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% Nwt Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Gm (older Model) Miu Sd4193 Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Mm Tote Shopper Handbag Purse Bag 73306Louis Vuitton Black Epi Leather Alma Pm BagLouis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Mm Purse, Zippy Wallet And Cosmetic Bag100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Red With Receipt Brand NewLouis Vuitton Authentic Neverfull Mm *no Reserve*Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull Gm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder BagLouis Vuitton Verona Pm Damier Ebene Canvas Bag Satchel Shoulder Bag AuthenticAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull Mm Tote ~ Pristine Condition~ Rare Louis Vuitton Cruise 2012 Flore Perforated Saumur Bag With Receipt $3,250Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Monogram Hobo Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Delightful Gm Bag Plus WalletAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Monogram M40156 Ts1080Louis Vuitton Neverfull Monogram Checkered Leather Brown Tote BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Damier Azur N51110 Ts1134*authentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Monogram Tote - Excellent Condition!!Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Delightful Pm *** W/dust Bag *** No Reserve!!!100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Damier Ts30$1130.00 Auth Louis Vuitton Wilshire Bleu Nuit Blue Vernis Bag Purse Handbag$1490.00 Authentic Louis Vuitton Amarante Vernis Rodeo Shoulder Bag Purse ClutchAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Monogram M40156 Ts1079100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Canvas Leather Neverfull Pm Shoulder BagLouis Vuitton Steeve Business Bag Men'sLouis Vuitton Sully MmAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Anne Plant Noir Ca0111 Artsy Mm Hand Bag M41066 U828***new & Guaranteed Authentic Louis Vuitton Totally Mm - Damier Ebene***Louis Vuitton Deep Rose Pink Tan Beige Monogram Vernis Alma Pm - AuthenticAuthentic Louis Vuitton Totally Mm Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Westminster Gm New!Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Monogram M40156 Ts1081Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Fl0089 Galliera Pm Shoulder Hand Bag M56382 U827Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Rivington Tote Handbag*****nr*****Auth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Epi Ivoire Ivory Speedy 30 Boston Hand Bag M5922jAuth Louis Vuitton Gm Vavin Monogram Tote HandbagLouis Vuitton Galliera Pm Damier Azur100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Damier Ts550Louis Vuitton Bracelet Leather Bangle 100% Genuine In Box And Bag Authentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm H Louis Vuitton Eva Damier Azur - Complete W/box, Dust Bag, Tags, & Receipt - MintLouis Vuitton Keepall 60 Monogram Authentic Unisex Bandouliere Travel Bag (0268)Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Mm / 100% Authentic/ Orig $1,075Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm PurseLouis Vuitton Light Green Monogram Vernis Alma Bb BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Abbesses Gm Monogram Crossbody Messenger Bag (0295)Louis Vuitton Stephen Sprouse Speedy 30Louis Vuitton Delightful Mm Hobo Style Purse Signature Monogram Canvas 100% AuthNew Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Clutch Pouch Wristlet OnlyLouis Vuitton Monogram Pallas Mm Noir (black) HandbagLouis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Shoulder BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull Mm Tote W/ Receipt$1090.00 Auth Louis Vuitton Amarante Vernis Sunset Boulevard Pochette Bag PurseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Tivoli GmNew 2011 Box Louis Vuitton Spain Monogram Neverfull Mm Shoulder Bag Free ShipLouis Vuitton Neverfull Damier Mm Sd217Louis Vuitton Monogram Galleria Gm Shoulder Bag W/dust Bag 100% Authentic Authentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 35Louis Vuitton Odeon PmAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - SpainAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Denim Xl M95515 Shoulder Tote Bag Blue Dust Bag 4622Authentic Louis Vuitton - Saint Cloud Mm Shoulder Bag - Made In Germany