Louis Vuitton is one of the longest-standing luxury fashion brands in the world, and it has become the standard of opulent when it comes to fashion. Their signature monogram pattern is not just iconic, but it’s often replicated by others. That is why it’s easy to see why carrying a Louis Vuitton product is a status symbol. In this article, we are going to know more about the complex history of Louis Vuitton and how they turned from a regular distributor of luggage to one of the world’s leading luxury brands.
Born in 1821 in eastern France, Louis Vuitton was a son of a farmer and milliner. He grew up knowing the effects of perseverance and a strong work ethic because he came from a long-established working-class family. When he was 16 years old, Louis Vuitton decided to walk 292 miles away from his hometown to try and make a new life. When he arrived in Paris, he noticed that the city was in the middle of industrialization. Modes of transportation in the town were evolving quickly and allowing longer journeys. Which why, during that time, the demand for sturdy travel pieces grew. Louis Vuitton was lucky enough to be taken as an apprentice by a successful packer and box maker named Monsieur Marechal. During his apprenticeship, Vuitton learned how to make durable containers and how to pack them properly.
In 1854, Louis Vuitton eventually mastered his craft and became known for it. He soon decided to venture out on a business of his own and opened a shop that is located in Rue Nueve des Capucines. That’s when he started to make a name for himself as an established luggage maker. And in 1858, he designed the first Louis Vuitton steamer trunk. During that time, trunks had rounded tops so that water could runoff, however, it did not allow convenient storage space. That is why Louis Vuitton decided to come up with a flat but waterproof trunk that can easily be stacked. The first trunks that he produced had a gray canvass he called the Trianon. It was until a decade later when he introduced the signature monogram canvass or the Damier print. In 1886, his son Georges invented and patented a locking system, which made it impossible to pick the locks of their trunks. This ingenious lock is still used until today. With a successful business, Louis Vuitton decided to move his family and workplace to Asniere. This is where he employed about 20 employees to produce his trunks. By 1900, he had over 100 employees working for him, and in just 14 years, his company went double in size. During that time, Louis Vuitton was already a social status symbol to warrant counterfeiting.
A New Age for Louis Vuitton
1892 proved to be the saddest year for the family and the company as Louis Vuitton passed away at the age of 70. That’s why his son Georges took over the company. This is the time when Georges prompted to change the prints of their luggage. And in 1896, he introduced the signature LV monogram canvass with patterned LVs, flowers, and quatrefoils to honor his father. The company rose to fame, especially among famous and elite clientele under Georges’ leadership. That is why they were able to catch the eye of the most established fashion icons during that time, Gabrielle Chanel.
In 1925, Louis Vuitton made a dome-shaped bag that is made for personal use specifically for Chanel, and it wasn’t until nine years later that she allowed Louis Vuitton to mass-produce the bag for the general public. Before the company released it to the public, they had it redesigned to be more streamlined and compact for everyday use. They first called this bag as the Squire but later renamed it as Alma in 1955. Following the success in smaller goods, Louis Vuitton decided to expand its product line. He launched several new bag designs, such as the Keepal, Speedy, and Noe. The demand for these bags was enormous, so much so that they are still being produced until today in several sizes and materials.
When Georges Vuitton passed away in 1936, his son, Gaston-Louis Vuitton, became the new head of the company. And during his 50 tenure, Louis Vuitton started to use leather into their products. He revamped their iconic monogram canvas to be used in multiple styles, such as the cylindrical bag they called the Papillon, which they released in 1966.
In 1970, Gaston-Louis passed away; that is why his son-in-law, Henry Racaimer, started managing the company. Racaimer saw that the company needed to expand its footprint as a brand. That’s why he began to open retail locations all across the world and urged that the company should become publicly traded in 1984. This decision resulted in the creation of the eventual parent conglomerate. And in 1987, they created the LVMH conglomerate along with the leading manufacturers of cognac and champagne, Hennessy and Moet et Chandon.
The Golden Age of Louis Vuitton
In 1990, Yves Carcelle was appointed to be the president of the company, which made him the first head of the company that is not related to the Vuitton family. It was during this time when the brand made significant waves in the fashion industry because they started to collaborate with other designers and started to make innovative renditions of their iconic pieces. In 1996, Louis Vuitton celebrated the 100th anniversary of their Damier print. That is why they released a limited edition of it with vachetta leather. This is a combination that is not often seen, and they called it the Centenaire Collection.
1997 proved to be an essential year for Louis Vuitton as they appointed Marc Jacobs to be their first creative director. Marc Jacobs then started designing Louis Vuitton’s first ready to wear clothing line and launched the Monogram Vernis range of handbags. In 2001, Stephen Sprouse created and designed a collection that has a neon graffiti of the brand’s name written all over the classic monogram canvass. And until today, that design is one of the most sought after by collectors. After the success of their collaboration with Stephen Sprouse, Louis Vuitton started to work with favored designers and artists.
As Louis Vuitton continued to perform well in the market, they once again introduced another bag design that became one of the most classic and most recognized handbags in the world, the Neverfull. This bag is crafted in classic monogram canvass, and it has a fully lined striped interior along with a vachetta leather rim and a capacity to carry up to 200 pounds. In 2004, the iconic Neverfull bag was redesigned along with a new interior print, and it became available in other color combinations and a detachable pouch.
Louis Vuitton Today
In 2013, Marc Jacobs decided to step down as Louis Vuitton’s creative director to be able to focus on his own brand that LVMH helped create. That is why Louis Vuitton chose to appoint Nicolas Ghesquiere as their new Artistic Director for Women’s Fashion. That’s why this was the time when Louis Vuitton expanded its product line. They introduced new designs and injected an edginess that targeted a younger generation. As the years passed, Louis Vuitton released a series of handbags along with many limited editions which were produced every year.
Ever since Nicolas Ghesquires joined the team, he did not disappoint in creating highly sought after bags and pieces along with innovative designs. In 2018, Louis Vuitton decided to hire Virgil Abloh to be the men’s creative director. Abloh did not only create stunning fashion pieces for men, but he was also able to capture the hearts of women as well.