Louis Vuitton History in 12 Jaw-Dropping Facts: Celebrating a 200th Anniversary

Birthday celebrations are always a big deal. But when it comes to luxury brands, the word “grandiose” is more suitable! This year, the man whose name has become a synonym of style – Louis Vuitton – celebrates its 200th birthday. We couldn’t miss an opportunity of taking a trip down the memory lane and introduce 12 fun facts about Louis Vuitton history.

Born and raised in a family of farmers, Louis Vuitton could never imagine that his bicentenary would be celebrated in such a monumental way. On August 4, 2021, the brand announced a series of initiatives and creative projects titled “Louis 200”. A novel, a video game, a documentary, the runway shows inspired by the past – the fashion house have prepared an extraordinary voyage.

Highlighting the role of Louis Vuitton and his legacy is the main idea of the numerous events launched by the brand. The journey to the past began as the charming historic masquerade ball during Paris Fashion Week Show. Vampire-chic looks, 19th-century details and contemporary pieces were later taken across the globe – resulting in a glamorous spin-off show in Shanghai.

As the birthday festivities keep going in a real-life setting and online, we, as huge fans of the brand, decided to pay our own tribute by sharing 12 important milestones in the house’s history.

Let’s get started!

 

#1. Louis Vuitton left home at the age of 14 and went to Paris on foot

louis vuitton portrait picture of himself

Although we strongly associate the brand with Parisian chic, the great founder was actually born in Anchay, a French village not far from the Swiss border. At the age of 14, he left his home and took a long trip to Paris. He walked (yes, walked!) around 292 miles before reaching the capital of France. Such a journey took young Louis Vuitton 2 years and dozens of odd jobs.

He arrived in Paris just in time for the industrial revolution. Skilled and eager to learn, Louis Vuitton became an apprentice of Romain Maréchal in the luggage-making workshop. It didn’t take long for a hard-working and talented boy to master the craftsmanship of packaging. Soon enough, the son of a farmer was working with the wealthiest clientele of the metropolis.

For his 200th birthday, the man who had made such a great impact on fashion and led a life full of hardships and rises got his official biography and a documentary.

The book “Louis Vuitton: l'audacieux” by French novelist and screenwriter Caroline Bongrand includes previously unpublished materials about the life of Louis Vuitton. In addition, the documentary titled “Looking for Louis” will be premiered on Apple TV’s Explore Channel very soon.

 

#2. Louis Vuitton established his luggage business in Paris at 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines in 1854

where was the first louis vuitton store

After spending 17 years at Monsieur Maréchal’s atelier, Louis Vuitton decided to continue his professional journey on his own. He left the workshop, got married and opened a box-making and packing store in the heart of Paris. The first shop was located at Neuve-des-Capucines street in 1854 and marked the rise of the empire.

The iconic address was later immortalized in one of the House’s staples. Yes, it’s an elegant Louis Vuitton Capucines bag, which was introduced only in 2013. A coveted piece for multiple collectors, the model gets a new interpretation almost every season, including the most gorgeous examples as Louis Vuitton x Fornasetti Collaboration.

For the upcoming Spring 2022 season, a new Capucines version was crafted – this time in Since 1854 pattern. We have a feeling that this print is slowly turning into a new classic of the brand. Did its release slip your attention? Learn more about the new Louis Vuitton pattern from our article – Louis Vuitton “Since 1854” Collection Prices & Photos (Fall/Winter 2020).


#3. Louis Vuitton's first trunk is older than Tour Eiffel – designed in 1858

 

We know Louis Vuitton Malletier as the manufacturer of luxury handbags, but back in the mid-19th century, it was all about luggage. Opening his own business, Monsieur Vuitton wanted to adapt to the growing demands and needs of his clientele. That’s why in 1858, he made his own revolution by creating a flat trunk.

Such a design was something the world has never seen before. All trunks at that period were made with a rounded top, which was not practical for storing and transporting. The idea of a perfectly rectangular box made from durable waterproof material fascinated people’s minds and sealed the fate of Louis Vuitton and his company.

Launching more luxurious designs, Louis attracted the attention of the elite and royalties and became the luggage supplier for the Spanish king and the future Russian Tsar. As a pinnacle of his career, Louis Vuitton won the Gold Medal at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. It was the historical Exposition, not for Louis Vuitton only but for entire France. That year, a grandiose Eiffel Tower was constructed.

For Louis Vuitton 200th anniversary, their iconic trunk has been reimagined by 200 modern artists, architects, influencers, and companies:

  • Lego
  • Marc Jacobs & Stephen Sprouse
  • Fornasetti
  • Nigo
  • Feng Li
  • BTS
  • Drake

According to the brand, the goal of this initiative was to build a bridge between classic design and modern visions. Each of the 200 visionaries was given complete freedom. All trunks will be auctioned off for charity via Sotheby’s.


