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 Neverfull Gm Tote BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Ebene Canvas Shoulder Tote BagLouis Vuitton Azur Mm Neverfull Handbag Purse Cream Gray Tote DamierAuthentic Louis Vuitton Artsy Mm Monogram Canvas Shoulder Hobo BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Azur Canvas Leather Shoulder Tote BaAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Monogram Canvas Leather Shoulder Tote BagLouis Vuitton Cross Body Bag - Menilmontant Pm - Brand New In BoxLouis Vuitton Monogram Coated Canvas & Leather Tivoli Gm Bag100% Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Free Ship Rb168s# Auth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Neverfull Pm Shoulder Tote Bag N51110Authentic Louis Vuitton Chelsea Shoulder Tote Bag Shopper Damier Ok Vtg Jv098412014 Louis Vuitton Monogram Neverfull Gm Mimosa Receipt Dust Bag Shaper CleanerLouis Vuitton Neverfull Mm MonogramAuthentic Louis Vuitton Alma Pm Monogram Amarante Vernis Satchel Hand BagLouis-vuitton Neverfull MmAuthentic Louis Vuitton Eva Clutch, Crossbody, Damier, Receipt, Box, Dustbag100% Auth Louis Vuitton Totally Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Free Ship Rb394sAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Gm Monogram Tote W/ Dust BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Bandouliere Speedy 30 Handbag100% Auth Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Hand Bag Damier Leather Free Ship Rb78i100% Auth Louis Vuitton Batignolles Horizontal Shoulder Bag Free Ship Rb113iAuthentic New Louis Vuitton Zippy Wallet Nwt Vernis Pomme D'amour LvNeverfull Mm Tote Authentic Louis VuittonAuthentic Louis Vuitton Galliera Pm Monogram Canvas Shoulder Hobo BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Galliera Pm Hobo Shoulder Bag *free S/hAuthentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 30 Damier Ebene ***free Shipping*** No Reserve!!!Louis Vuitton Monogram Artsy Mm Handbag Hobo 100% AuthenticAuthentic Louis Vuitton Hampstead Pm Damier Azur Awesome Handbag N51207Authentic Louis Vuitton Tivoli Pm Hand Tote Bag Shopper Monogram Great Tv10016Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Epi Black Leather Tote Bag W/pouch, DustbagGorgeous Louis Vuitton Tivoli Gm 100% Authentic!Authentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Blue Denim Sac A Dos Gm Backpack *no Reserve*Authentic Louis Vuitton Petite Noe Pm Shoulder BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Artsy Mm Handbag HoboLouis Vuitton Delightful Mm Authentic Louis Vuitton Purse, Multi Color Speedy 30Authentic Louis Vuitton Tivoli Gm Monogram Canvas Leather Shoulder Tote BagLouis Vuitton Valleele Fleur Vernis Travel Bag Beige Tan Yellow Leather KeepallAuthentic Louis Vuitton Palermo Pm Monogram Canvas Tote Shoulder Messenger BagLouis Vuitton Monogram Canvas Speedy BagAuth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Lv Vernis Noisette Roxbury Drive Hand Bag M91372 NrAuthentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Damier Tote BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Speedy 25 Hand Tote Bag Duffle Epi Red Vintage Tv09757Authentic Louis Vuitton Neverfull Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Great Tv10243Authentic Louis Vuitton Segur Mm Shoulder Tote Bag Epi Blue Excellent Tv10157Authentic Louis Vuitton Hampstead Pm Hand Tote Bag Shopper Damier Ok Tv09483Auth Pre-owned Louis Vuitton Lv Damier Pochette Ipanema Crossbody Bag N51296 NrAuthentic Louis Vuitton Luco Shoulder Tote Bag Monogram Leather M51155 33e459yLouis Vuitton Artsy Mm BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Menilmontant Mm Monogram Canvas Shoulder Crossbody Bag100% Auth Louis Vuitton Alma Hand Tote Bag Damier Excellent Free Ship Rb311sAuthentic Louis Vuitton Galliera Pm Damier Azur Canvas Shoulder Hobo BagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Soho Damier Ebene Canvas Brown Leather Backpack HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Alma Gm Vernis Leather Rose Pop Hand Bag DefectLouis Vuitton Luco Monogram Authentic Large Tote Shoulder Bag! (1985)Louis Vuitton Metis Monogram Pochette Nwt $1783 NrAuthentic Louis Vuitton Lockit HandbagAuthentic Louis Vuitton Odeon Pm Cross Body Shoulder Bag Monogram Great Tv10268Authentic Louis Vuitton Epi Black Monceau Handbag Purse BriefcaseLouis Vuitton Palermo Brown Canvas Bag Purse