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 Canvas & Leather Bosphore Pochette Crossbody BagNew 100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Eva Clutch Cross Body Bag!100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Empreinte Bandouliere Speedy 25 Infini 100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Totally Mm Shoulder PurseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Multi-color Black Speedy 30 Handbag Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas & Leather Sac Shopping Tote BagLouis Vuitton Vintage Black Epi Leather Keepall 55 Duffle BagLouis Vuitton Monogram Canvas & Leather Batignolles Horizontal BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Handbag - New100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Empreinte Bandouliere Speedy 25 EarthAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Artsy Mm Tote Bag Handbag Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Handbag Purse Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram ToteAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Classic Shoulder Bag Tote City BagLouis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Canvas & Leather Keepall 60 Duffle BagLouis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier N51105Authentic Louis Vuitton Totally Pm Damier Azur Tote HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Speedy 30 Handbag - Excellent Condition$1500 Louis Vuitton Ebene Damier Alma Pm Handbag Auth Louis Vuitton Epi Alma Hand Bag W/lv Padlock & Key,sleeper - BlackLouis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Pochette Cosmetic Pouch Wristlet Mprs - AuthenticatedAuthentic Louis Vuitton_westminster Gm Damier ToteAuthentic Louis Vuitton Tivoli Gm Monogram Canvas Bag PurseLouis Vuitton Artsy Mm Handbag (damier Azur Canvas) 100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Speedy 30 PurseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Alma Classic Monogram Bag With Original Dust Bag100% Auth Louis Vuitton Trevi Pm Bag & Matching Coin Purse Damier CanvasLouis Vuitton Monogram Palermo Gm Lv Canvas Tote Handbag _4 48710100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Large Shoulder Bag Authentic Louis Vuitton Portobello Gm Shoulder Bag Damier CanvasAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Discontinued!Authentic Louis Vuitton Batignolles Horizontal Tote Bag!!Louis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Canvas & Leather Keepall 45 Duffle BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Speedy 30 Bag Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas & Leather Gm Bucket Tote Bag With PouchAuthentic Monogram Louis Vuitton Favorite Pm!! Great Casual And Evening Bag!!Louis Vuitton Tapage M65090 Bag Charm ~ Key Chain _4 48697Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote BagBrand New Authentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 35 Bandouliere!!Quality Classic Louis Vuitton Roses Ladies HandbagLouis Vuitton SpeedyAuth Louis Vuitton Canvas Azur Pochette Hand Bag / Excellent UsedLouis Vuitton Bandouliere Speedy 35 Monogram Nwt Lower Reserve More Pics ComingPre-owned Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Good ConditionLouis Vuitton Monogram Canvas & Leather Sac Plat Tote BagRise-on Louis Vuitton Monogram Keepall 55 Travel Strap Bag #222Auth Louis Vuitton Galliera Pm Shoulder Hobo Bag Damier Azur Free Ship Tv04806Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Well UsedAuth Louis Vuitton Cruiser 40 Travel Hand Bag Monogram Free Ship Good Bv04791100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Popular Hand Bag Speedy 30Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Speedy 35 Authentic Women's Hand Purse Bag! (971)Louis Vuitton Manhattan Gm Monogram Authentic Ladies Hand Bag! (k72)Auth Louis Vuitton Epi Speedy 25 Hand Bag W/lv Padlock & Key, Sleeper100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull Gm Large Tote Bag Auth Louis Vuitton Artsy Gm Shoulder Hobo Bag Monogram Free Ship Euc Tv04859Louis Vuitton Delightful Pm HandbagLouis Vuitton Amarante Vernis Alma Mm!!Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Bag Monogram Free Ship Good Bv04874Louis Vuitton Monogram Cabas Piano/authentic Ladies Tote Shoulder Bag! (689)Louis Vuitton Speedy 35 Damier Azur Authentic-great Condition!