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 Ebene Neverfull Mm Excellent No Reserve100% Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Hand Bag Damier Leather Free Ship Rb725sLouis Vuitton Burgundy Patent Leather Large Bowler BagLouis Vuitton Brown Checkered HandbagLouis Vuitton Damier Ebene Speedy 30Louis Vuitton Taupe Slouch BagSmall Louis Vuitton Bowler Bag Patent LeatherAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Pm Tote Bag Authentic Louis Vuitton Belmont Damier N63169 24 Hour Tote Purse W/receiptAuthentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 35 Bandouliere Damier Ebene 2014Louis Vuitton Sologne Crossbody Handbag Great Pre-loved ConditionAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Totally MmLouis Vuitton Cognac & Color HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Michael Damier Graphite Laptop Travel Backpack BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Monogram Tote Handbag PurseAuth. Louis Vuitton Speedy 35 Monogram Tote Bag100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Alma Gm Bag Vernis Noir MagnetiqueAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Ebene BagLouis Vuitton Cream Hobo Purse *** Louis Vuitton *** Blue Navy Epi Leather Neverfull Mm Tote. Brand New Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Fuchsia Monogram Leather Shoulder Tote Bag$3100.00 New Authentic Louis Vuitton Alma Gm Pomme D'amour Red Vernis Bag PurseAuth Louis Vuitton Lv Speedy 35 Monogram Leather Hand Bag Ghw M41524 Vs30Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Pouch PouchetteAuthentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Gm Monogram Canvas Shoulder Hobo BagLouis Vuitton Hobo Bag White And Blue CheckeredLouis Vuitton Monogram Delightful Mm Bag - Near MintLouis Vuitton Favorite Pm Damier (ebene) Cross Body And Clutch9 Inch Large Leather Brown And Beige Louis Vuitton Hand Bag100% Authentic Preloved Louis Vuitton Trevi Pm Brown Damier CanvasLouis Vuitton Brown Damier Sauvage Pony Hair Lionne Bag100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Black Suhali Leather Lockit Mm Bag Xlarge Size100% Original Louis Vuitton Monogram Luco Bag Huge HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Alma Pm Monogram Blue Givre Vernis Satchel Hand BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Trevi Gm Damier Ebene Leather Shoulder Handbag Tote BagLouis Vuitton Speedy 30Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Mm Tote Shoulder Bag M40156Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote--like New!!!! No Reserve!!!Authentic Louis Vuitton Delightful Pm NewAuth Louis Vuitton Saumur 30 Cross Body Shoulder Messenger Bag Ghw M42256 Vs26Rise-on Louis Vuitton Monogram Keepall 60 Travel Strap Bag #202Authentic Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Epi Green Speedy 30 Boston Hand Bag M43004 Nr Louis Vuitton - Beautiful Blue Keepall 45 - Made In France - Rrp £ 1490Louis Vuitton Artsy Large Hobo GmLouis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Tote Extra Large BagAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Yayoi Kusama Red Shopping Tote Bag M40686 R3723 Louis Vuitton Artsy MmLouis Vuitton Delightful Mm- 100% Authentic, No ReserveLouis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Keepall 60 Bandouliere Luggage BagLouis Vuitton Brown Leather Laptop BagLouis Vuitton Leather Purse Brown100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Bag Neo Cabby Mm Hand Tote Bag Monogram Denim100% Original Louis Vuitton Monogram Speedy 30 With Dust Bag Lock Key$650. Authentic Louis Vuitton Paris Shoulder Purse Tote Lv Petit NoeNwtib 100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Lv Kusama Waves Neverfull Mm Limited EditionLouis Vuitton 2013 Handbag Mini Alma Bb Black Epi Bag + Shoulder StrapLouis Vuitton Black Monogram Denim Neo Cabby Mm BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Tivoli GmAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Monogram Jv14282Authentic €