Louis Vuitton (August 4, 1821-February 27, 1892) designed and manufactured luggage in Paris during the second half of the nineteenth century. One hundred years later, Vuitton's signature leathergoods are now a status symbol around the globe and are highly regarded in the fashion world. The Louis Vuitton "Monogram Canvas" design can be considered the very first "designer label" on a product (the first in the contemporary sense), as it was created in 1896 with the intent of preventing counterfeiting. Unfortunately, Louis Vuitton has become the most counterfeited brand in fashion history: just over 1% of all "Louis Vuitton"-branded items are not counterfeit. Ironically, the Monogram Canvas that is so counterfeited and famous was not created until after Louis Vuitton's death, when it was created by his son, Georges.
Vuitton was born in Anchay, Jura, France (now part of the commune of Lavans-sur-Valouse). He moved from his hometown of Anchay in 1835 at the age of fourteen. Two years later, he arrived in Paris and apprenticed for luggage- and trunk-maker Monsieur Marechal. In 1854, he opened his own store in Paris.
The modern Louis Vuitton company has carefully cultivated a celebrity following and has used famous models and actresses in its marketing campaigns, most notably Uma Thurman whose "sophisticated yet unpredictable image" was a supposed reflection of the Vuitton brand. Other models and actresses who have lent their name to the Louis Vuitton line include Jennifer Lopez, Scarlett Johansson, Chloe Sevigny, and Christina Ricci and more recently, models Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. All have appeared in ads and commercials for the line. Hayden Christensen has also appeared as model for the company's luggage and prêt-à-porter lines.
Vuitton bags and purses have a considerable list of celebrity adherents who proudly display their Monogram Canvas items. Asia's songbird Regine Velasquez, Ashley Tisdale, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, Paris and Nicky Hilton, Nicole Richie, Angelina Jolie, Siti Nurhaliza, Ayumi Hamasaki, Anna Kournikova, Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Denise Richards, Katharine McPhee and Amisha Patel can all be seen with multiple Vuitton accessories.
The Vuitton collection of bags and purses has also created a cult-like following among consumers. Owners of the bags and purses proudly display the logo and designs and refer to the products as “Louis”. The cult following by both celebrities and ordinary consumers has elevated the Louis Vuitton brand to the foremost position in accessory design alongside houses such as Gucci, Prada and Hermès.
The Louis Vuitton Company
Early Days (1854-1892)
1854 - Vuitton opened his first store in Paris on Rue Nueve des Capucines, founding Louis Vuitton, "Malletier a Paris" .. "a Trunk-Maker in Paris". Before Vuitton's quality trunks, French philosopher, Denis Diderot & Jean Le Rond d'Alembert makes mention of a Malletier's techniques about 140 years earlier. (1713-1784)
The word, "Malletier" ("Trunk Maker") has been synonymous with other fine craftsmen such as "Maison E. GOYARD Paris" , "Malletier de luxe" manufacturing trunks one year earlier in 1853, but it was Vuitton who was the first to create a flat-topped trunk. Vuitton began by selling flat-topped trunks that were lightweight and airtight. All trunks before this had rounded tops for water to run off, and thus could not be stacked. Vuitton's very first piece was the gray Trianon canvas flat trunk. In the same year his goods were purchased by France's Empress Eugénie.
1860 - Vuitton opened a larger factory in Asnières-sur-Seine to accommodate increased demand.
1867 - Vuitton entered the Universal Exhibition at the World's Fair in Paris, winning the bronze medal.
1872 - Creation of the red and beige striped canvas.
1876 - Creation of the wardrobe trunk, which contained a rail and small drawers for storing clothing.
1880 - Georges gets married and (on the same day) is given control of the business. Georges is credited with developing the unique five-number combination lock found on Vuitton trunks.
1883 - Georges' son Gaston-Louis is born.
1885 - The first Louis Vuitton store in London opens.
1888 - The Damier Canvas pattern is created by Louis Vuitton in collaboration with Georges, and bears a logo that reads "marque L. Vuitton déposée" (which literally means "mark L. Vuitton deposited" or roughly "L. Vuitton trademark").
1889 - Vuitton wins the gold medal at the World's Fair in Paris.
1892 - Vuitton dies; the Vuitton company begins selling handbags.
Golden Age of Louis Vuitton (1893-1936)
After Vuitton's death, Georges amazingly made Louis Vuitton a worldwide corporation.
1893 - Georges displays Vuitton products at the World's Fair in Chicago.
1894 - Georges publishes his book "Le Voyage".
1896 - Georges designs the 'Monogram Canvas'. Its graphic symbols were based on the trend for Japanese/Oriental designs in the late Victorian Period. This can be considered the first "designer logo", since Georges was driven to create this pattern to prevent further copying of Vuitton patterns (counterfeiting had already begun by this point). Georges then sailed to the United States, in which he toured various cities such as New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. He sold Vuitton products during the visit.
1899 - Georges exhibited Vuitton products at the maiden Paris Auto Show.
1900 - Georges Vuitton was given the honor to set up the "Travel Items and Leather Goods" section of the 1900 Paris World Fair.
1901 - The Louis Vuitton Company introduced the 'Steamer Bag', a small handbag to be kept inside Vuitton luggage trunks.
1904 - Georges chaired the jury for the St. Louis World's Fair. In the same year, the Louis Vuitton company introduced a new line of trunks that have special compartments for items such as perfumes, clothing, and other goods.
1906 - Georges' son Gaston-Louis married Renee Versille, and Louis Vuitton introduced trunks for automobiles.
1914 - The Louis Vuitton Building opens in Champs-Elysees. The building was the largest travel-goods store in the world at that time. Store locations open in New York, Bombay, Washington, London, Alexandria and Buenos Aires as World War I begins.
