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 Damier Ebene Canvas Greenwich HandbagLouis Vuitton Damier Neverfull Never Full Gm Tote Bag HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull Mm Tote Bag 5k040210Louis Vuitton Brown Damier Ebene Duomo HandbagLouis Vuitton Damier Never Full Mm And Zippy WalletAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Canvas Speedy Bandouliere 30 Handbag100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Canvas Leather Neverfull Mm Shoulder BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Mm Tote BagLouis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Musette Salsa BagLouis Vuitton Leather Shoulder Strap Pochette Speedy Alma Eva FavoriteLouis Vuitton Vintage Brown Monogram Canvas Cabas Piano ToteAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Tote Shoulder Bag Purse - FranceNew! Louis Vuitton Lv Damier Infini Leather Black Messenger Bag Calypso Gm GucciLouis Vuitton Vintage Brown Monogram Canvas Pochette Accessories BagLouis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Vavin Pm BagAuth Louis Vuitton Sac A Dos Bosphore Backpack Monogram Purse M40107 Ts7750yAuthentic Louis Vuitton Tivoli Pm Hand Tote Bag Purse Monogram M40143 Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - FranceAuthentic Louis Vuitton Berkeley Damier Ebene Canvas Satchel Hand BagLouis Vuitton Palermo Pm Bag AuthenticBnwt Authentic Louis Vuitton Go-14 Malletage Pm Quilted Leather Shoulder BagLouis Vuitton Eva Bag AuthenticLouis Vuitton Vintage Brown Monogram Canvas Speedy 40 HandbagLouis Vuitton Favorite Pm Damier Authentic Louis Vuitton Delightful Pm Monogram Canvas Hobo BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag M40155 Gli4049Auth Louis Vuitton Mini Speedy W/ Extra Long Cross Body Strap French CollectionLouis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Leather Tote Bag Handbag Purse Louis Vuitton Monogram Sarah Wallet Brown Lv Clutch Coated Canvas 112449Auth Louis Vuitton Montsouris Gm Backpack Bag Purse Monogram M51135 Ts8164Authentic Louis Vuitton Montaigne Gm Handbag PurseNwt Authentic Men's Louis Vuitton Mixed Leather Blouson Navy Blue Size L Jacket Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Azur Tote Bag Shoulder Bag N51107Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Azur Shoulder Tote Bag Purse White ReadLouis Vuitton Black Epi Leather Pochette Sevigne Convertible ClutchLouis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Azur Tote Bag Shoulder Bag N41361 3027516100% Auth. Louis Vuitton Ebene Damier Speedy 30 Paillettes Prefall Spangle Rare!Authentic Louis Vuitton Tivoli Pm Hand Tote Bag Purse Monogram M40143 Ts7467Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Speedy 30 Purse Bag Du2027 Fs Pre-owned Auth Louis Vuitton Sologne Cross Body Shoulder Bag Purse Monogram M42250 Ts8107Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Azur100% Authentic New Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Neverfull Mm Purse Authentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Monogram Hobo BagAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Damier Ebene Canvas Leather Shoulder Tote BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Soffi Damier Azur Canvas Leather Shoulder Hobo BagLouis Vuitton Tivoli Pm Handbag - Authentic - Gently UsedAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Free Ship Rb2625m100% Auth Louis Vuitton Alma Hand Tote Bag Damier Canvas Leather N51131 Rb2451sLouis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Mm Tote Handbag N51107 20160216Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Alma Bag(fl1010) W/free Pouch,lock & KeyLouis Vuitton Monogram Never Full Mm 2015 ModelAuthentic Louis Vuitton Palermo Pm Monogram Canvas Tote Shoulder Messenger BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Canvas Leather Shoulder Tote BagLouis Vuitton Lv Monogram Batignolles Vertical Tote Handbag W/ Dust Cover NrAuthentic Louis Vuitton Luco Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Monogram M51155 Ts8119Louis Vuitton (stresa Pm Damier Azur) BagAuth Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Hand Bag Monogram Graffiti Orange M93705 Ts8245Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag M40155 Authentic 3055113Authentic Louis Vuitton Neo Cabby Mm Denim BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Hand Bag Alma 63716