#4. Emperor Napoléon III’s consort, Empress Eugénie de Montijo was a Louis Vuitton's customer

 emperess eugenie de france louis vuitton customer

The work at Monsieur Maréchal’s atelier allowed young Louis Vuitton not only to acquire the art of box-making and packing but to find rich and wealthy clients. One year before opening his own shop, a 32-year old craftsman was appointed by the most influential figure of the entire country – Empress Eugénie de Montijo – as her personal packer.

This was a life turning moment for Louis Vuitton as the Empress was known for her frequent travels between royal residences and needed her precious belongings securely packed. Under the patronage of the First Lady of France, the craftsman quickly found a noble, blue blood clientele and an aspiration to start his own business.

Would he open his shop without this experience? We don’t know! It’s difficult to make any assumptions several hundred years later as Louis Vuitton celebrates its 200th anniversary. But this job certainly deserves to be mentioned among other 12 fun facts about Louis Vuitton history.


#5. Damier Ebene, not Monogram, was the first original Louis Vuitton pattern (1888)

damier ebene louis vuitton pattern

If you think that dealing with counterfeit items is a modern-time problem, you should know that the legendary Damier Ebene pattern was created at the end of the 19th century just for this very purpose. Around that time, the trademark law was introduced in France and many manufacturers were signing their works with special marks.

Louis Vuitton was not an exception. When the beige and brown checkerboard canvas appeared in 1888, it was bearing a sign “L.Vuitton, marque déposée” on one cell. This is how the brand was protecting itself from fakes.

The one thing we love about LV is the diversity and abundance of choice. Over the years of its existence, the label released so many variations of its iconic motifs! Check all existing prints in our article – Everything about Louis Vuitton Prints and Patterns and Popular Limited Edition Collaborations (With Photo Examples).

Whether you prefer classical prints or limited editions, buying a pre-loved LV item, be sure to order an independent authentication. It doesn’t cost much and will give you peace of mind once and forever.


#6. The “LV” Monogram was designed by Vuitton’s Son (1896)

 

Another iconic element that we cannot imagine the brand without is the famous LV logo. It was created by Vuitton's son George, who took over the company as Louis passed in 1892.

With the desire to turn the luggage-making business into a global empire, George Vuitton designed perhaps the most recognizable motif of all times. Interlocking letters “L” and “V”, which symbolize the initials of the founder, haven’t been changed since 1896.

The emblem is used on multiple products of the brand – Monogram canvas, the top of Capucines bag, logo on Twist bag, the buckle of LV Pont 9, Dauphine bag and belts, as a lock of Lockme chain bag, etc.

 

#7. Signature single lock system for their trunks was created in 1896 and is still used

 

Having become the synonym of the art of traveling, Louis Vuitton Malletier wasn’t focused on the appearance of its goods only but the quality and security as well. The “lock that no one could pick” was invented by Louis Vuitton himself, yet it was his son George who patented the system after his father’s death.

There’s a story that George Vuitton was so confident in this invention that he even challenged Harry Houdini to break out of a locked Louis Vuitton trunk. Unfortunately, the official history has no records of the great illusionist ever responding to that challenge.

However, nothing stays forgotten. American architect Peter Marino found this story fascinating and inspiring for the creation of his own version of the LV trunk – he was one of 200 visionaries. The jet-black chest features tight-fitting leather straps, and as Peter Marino says, “the challenge is now open to any aspiring Houdini”.

 

#8. Louis Vuitton introduced their first leather handbag only in 1930: Keepall – 1930, Speedy – 1932 (Audrey Hepburn)

audrey hepburn louis vuitton speedy

As much as we admire the elegance of LV purses, they were introduced almost 100 years after the company’s foundation. As the demand for light travels began to grow, the fashion house focused on the production of duffel bags. In 1930, the Keepall bag was released in several sizes to make traveling fast and comfortable.

A small “sister” of Keepall – Speedy – appeared at around the same time. It was a roomy and practical bag for short trips. Although it wasn’t very popular until the moment when actress Audrey Hepburn asked to create a miniature version of Speedy for regular use. As the actress was photographed carrying her purse everywhere, the world quickly developed a great affection for this model.

Nowadays, Speedy is a staple of Louis Vuitton – the model exists in many sizes and variations (with and without shoulder strap). Recently, there was an addition to the Speedy line. Did you miss the new release? Here’s everything about the new Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandouliere 20.

