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History of an Iconic Luxury Brand: Louis Vuitton

By Nick Byerley

 

The History of Louis Vuitton

Oh, Louis. You’ve come so far. Today you are the single biggest luxury brand in the world, making more than $28.9 billion  last year alone. Yet the road to success was long. Come with us as we explore the rich history of the House of Louis Vuitton.
In 1853, Louis Vuitton founded his eponymous label on Rue Neuve des Capucines in Paris, France. Originally, he set out to make travel luggage after observing a severe lack of “stacking ability” of trunks on trains. Most luggage had round tops to prevent water from pooling. This in turn make it next to impossible for anyone to stack their luggage, so Louis saw it as an opportunity to create something both unique and functional.
It was in 1858 that he created his first piece of luggage, crafted out of Trianon canvas. It worked extremely well due to the lightweight and airtight attributes of the canvas. The original luggage was coloured grey to look as elegant and appealing to as many people as possible. The look however was very easy to copy, and thus a ton of duplicates and knock-offs started to appear. After a couple years, Louis Vuitton changed the style and color of the bags due to the increasing amount of duplicates showing up on the market. The colours chosen were beige with brown stripes, and he went even further by adding the monogram “marque L. Vuitton déposée,” which translates to “L. Vuitton registered trademark”. This quickly put a strike in duplicate manufacturing and helped increase the LV brand overall. Unfortunately, this would be the last time Louis impacted the brandm as his death followed in 1892.
After Louis Vuitton’s death, the brand and all of its assets were handed over to his son, Georges Vuitton. As a man of ambition, he took the Louis Vuitton brand across the sea to North America, transforming LV from a successful luggage company to a global travel company. The following years started to see, once again, a slow but steady increase in knockoffs. To once again combat this, the LV label introduced the Monogram Canvas, this time patenting it worldwide. It had many graphic symbols based off the trend of using Oriental designs in the late Victorian era including flowers, quatrefoils and of course the LV monogram.
After many years of success and new products launching with much praise, the company opened the largest (at the time) travel luggage store in the world on The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The brand eventually opened stores in the likes of New York, London, Bombay, and other major locations. After the first World War ended, They began production on new bags such as the Keepall bag and the Noe bag. However shortly after in 1936, Georges Vuitton died. Once again, the company and all of it’s assets were handed over to his son Gaston-Louis Vuitton.
Once the 1940’s came around, the LV brand started to incorporate and use leather in almost all of their products. Even going as far as to remake their product to make it more usable on items like wallets, purses and handbags. From there, LV only continued to expand both as a luxury brand as well as its market. LV opened stores in the following years in places such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.
In 1987, Louis Vuitton had one of its biggest moments yet by joining with Champagne and Cognac makers Moët et Chandon and Hennessy, thus creating the label LVMH. In doing this, profits soared, rising by 49% from just the year before. By 1989, the company had opened 130 stores worldwide, including their first in China.
The 1990’s started off strong for LVMH, with them hiring Yves Carcelle as acting President of the company. By the mid 90’s, LVMH could no longer ignore the growing opportunity in luxury clothing. They saw great potential in Marc Jacobs, and went on to hire him as artistic director in 1997. His introductory line “pret a porter” came out the following March to much praise from his fellow designers.
Fast forwarding to now, LVMH remains the definitive luxury brand, continually increasing their profits and marketshare around the world. Nothing seems to be able to slow down the luxury power house of LVMH, and we look forward to what’s coming next!

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