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 Vintage Monogram Canvas Bandouliere 55 Duffle Bag W. StrapAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Gm Damier Ebenetote Shoulder BagAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Monogram M40157 Ts3893Louis Vuitton 100% Authentic Monogram Speedy 35-m41524 - Purse-bag- Aud$1,340.00New Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Bag Fuchsia LiningAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Neverfull Gm Bag Beautiful! $4700.00 Authentic Louis Vuitton Mahina Xl Bronze Leather Shoulder Bag PurseLouis Vuitton Patent Monogram Vernis Houston Tote BagLouis Vuitton Damier Ebene Speedy 25 Brown Bag Purse 92420Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Damier Ebene Shoulder Bag Tote Bag 10077351Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Gm Tote Monogram Shoulder BagLouis Vuitton Damier Ebene Canvas Belem Pm BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Canvas Leather Shoulder Tote BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Palermo Gm Monogram Canvas Tote Shoulder Messenger BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Handbag PurseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Canvas Monogram Handbag Purse Shoulder BagGenuine Louis Vuitton Monogram Eva Clutch $1220.00 Authentic Louis Vuitton Popincourt Haut Monogram Shoulder Bag PurseAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Ebene Shoulder Bag Tote Bag 10077254Louis Vuitton Rubis Monogram Canvas & Leather Salina Mm Tote BagLouis Vuitton Damier Azur Totally Pm Purse Bag Shoulder Bag Handbag 94496Authentic New Louis Vuitton Montaigne Mm Shoulder HandbagAuth Louis Vuitton Saumur 35 Neverfull Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Set Monogram 6127jsAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Speedy 30Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Ebene Shoulder Bag Tote Bag 10077490Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Mm Tote Bag M40156 Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Shoulder Bag Tote Bag Brown 10077483Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Azur Shoulder Tote Bag White 10077191Authentic Louis Vuitton Alma Hand Tote Bag Purse Black Epi Leather M52142 6079jsLouis Vuitton Monogram Galliera Pm Hobo Shoulder Bag Purse Handbag Tote Louis Vuitton Monogram Stresa Pm Purse Bag Handbag 94885Euc Authentic Louis Vuitton Delightful Gm Monogram Tote Purse Hobo France100% Auth Louis Vuitton Palermo Pm Hand Tote Bag Purse Monogram M40145 Ts4099Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Sp0130 Neverfull Mm Shouldertote Bag N51107 R0727Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Pm Excellent Condition Mb1131Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Pochette Metis Bag And Matching WalletAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Florentine Tote Bum Bag Damier Set Ts3936Auth Louis Vuitton Agenda Pm Notebook Cover Neverfull Pm Hand Bag Set 6136jsLouis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Gm Tote New Large HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Gm Tote Shoulder BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Greenwich Pm Hand Tote Bag Purse Duffel Damier Ts3848Louis Vuitton Delightful Mm Monogram New Condition Retail$1390, Brand New With Box And Receipt Louis Vuitton Alma Pm Vernis Rose Ballerine Authentic Louis Vuitton Montsouris Gm Backpack Bag Monogram PurseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Tivoli Gm Monogram Canvas Leather Shoulder Tote BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Tivoli Gm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - FranceAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Shoulder Bag Tote Bag Canvas 10077295"louis Vuitton" Neverfull Gm Brown Monogram Shoulder Tote Bag/purseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Eva Damier BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Shoulder Bag Canvas 10077302100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Alma Hand Tote Bag Purse Damier N51131 Ts3869Auth Louis Vuitton Estrela Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Monogram M41231 Ts4112100% Auth Louis Vuitton Delightful Pm Shoulder Bag Purse Monogram M40352 Ts3899Authentic Louis Vuitton Eva Sophie Chain Hand Bag Pouch Damier N55213 Ts3885Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier EbeneAuthentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Damier HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - FranceAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Bag Cerise M41177 $1317Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Idylle Shoulder Bag Canvas 10077369Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Bag