 

#9. Louis Vuitton owns much more brands since 1987

 

The idea of establishing a group of luxury brands united by one mission first came to French investor Bernard Arnault at the beginning of the 1980s. But only in 1987, he was able to form LVMH by working with the CEO of Moet Hennessy and the president of LV.

The Group’s mission is to represent the most refined qualities of the Western lifestyle and ensure the long-term development of each House. With 75 luxury brands under the holding’s control, LVMH remains the world’s leading conglomerate of luxury goods. For Louis Vuitton, as well as all other companies, it means global reputation, dynamic growth and stable profit (not surprising, considering endlessly increasing prices).

The LVMH holding includes the following clothing/accessories brands:

  • Christian Dior
  • Fendi
  • Givenchy
  • Marc Jacobs
  • Stella McCartney
  • Loewe
  • Loro Piana
  • Kenzo
  • Celine
  • Fenty
  • Princess Yachts
  • TAG Heuer
  • Bulgari
  • Tiffany & Co
  • Chaumet

What an impressive list! It's important to know that in most industries like clothing and cosmetics the majority of goods standing on the shelves for us are produced by the same company.

 


#10. Starting from the year 1998, Louis Vuitton manufactures not only suitcases and bags, but also clothes, shoes, accessories, and jewelry

 

In 2021, Louis Vuitton celebrates its 200th anniversary as the brand that offers literally anything – from shoes to perfume. However, the first fashion line was introduced a bit more than 20 years ago. The unbelievable fact that totally deserves to be among the other 12 fun facts about Louis Vuitton history!

Ready-to-wear collections emerged with the appointment of Marc Jacobs as LV's  artistic director. Although the main attention of the fashion world is still focused on the bags, the lines, colors and elements of the outfits from Louis Vuitton's runway shows define the main upcoming trends of each season.

Plus, celebrities, like Justin Bieber, Madonna, the Beckhams, Celine Dion and many others, don’t miss the opportunity to put on an LV scarf, hoodie, or a jacket. So, there’s certainly no lack of wealthy clients ready to buy designer clothing.


#11. Louis Vuitton masters still create custom-made items for VIP customers and special occasions

 

Here are some notable examples of the brand’s goods made exclusively for VIP clients:

  • The desk-trunk for the orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski
  • Ballerina’s trunk for Diana Vishneva
  • A trunk-bed (which could be folded into a small suitcase) for explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza
  • The 1000 Cigars trunk for the 1977 Christmas catalog of Neiman Marcus
  • The picnic trunk for the Earl of Lonsdale (1927)

Another impressive list of the cases for popular sports events (including e-sports):

  • The suitcase for transporting 13 re-issues of the official match balls from each FIFA World Cup used since 1970
  • Trunk cases for FIFA World Cup trophy (since 2010)
  • Two trunks for Roland-Garros tennis tournament trophies (2017)
  • A trophy case for the “League of Legends” prize (2019)
  • Travel case for the Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco Trophy (2021)
  • The official Trophy Travel Case for the Rugby World Cup (since 2023)

 

#12. Louis Vuitton has its mascot Vivienne (introduced in 2017)

 

Flower-shaped head, luggage tags for arms, and an LV’s flower motif around the eye – what could better portray the brand than this cute figurine? A new mascot called Vivienne was inspired by Gaston-Louis Vuitton’s love for collecting toys and named after VVN leather (which we know under the name of “vachetta”).

The doll served as the key inspiration of the Men’s Pre-Fall 2018 Collection and adorned the House’s classic prints in the most playful way. Vivienne appears on the items from holiday collections. You can find it on pochettes, shirts, wallets, passport covers, ties, scarfs, jewelry, and even plates.

A special collector's piece is the Vivienne doll, which is crafted in many editions and materials (plush, wood or even raffia). The cheapest figure Vivienne Doudou costs $1,300 on the official website of the brand.

Does it feel like the brand ventures its way beyond fashion standards and expands its influence in other aspects of life? We certainly think so. And just when you think that nothing could beat the branded plush toy, meet the official LV 200th anniversary game!

“Louis the Game” is another way to celebrate the bicentenary and draw the attention of Gen-Z consumers. Want to help Vivienne gather all 200 candles while wandering through the magical universe? Get the game from App Store or Google Play. Attention: it’s highly addictive!


Afterword

Could a young boy, who left his nest and went to the big city in pursuit of happiness, know that two hundred years later his name would be the synonym of style and luxury? As Louis Vuitton celebrates its 200th anniversary with multiple creative ideas, we can’t help but admire the path of this great person and the brand he created. Our 12 fun facts about Louis Vuitton history prove that success favors those who are not afraid of challenges and changes.

 

 

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