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 Azur Coated Canvas & Leather Neverfull Pm Tote BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Damier Azur Good Tv11734Louis Vuitton Riviera Epi Black Authentic Ladies Hand Bag! (2196)Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Handbag Purse HoboLouis Vuitton Lv Damier Ebene Canvas Speedy 30 Handbag / Bag - AuthenticAuthentic Louis Vuitton Multicolore Shirley Clutch Bag**100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Handbag Tote Bag**Authentic Louis Vuitton Pegase 55 Travel Carry Hand Bag Monogram DuffelLouis Vuitton Damier Ebene Speedy 30 Handbag, W/ Dust Bag And BoxAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Mm With Dust Bag & Box Excellent NrAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neo Alma Hand Bag Monogram Double Jeu Vintage Tv11903Authentic Louis Vuitton Amarante Monogram Vernis Leather Sarah Long Wallet PursePre Owned With Tags Louis Vuitton Monogram Metis Empreinte Bag In Terre M40809Authentic Louis Vuitton Bloomsbury Pm Cross Body Shoulder Bag Damier Ok Tv11736Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Gm Excellent No Reserve Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Damier Handbag/ New100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Alma Hand Bag Purse W/dust BagLouis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Canvas & Leather Saint Germain Crossbody BagLouis Vuitton Delightful Gm100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Fahsion Women's Tote Shoulder Bag UsedAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Vintage Bv09982Authentic Louis Vuitton Delightful PmBrand New Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Ebene With ReceiptAuthentic Louis Vuitton Odeon Crossbody BagLouis Vuitton Red Epi Speedy 25 Authentic Ladies Hand Bag Purse!(2036)Louis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Canvas & Leather Speedy 35 BagNew Authentic Louis Vuitton Handbag Neverfull Mm Canvas Tote BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm M40156 Monogram Canvas Tote Sd2097 Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Leather HandbagLouis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Azur - Excellent Condition!Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas & Leather Petit Bucket Bag With PouchLouis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Canvas & Leather Keepall 55 Duffle BagLouis Vuitton Eva Clutch DamierLouis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Damier Ebene Canvas Gently Used Gorgeous AuthenticAuthentic Louis Vuitton Alma Hand Tote Bag Duffel Damier Vintage Good Tv11999Authentic Louis Vuitton Lussac Blue Epi Ladies Shoulder Tote Bag! (2205)Louis Vuitton Brown Monogram Artsy Mm HandbagLouis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Damier Azur Canvas Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Neverfull Mm No ReserveLouis Vuitton Monogram Canvas & Leather Cabas Piano Tote BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Euc Vtg Tv10362Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull Medium MmAuthentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Speedy 25 Bag With Matching Iphone CaseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Mahina L Beige Color Hobo Bag Rare Color !# Auth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Cherry Blossom Sac Retro Pm Hand Bag M92013 Nr Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Shopper Monogam Jv11811Louis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Canvas Papillon 30 Barrel Bag W/ Companion PouchLouis Vuitton Monogram Eva Clutch Cross Body Strap & Dust Bag 100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas & Leather Ellipse Mm HandbagLouis Vuitton Vintage Black Epi Leather Sellier Dragonne Clutch WristletAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Vintage Bv10927100% Auth Louis Vuitton Montsouris Gm Backpack Bag Monogram Free Ship Rb474sLouis Vuitton Damier Azur Riviera Pm. N48250Authentic Louis Vuitton Hampstead Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Shopper Damier Ok Tv11733Authentic Louis Vuitton Chelsea Shoulder Tote Bag Shopper Damier Good Tv10258100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Hand Bag Monogram Excellent Rb25kAuthentic Louis Vuitton Bag# Auth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Monogram Boston Hand Bag M41526 Nr Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Great Free Ship Rb24k100% Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Excellent Rb19k