saint Cloud Gm Cross Body Shoulder Bag Epi Black 15886jsLouis Vuitton Purse Brea Mmm90106 Monogram Vernis Leather Anethyste Shoulder BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Tote Shopper Shoulder Bag - France**authentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 25 Damier Azur Canvas Boston Bag Handbag 2007Authentic Louis Vuitton Galliera Monogram Shoulder Bag, UsedLouis Vuitton Alma Pm With Sparkling Gold Sequin Monogram100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote BagLouis Vuitton Sac Chien 40 Dog CarrierAuth Louis Vuitton Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Neverfull Mm Brown 6h120140mAuthentic Louis Vuitton Luco Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Purse M51155 Ts13510 AAuthentic Louis Vuitton Hand Bag Alma M51130 Browns Monogram 104610Authentic Louis Vuitton Keepall 60 Luggage Bag W/strapAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram M40156 Ts13122 ABeautiful Louis Vuitton Tivoli Gm Louis Vuitton Monogram Speedy 30M3566 Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Sp5007 Tivoli Gm Shoulder Hand Bag M40144