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 Capucines Mm Taurillon Handbag Rose Litchi - New Unused M94671Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Handbag With Dustbag And Receipt 2013Louis Vuitton Montaigne Gm Black -brand New. Recepit/ Dustcover/tags-no ReserveLouis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier EbeneAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Hand Tote Bag Monogram Leather Free Ship Rb003nLouis Vuitton Artsy Mm Handbag In Infini Monogram Empreinte LeatherAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Ebene PmAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Mm & Dust Bag Excellent No ReserveAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Neverfull Pm Small Tote Shoulder Bag Purse$1440.00 New Authentic Louis Vuitton Noe Monogram Drawstring Shoulder Bag PurseNew Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram ToteAuthentic Louis Vuitton Lv Damier Azur Totally Handbag Purse Diaper Bag ToteLouis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Mm AuthenticLouis Vuitton Artsy Mm 100% Authentic Excellent Condition With ExtrasLouis Vuitton Trouville Black Multicolor Monogram Canvas Studded Satchel BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Palermo Pm Monogram Canvas Tote Shoulder Messenger Bag$1620.00 Auth Louis Vuitton Jasmin Red Epi Leather Handbag Satchel Bag PurseAuth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Monogram Keepall Bandouliere 45 W/ Strap Bag M41418Authentic Louis Vuitton Gm Neverfull Damier Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Th0958 Alma Hand Bag Ghw M51130 R3966 Louis Vuitton Monogram Metis Lv Brown Purse Handbag Shoulder Bag 75994Authentic Louis Vuitton Alma Bb Bag!Authentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Monogram Bag - Must See! Th0012Auth Louis Vuitton Galliera Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Damier Azur N55215 Ts919Auth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Monogram Patch Mini Pochette Accessoires Bag M95804100% Auth Louis Vuitton Favorite Mm Bag! Excellent!! W/dust Bag And Box!!!Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Alma & Dust Bag & Lock & Key Excellent NrAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Shoulder Bag Tote Bag 10066102Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Damier Ebène Bag PurseAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Alma Pm Handbag PurseAuth Louis Vuitton Rouge Monogram Yayoi Kusama Speedy 30 Hand Bag M40693 R0173Louis Vuitton Keepall 55 Bandouliere Damier Graphite BagLouis Vuitton Delightful Mm Monogram Canvas 100% AuthenticAuth Louis Vuitton Claudia Shoulder Tote Bag Purse White Monogram Multi Ts855Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Gm Tote Bag M40157Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Mm Tote Shoulder Bag N51107Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Shoulder Bag Tote Bag 10066486Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Free Ship Rb1053s Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Trevi Pm Checkered Purse Handbag Shoulder 78282Auth. Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Eva Clutch ***w/dust Bag & Cross-body Strap***Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - SpainAuthentic Louis Vuitton Lv Zephyr 55 Rolling Hard Luggage Suitcase Trolley BagLouis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Batignolles Horizontal Shoulder Bag HandbagLouis Vuitton Neverfull Monogram Mm M40997 W/clutch Mimosa Nice Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Speedy 30 Doctor Purse Handbag Checkered 78881Malika Haqq Louis Vuitton Beige Handbag Leather Purse 100% Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Monogram Tote BagAuth Louis Vuitton Montsouris Gm Backpack Bag Shoulder Purse Monogram Ts1033Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Artsy Gm DiscontinuedAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Popincourt Triangle City Bag France Du3077Auth Louis Vuitton Saint Cloud Gm Shoulder Bag Epi Leather Black M52192 Ts1486100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Speedy Bandouliere 30 Made In FranceAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Agenda Mm Planner Cover R20105 1465fLouis Vuitton Monogram Delightful Pm W/ Receipt, Box, And Dust Bag - NewLouis Vuitton Odeon Gm Monogram Large Crossbody/shoulder Bag No Reserve!Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Vi3067 Tivoli Pm Shoulder Hand Bag M40143 R3964Louis Vuitton Speedy 35 100% Authentic Barely UsedLouis Vuitton Monogram Manhattan Gm Handbag Shoulder Purse Bag 77568Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Shimmer Vi2078 Halo Hand Bag Shw M95820 C833Louis Vuitton Monogram Large Delightful Gm Shoulder Bag Authentic Great Cond.