Louis Vuitton: the story of a great luxury house that has made travel its life philosophy

A French fashion and luggage house founded in 1854 in Paris by Louis Vuitton.


The origin of Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton, born in 1821 in the Jura region of eastern France, decided to leave for the capital in 1835. He took 2 years, the only means he had were his legs and the desire to start his career.

louis vuitton
Louis Vuitton

He arrived in Paris in 1837 and he started working as an apprentice for Romain Marechal, a suitcase manufacturer. A few years later, he decided to start his business and he founded the leather goods company that will become one of the most renowned and important in the world.

His talent was recognized in a short time by many nobles and prominent personalities of society who relied on his technical skills for the creation of travel kits: one of them was the Empress Eugénie of Montijo, wife of Napoleon III.

The first shop in Paris

Contemporary of Charles Frederick Worth, the inventor of haute couture, Louis Vuitton inaugurated his first luggage shop in 1854 in Paris on rue Neuve-des-Capucines. The store soon began to attract the admiration of the fashionable society, offering lightweight trunks in poplar wood and luggage more in line with the new means of transport.

His designs are ergonomic, made to be strong and lightweight. With the perfection of his flat trunk, he marked the beginning of modern luggage. In 1859 he opened an atelier in Asnières which was also a family home. Even today, Asnières is the symbol of the commercial and personal success of the Louis Vuitton family.

Atelier in Asnières

The requests are numerous, and his desire to improve the product pushes him towards experimenting with new materials, shapes, and structures for his suitcases. It was during this period that he had the intuition to cover the luggage with a gray Trianon waterproof-coated canvas.

However, what differentiated him from other craftsmen, in addition to the finishes and attention to the quality of the products, was the possibility of customizing the luggage. This was a detail that attracted the demands of Vuitton’s customers and won them over. In 1876, in response to numerous imitators, Vuitton decided to characterize the suitcases with a beige and brown striped canvas.

The customized suitcases

Louis Vuitton has created unique models in the world, combining innovation and style and always aiming at the highest quality standards. Trunks and suitcases have conquered the high nobility and the greats of the century: the prince of Egypt Youssouf Kemal, the sultan Ismaïl Pacha, and many members of European royalty never traveled without luggage created expressly for them.

The house studied waterproof suitcases for Luigi Barzini and Scipione Borghese, who, in 1907, started the Beijing-Paris car raid. The trunk of the explorer Savorgnan de Brazza also housed a camp bed.

The one of the opera singer Lily Pons could contain as many as 36 pairs of shoes, while that of the conductor Léopold Stokowski contained a desk with a table and shelves for storing books and scores. Even today, the Maison is able to satisfy personal orders thanks to the expert craftsmen who work in the laboratory.

valigia guardaroba
Wardrobe suitcase

The fame

The problem was repeated two years later and Vuitton changed the pattern introducing the famous «checkboard pattern», a checkered canvas of two shades of brown, one dark and one lighter, with the inscription «L. Vuitton, marque déposée». The «Monogram» canvas was created in 1896, characterized by the initials LV to guarantee the authenticity and recognizability of the product.

valigia vuitton con monogram
Suitcase with monogram

His son Georges and his grandson Gaston

Louis Vuitton continuously innovated fabrics and patterns, to protect products from counterfeiting. In 1875, the creation of the first vertical wardrobe trunk, with every part carefully designed, guaranteed the success of a company already specialized in travel. Business was booming, so much so that in 1895 the first Louis Vuitton store was opened on Oxford Street in London. Then between 1897 and 1900 the luggage store also opened in the USA.

In 1886, the cylinder padlock was invented, allowing the customer to open each piece of luggage with a single key. Two years later, in 1888, the famous Damier canvas was created and registered.

lucchetto con serratura
Padlock with lock

Louis Vuitton died in 1892. The reins passed to his son George and grandson Gaston-Louis who began to expand the company in many sectors and in as many countries around the world, and who introduced a line of bags for women in 1959.

In 1914 Georges Vuitton inaugurated an Art Nouveau building on the Champs Élysées which became the iconic store of the maison.

Louis Vuitton
The Louis Vuitton palace on the Champs Élysées.

Georges also patented the fabric and waxed bags, such as the “steamer bag”. Gaston, grandson of Louis Vuitton, in addition to following the production, collected travel objects and old luggage from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Today these objects still represent a precious collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris.

Louis Vuitton merges with Moët-Hennessy

Since 1959, the production field has expanded to include a line of bags, small leather goods, and accessories. It was in 1987 when the Louis Vuitton company merged with Moët-Hennessy to become the multinational giant LVMH. The following year, there was the first important purchase: the Givenchy fashion house. In 1989 Bernard Arnault became its president and, starting from 1993, LVMH bought several important fashion houses including Christian Lacroix, Emilio Pucci, Kenzo, Fendi, Michael Kos, and Donna Karan.

From 1983 to 2007, Louis Vuitton was also a sponsor of one of the most famous and prestigious sailing competitions. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the brand, the son of the founder George Vuitton, involved the most famous and esteemed fashion designers to create a limited edition of the various iconic pieces of the fashion house. Among these, there were Azzedine Alaïa, Manolo Blahnik, Isaac Mizrahi, Romeo Gigli, Vivienne Westwood, and Sybilla.

