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    

100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Vernis Red Alma Bb Tote Bag With StrapLouis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Ebene Shoulder Bag Tote Bag 10076283Louis Vuitton Monogram Pegase 50 Rolling Luggage Suitcase Travel Bag 88710100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Salina Gm Damier Canvas Azur Women Handbag Tote BagLouis Vuitton Black Epi Leather Passy Gm BagLouis Vuitton Sully Mm Monogram M40587 Mint Condition Purchased Oct 2013New Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Mm Nwt (original Symbols Lining)Nwt Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Canvas Neverfull Mm With Dust BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - FranceLouis Vuitton Authentic Artsy Purse In Chocolate Brown Empreinte LeatherAuthentic Louis Vuitton Favorite Pm Damier Azur 3way Shoulder Cross Body Bag!!Louis Vuitton Epi Black Purse Handbag Tote Shoulder Bag 83465Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Pm Tote Shoulder Bag N51110$1130.00 Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Speedy Handbag Bag PurseLouis Vuitton Speedy Bandouliere Empreinte 25 GranatLouis Vuitton Authentic Damier BagLouis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Shoulder Tote BagLouis Vuitton Tambour Chronograph Q1121 Stainless Steel 41mm Automatic WatchLouis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Pm Authentic Tote Shoulder Bag Purse! (1176-1)Louis Vuitton Black Epi Leather Segur Pm HandbagAuth Louis Vuitton Trevi Gm Damier Ebene Hand Bag Shoulder Bag Brown 10075951Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Tote Bag Shoulder Bag Brown 10076007Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Keepall 55 Travel Duffel Bag LuggageAuthentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Neverfull Mm Hand Shoulder Set Monogram 5587jsAuthentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Monogram Handbag Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Gm Tote BagAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Vernis Rose Velours Fl4133 Alma Pm Ghw M91583 G80080Authentic Louis Vuitton Black Epi Alma Handbag PurseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Canvas Shoulder BagAuth Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull Mm Excellent No ReserveAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Sp0098 Tivoli Gm Shoulder Hand Bag M40144 R50145Authentic Louis Vuitton Reggia Damier Handbag W/ Box And Dust Cover 100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Totally Mm Tote Bag Damier Azur Canvas N51262Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Du3087 Eva Shoulder Bag Crossbody Pouch N55213 R50112Louis Vuitton Vintage Brown Monogram Canvas Cartouchiere Pm Crossbody BagAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Ebene Shoulder Bag Tote Bag 10076513Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Free Ship Rb1843sAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Shoulder Bag Tote Bag Brown 10076173Auth Louis Vuitton Marelle Sac A Dos Backpack Hand Bag Purse Monogram Ts3469Authentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 25 Damier Azur Hand Bag Canvas White 10076263100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Bag Monogram Canvas M40156Auth Louis Vuitton Eva Damier Azur 2way Bag Shoulder Bag Cross Body Bag 10075906Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Damier Ebene Handbag 100% Authentic100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Saleyamm Tote Bag Damier Canvas N51188Authentic Louis Vuitton Epi Indigo Alma Bb Crossbody BagLouis Vuitton Speedy 30 Damier Red Canvas ( Authentic ) Sd3142 *free Shipping*Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - FranceAuth Louis Vuitton Keepall 45 Epi Hand Bag Travel Bag Leather Brown 10076119Nwt Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Canvas Neverfull Mm With Dust BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Handbag Purse100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Bag Monogram Canvas M40156Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Empreinte Montaigne Mm - Excellent Condition! Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm, Damier Azur, Tote Handbag Shoulder Purse W ReceiptAuthentic Louis Vuitton Delightful Gm Monogram Shoulder Bag Tote Bag 10075346Louis Vuitton Mm Neverfull And Keychain Pouch Coin Purse Lv Louis Vuitton Brown Monogram Canvas Alize Poche Soft Travel Bag. No Reserve!Auth Louis Vuitton Sologne Monogram Multicolore Cross Body Shoulder Bag 10076244Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Ebene Shoulder Bag Tote Bag 10076512Louis Vuitton Delightful Mm Damier Azu- Brand New!