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 Monogram Rayures Neverfull Gm Handbag Tote BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Gym Monogram Good Bv11292Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Mm & Dust Bag Excellent No ReserveNew Authentic Louis Vuitton Handbag Neverfull Mm Canvas Tote BagLouis Vuitton Artsy Mm Damier Azur Canvas & Leather Shoulder Bag With ReceiptAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Shopper Monogam Jv12397Louis Vuitton Monogram Coated Canvas & Leather Lockit Horizontal BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Handbag Monogram With Long Wallet ExcellentAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Sully Mm Shoulder BagLouis Vuitton Lot, Delightful Mm. Eva. Boetie Pm, Denim Gm Baggy, Wallet, SolognLouis Vuitton Artsy Large Gm! Mint Condition!!!! Priced To Sell!!!!Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Monogram Bv12580Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Vintage Tv12504100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Mini W/ebony Fabric Monogram Mini Lin Nr Louis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Canvas Keepall Bandouliere 45 Duffle BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Handbag100% Auth Louis Vuitton Chelsea Shoulder Tote Bag Damier Good Free Ship Rb516sLouis Vuitton Delightful Pm Monogram Handbag And Sarah Wallet Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Canvas Pegase 70 Rolling Suitcase Luggage BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Damier Louis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Canvas & Leather Keepall 50 Duffle BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Azzedine Alaia Alma Bag Limted Edition Rare Rrp £2000 NrAuth Louis Vuitton Alma Bb Monogram Vernis Pomme D`amour Red Handbag M91606Genuine Louis Vuitton Limited Edition Fleurs De Jais Speedy Seguins Bag 30Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Shoulder/toteAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Ebene Tote BagLouis Vuitton Brown Epi Speedy 30 Authentic Women's Hand Bag Purse (2292)Authentic Louis Vuitton Salina Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Damier Azur Ok Vtg Tv12486100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Gallieria Pm Damier Azur Purse Hobo Bag No Reserve!Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Hand Bag Damier Ok Tv12703100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Canvas Rivington Pm Shoulder Bag Nr!!!100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Duomo Hand Tote Bag Purse Damier N60008 Ok Jv12562Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Damier Azur Ok Tv12510Auth Louis Vuitton Siracusa Mm Shoulder Bag Purse Crossbody Azur N41112 Tv09241Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Monogram Jv11747Authentic And Very Nice Louis Vuitton Damier Shoulder/cross Body Unisex Bag.Authentic Brand New Louis Vuitton Ascot Damier Ebene Canvas Nomade Hand BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Delightful Gm Shoulder Hobo Bag Monogram Vintage Tv12533$2970.00 Rare Limited Edition Authentic Louis Vuitton Gray Deauville Handbag BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Palermo Pm Hand Tote Bag Monogram Good Vintage Tv12531Authentic Louis Vuitton Pegase 55 Travel Carry Hand Bag Purse Monogram Bv12208Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - FranceAuthentic Louis Vuitton Noir Black Epi Leather Brea GmAuth Louis Vuitton Pegase 55 Travel Carry Hand Bag Purse Trunk Monogram Jv11754Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Shoulder Tote Bag Damier Azur Vintage Tv11248Louis Vuitton Neverfull Azur Mm No Reserve!!!Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Coated Canvas Ribera Mini BagLouis Vuitton Galleria Gm- Discontinued Guaranteed AuthenticAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Good Free Ship Rb204kLouis Vuitton Neverfull Gm AuthenticAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm With Receipt100% Auth Louis Vuitton Pegase 55 Rolling Suitcase Carry Bag Monogram Rb531sLouis Vuitton Bronze Monogram Vernis Tompkins Square BagLouis Vuitton Brown Monogram Coated Canvas & Leather Alma Pm BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Galliera Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Vintage Tv12505Louis Vuitton Vintage Brown Monogram Canvas & Leather Chantilly Pm BagLouis Vuitton Delightful GmAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Handbag With Pouch FuchsiaAuthentic Louis Vuitton Galliera Gm Shoulder Hobo Bag Damier Azur Great Tv12507Authentic Louis Vuitton Lv Monogram Neverfull Pm Bag Tote ~vguc~