Romeo Gigli x Louis Vuitton
Romeo Gigli x Louis Vuitton

Marc Jacobs’ direction 

In 1997 Marc Jacobs was appointed artistic director of the brand. He launched the first ready-to-wear clothing line in the same year. The following year, the menswear line was introduced. Marc Jacobs’ job was to revitalize the brand by giving it fashion content that it never had before.

A fundamental step in this direction was represented by the collaborations with artists such as Stephen Sprouse and Takashi Murakami who revised the classic LV logo, redecorating it with very flashy interventions.

Marc Jacobs x Louis Vuitton SS14
Marc Jacobs x Louis Vuitton S/S14

Also thanks to advertising campaigns that used celebrities of the calibre of Madonna or Jennifer Lopez, the brand managed to become aspirational for an audience ranging from twenty to seventy years old. The range of products offered by Louis Vuitton, to date, extends from perfumes to sunglasses to shoes and more.

It has been on the market since 1998 with a «City Guide» line, luxury guides of the major cities of the world (Berlin, Athens, London, Moscow, Rome, and Paris and for the updated 2011 edition, also the new and unexpected cities such as Porto Cervo, Beirut, Courchevel, Gstaad, Oxford, Palma de Mallorca and Thessaloniki).

city guide
city guide

The accessory line

In July of the same year, the diversification process of the French brand continued. After launching a jewelry line, the eyewear collection was also introduced. Zeiss was chosen as a partner to produce high-protection lenses. 

In 2006 Louis Vuitton launched new iconic bags, including the Nomad in leather, the Monogram Mini Lin line, the Damier Azur line, as well as a new collection of padlocks. The company also published the book Louis Vuitton – Icons with Edizioni Assouline. Louis Vuitton Houses were inaugurated in Manhattan, New York, and Taiwan.

Louis-Vuitton occhiali da sole Spring-Summer-2020
Louis-Vuitton sunglasses S/S 2020

In 2007 the Takashi Murakami exhibition was inaugurated simultaneously with the opening of a Louis Vuitton store in a museum. The same year an iconic collaboration between Marc Jacobs and Richard Prince also took place. The ‘Ultimate Travel Bag’ was created and the Core Values advertising campaign debuted with Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Catherine Deneuve, and Mikhail Gorbachev. In that year the first Louis Vuitton store in Cyprus was opened.

In 2008 the Graphite Damier collection was the protagonist within the Damier line. The company celebrated the tenth anniversary of the “City Guides”. Sofia Coppola and Stephen Sprouse were honored respectively in Tokyo and New York. In 2009, the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series regatta took place in Auckland, New Zealand. The Takashi Murakami opened at the Guggenheim of Bilbao.

Louis Vuitton developments since 2010

The brand opened megastores in London and New York and, in 2000, a flagship store in Hong Kong. In 2001 the turnover was 3612 million euros, the following year it rose to 4194 million euros. All markets were growing: Europe (+8%), USA (+12%), Japan (+15%). At the end of the year, there were 299 single-brand stores. Of these, 7 new ones: one in Tokyo, two between Kobe and Osaka, Moscow, Amsterdam, and Macau, and another in Germany. About thirty shops were renovated and enlarged.

“Seeing the world through Louis Vuitton’s eyes”, is the motto of the brand proposed to refined travelers from all over the world with the launch, in February 2011, of Amble, the first Louis Vuitton iPhone application developed in collaboration with Apple.

The success was unstoppable. Megastores were opened in London and New York and in 2000 a flagship store was opened in Hong Kong. In 2003, around 300 stores owned by the brand were present worldwide, including the store in New Delhi, India.

negozio marina bay di singapore
Marina Bay shop in Singapore

Louis Vuitton’s commercial policy is based on exclusivity, also to combat the growing attempts at forgery. For this reason, the products of the fashion house can be purchased only and exclusively in single-brand stores or on the official website The brand’s attention is not limited to the fashion system. Louis Vuitton, interested in new realities, owns a cultural space at number 101 of the Champs Élysées. Here the brand allows young artists to propose and promote their art.

In 2010 the book 100 Malles de Légende was published, thanks to which you can retrace, with more than 800 photographs, the history of Louis Vuitton through the legends and adventures it lived. The brand has an estimated value of twenty billion dollars and is at number 29 on the list of the most famous brands in the world.

2014 is a turning point, when Marc Jacobs was replaced by Nicolas Ghesquière in the role of creative director of the women’s collections. Kim Jones has been the creative director of the men’s collections since March 2011. 

In 2017, the French luxury brand signed a collaboration with the young fashion brand, Supreme. The capsule collection was a success, as evidenced by the auction sale at Christie’s of the trunk of the Louis Vuitton x Supreme line at the record figure of 125,000 dollars, approximately 113,000 euros.

I chose Dior because it’s the pinnacle of fashion,” said Kim Jones after leaving the creative direction of Louis Vuitton Homme in 2018. Virgil Abloh took his place, founder of the famous young fashion brand OFF-WHITE. While keeping the brand’s aesthetics unchanged, Abloh broke the common stereotypes by creating collections that, from time to time, came closer to the Z generation in which a mix of sartorial styles is evident, becoming more and more sportswear.

Current situation

In 2020, the brand had an estimated value of $ 16.48 billion, up from 2019 when its evaluation was $ 13.58 billion.

Today the company remains consistent with the spirit of its founder, Louis Vuitton, who invented the true “Art of Travel”, through trunks, bags, and accessories that were creative, elegant, and practical at the same time. Audacity has always shaped the history of the brand.