1924 - Only eight years after the end of World War I, the 'Keepall' is invented. This bag foreran the duffel bag in a travel bag for light travel to keep necessities in.
1929 - The seventy-fifth anniversary of Louis Vuitton, a toiletry case is introduced specifically for opera singer Marthe Chenal. It could fit bottles, brushes, mirrors, powder boxes and more toiletries.
1931 - Louis Vuitton introduced exotic bags such as a handbag of crocodile skin, as well as elephant hide handbags for the Colonial Exhibition.
1932 - Louis Vuitton introduced the Nóe bag. This bag was made for champagne vinter to transport bottles.
1933 - The Louis Vuitton Speedy bag was introduced.
1936 - The golden age of Louis Vuitton ends as Georges Vuitton passes away. Estimates attribute Georges Vuitton with over 700 new Vuitton designs. Gaston-Louis Vuitton assumes control of the company. The secretary trunk is introduced for Leopold Stokowski, a conductor.
Modern Age of Louis Vuitton (1937-1996)
1959 - The company revamps it signature Monogram Canvas to make it more supple, allowing it to be used for purses, bags, and wallets.
1977 - Annual sales reach 70 million French francs (around US$10 million).
1978 - Vuitton opens its first stores in Japan, in Tokyo and Osaka. (Sales in Japan would come to account for nearly half of the company's total revenue by the 1980s.)
1983 - The Louis Vuitton company joins with America's Cup to form the Louis Vuitton Cup, a preliminary competition (called an eliminatory regatta) for the world's most prestigious yacht race.
1984 - Vuitton expands its presence in Asia by opening its first store in Korea, in Seoul.
1986 - The company introduces its Epi leather line.
1987 - Moët et Chandon and Hennessy, leading manufacturers of champagne and of brandy, respectively, merges with Louis Vuitton to form the world's largest luxury goods conglomerate, LVMH. The group is partly owned by the Christian Dior group, and Bernard Arnault is Chairman and CEO of both companies.
1988 - Vuitton reports profits up 49% from the prior year.
1988 - The company hosts its first Louis Vuitton Classic car show in Paris.
1989 - The company's stores total 130 worldwide.
1990 - Yves Carcelle is named president of the company.
1992 - The first store in China is opened at the Palace Hotel in Beijing.
1993 - The Taiga leather line is introduced.
1996 - The centennial of the Monogram Canvas is celebrated in seven cites across the world, marked by parties at stores and the release of limited-edition items bearing the signature design.
Millennium Age of Louis Vuitton (1997-present)
1997 - Louis Vuitton hires designer Marc Jacobs to be the label's artistic director. The same year, he designed and introduced the company's first Prêt-à-Porter line of clothing.
2001 - Stephen Sprouse, in collaboration with Marc Jacobs, designs a limited edition line of Vuitton bags that feature graffiti written over the monogram pattern. The graffiti says Louis Vuitton and, on certain bags, the name of the bag. The graffiti appeared in green and white. Four pieces with the graffiti over the monogram included the Keepall, the Speedy, the Pochette Accessories and the Pochette Porte-Monnaie Crédit Wallet. A few handbags, which were even more limited in number than the four regular graffiti pieces, featured the graffiti design in peach or black on top of a solid white or black background. These were only available to the customers on Vuitton's "V.I.P." list.
2003 - Takashi Murakami, in collaboration with Marc Jacobs, masterminds the new "Monogram Multicolore" canvas range of handbags and accessories. This range includes the monograms of the standard Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas, but in 33 different colors, on either a white or a black background. (The classic monogram canvas features gold monograms on a brown background.)
2004 - Takashi Murakami creates the "Cherry Blossom" pattern, in which smiling cartoon faces (which resemble anime cartoons) in the middle of pink and yellow flowers are sporadically placed atop the Monogram Canvas. This pattern appeared on a limited number of pieces, which sold out quickly. Certain pieces featured a pink version of the Monogram Canvas.
2005 - Takashi Murakami creates the "Monogram Cerises" pattern, in which cherries with faces on them (again, resembling anime cartoons) are placed over Monogram Canvas on select pieces. The line was being sold on LVMH's official retail website, eLUXURY, in the spring of 2006, but was no longer available by the end of May of 2006.
2006 - Louis Vuitton opened its 9th UK store in the upmarket Leeds Victoria Quarter on September 19. The store is the first Louis Vuittion store outside London that has its own VIP area. The store sells Ties, Sunglasses, Small Leather Goods, Scarfs, Gifts, Keyrings, Handbags and Luggage. An interesting fact is that 98% of the population of Leeds will never buy anything from the store.
The brand is highly counterfeited, and just over 1% of the items bearing the trademark Monogram Canvas are authentic. Ironically, the signature Monogram Canvas was created to prevent counterfeiting.
In 2004, Louis Vuitton fakes accounted for 18% of counterfeit accessories seized in the European Union.
In 2005, Louis Vuitton Malletier, a subsidiary of LVMH that handles the manufacture of Vuitton goods, successfully sued Google in France, and Google was ordered to pay US$250,000 for trademark violations, unfair competition, and misleading advertising. Vuitton has collected half the award, but Google has not settled the suit in full, alleging, in part, that French courts don't have jurisdiction over certain Google domain names.
As of 2006, LVMH, Vuitton's parent company, said that it employed "some 60 people at various levels of responsibility working full time on anti-counterfeiting, in collaboration with a wide network of outside investigators and a team of lawyers."
In 2004, the brand's firm stance led to over 13,000 legal actions, more than 6,000 raids, over 947 arrests and the seizure of fake printing cylinders.
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