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    

New Genuine Louis Vuitton Eva Clutch Bag Handbag Monogram Canvas Made In France100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Vtg Rb174fLouis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier - Shoulder Bag - Complete & Genuine - Authentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Bag & Flower Charm Empreinte Infini LeatherAuthentic Louis Vuitton Bloomsbury Pm Damier Ebene Canvas Messenger Shoulder BagLouis Vuitton Artsy Mm Shoulder BagAuth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Purse Damier N51105 Ts2007Bnwt Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Shoulder Tote Bag Damier EbeneLouis Vuitton Neverfull Damier Ebene Mm ToteLouis Vuitton Brown Monogram Canvas Samur Mm Crossbody BagLouis Vuitton Neverfull GmAuthentic Louis Vuitton Totally Mm Damier Azur W/receipt EucLouis Vuitton Authentic Monagram Pochette Clefs Coin Purse With Key Ring Ca1010Estate 100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Monogram Hobo Bag W/ Leather HandleAuth. Vintage Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Tote Shoulder Bag Made In FranceLouis Vuitton Brown Monogram Coated Canvas Tivoli Gm HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Palermo Pm Monogram Canvas Tote Shoulder Messenger BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Damier Azur N51110 Ts1134Auth Louis Vuitton Damier Ca1131 Neverfull Mm Tote Shoulder Bag N41358 Rm4165Louis Vuitton Beautiful Ivory Mahina Xl Lamb Leather Tote Shoulder Bag $5,000 Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Alma Pm Handbag Shoulder Purse Bag 84688Louis Vuitton Artsy Gm Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Tote Monogram Purse Shoulder Bag - FranceLouis Vuitton Alma Brown Epi Authentic Handbag Purse Bag (0498-1)Louis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Canvas Alma HandbagLouis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Canvas Keepall 60 Duffle BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Brown Tote Hobo Women's HandbagBrand New Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm With Zippered Clutch Louis Vuitton Handbag 100% Authentic Alma Hand Bag Monogram Leather100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Montsouris Mm Backpack Bag Monogram Vintage Rb181fAuthentic Louis Vuitton Odeon Pm Monogram Cross Body HandbagAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Deauville Satchel Handbag PurseLouis Vuitton Vintage Brown Monogram Pouchette Shoulder BagAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Vernis Red Mi4098 Alma Gm Hand Bag M93593 R0422 Authentic Louis Vuitton Deleightful Gm Monogram Canvas Shoulder Hobo BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Hand Tote Bag Purse Monogram M40155 3815jsAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Azur Shoulder Tote Bag 10070529Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Tresor Wallet Coin, Purse, Box, Dust RagAuth Louis Vuitton Damier Neverfull Gm Shoulder Bag Free Shipping Pre-ownedAuthentic Louis Vuitton Tivoli Pm Monogram Satchel Purse Shoulder Bag - FranceAuth Louis Vuitton Monogram Fl1130 Delightful Hand Bag Ghw M40353 S2150100% Authentic Louis Vuitton Nolita Hand Tote Bag Purse Damier N41455 Ts2098Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Brown Tote Bag Women's HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Mahina L Black Bag Ghw Handbag Purse!Louis Vuitton Special Order Damier Galliera PmLouis Vuitton Keepall Bandouliere, Carry All, Vi 872, Feb.,1987, Monogram CanvasAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Brown Tote Bag Women's HandbagLouis Vuitton Speedy 30 Damier EbeneLouis Vuitton District Pm Damier Graphite Canvas Shoulder Bag MensAuthentic Louis Vuitton Keepall 45 Bandouliere Macassar Monogram Shoulder TravelAuthentic Louis Vuitton Eva Clutch Monogram Bag Purse CrossbodyAuthentic Louis Vuitton Totally Mm Monogram Canvas Shoulder Tote BagLouis Vuitton Yellow Epi Speedy 25 Authentic Ladies Hand Bag Purse (0769-1)Auth Louis Vuitton Monogram Motif Key Ring Key Chain White Plastic Bag Charm Louis Vuitton Monogram Salina Gm Rubis Purse Tote Shoulder Bag 84013Authentic Louis Vuitton Favorite Pm Monogram Shoulder Bag Pouch PurseAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Brown Tote Women's HandbagLouis Vuitton Neverfull GmAuth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Lv Musette Large Messenger Crossbody Bag M51256 NrAuthentic Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Epi Black Monceau Hand Bag W/ Strap M52122 Nr