I first became curious about Louis Vuitton as I was strolling down Champs-Élysées in the winter of 2004. The store front of, literally,the world's largest Louis Vuitton store was shaped into two huge, LV trunks, and an oversized ID tag that said "150 ans" hung off of one of the trunks. Many people were taking pictures of it from across the street. I didn't know a thing about LV, but I was instantly intrigued by the fact that this company had been around for 150 years (since 1854), so I Googled the history of Louis Vuitton as soon as I got home, and boy, does LV have a fascinating history.
Some of the facts of Louis Vuitton history that I found most fascinating:
Louis Vuitton was so well reputed for his luggage-making skills in France that he became the personal layetier, or trunk-maker, to Empress Eugénie de Montijo, as appointed by her husband, Napoléon Bonaparte.
Before Louis Vuitton came on the scene, luggage trunks had rounded tops (think treasure chests). Louis Vuitton revolutionized the world of luggage and travel by making trunks with flat sides that could easily be stacked.
Louis Vuitton created the wardrobe trunk in 1876, complete with drawers, and a rail for hangers.
Gaston-Louis Vuitton (Louis Vuitton's grandson) created the Noé, a drawstring backpack, in 1932 after being contacted by a Champagne house to create a bag that could hold five bottles at a time.
The iconic, and ever-popular, Speedy handbag (the mailbox-lookin' one) was introduced in 1933 and was initially only available in one size, however, Audrey Hepburn said that it was too big, so a smaller one was created for her. Now the Speedy is available in four different sizes.
The "LV" monogram was originally created to prevent counterfeit products. Ironically, though, their monogram line is the most counterfeited line today.
Louis Vuitton products have been counterfeited since they were introduced in the mid-1800's, and they are one of the most counterfeited brands today. The company is fighting back though.
In the past decade, Louis Vuitton has brought on influential artists and designers, such as Marc Jacobs, Takashi Murakami, Stephen Sprouse and Bob Wilson, to create new cuts and graphics for their products.
In my search for LV history, I also came across many sites and forums that served as shrines for LV. People from all around the world were congregating on these sites to share their love of LV by posting pictures of their LV goods, having long conversations about their products, and in general, preaching about the amazingness of LV products' designs, quality, and craftsmanship, as well as posting guides on how to tell authentic goods from counterfeit ones. Eventually, I started being able to tell whether a LV bag was authentic or not from a mile away. I became a LV snob without even owning any LV goods yet.
My first LV purchase was actually a few months later when I made my way back to the very Champs-Élysées LV store where my fascination with LV began. Shopping there was something that I had never witnessed or experienced before. There were so many shoppers that we all had to put our names on a list to be called, kind of like waiting for a table at an exclusive restaurant. By the time they got to you, you had to know exactly what you wanted to buy (I did my research on eLuxury). The sales reps were rude and snooty, of course, but I got my handbag for a couple hundred less than it would have cost me in San Francisco. I left the store a few short minutes later with several hundred dollars less in my wallet as the proud owner of a coveted Louis Vuitton bag.
Here's the thing about Louis Vuitton -- their products are only officially available in three places in an effort to prevent piracy: their own retail store, their boutiques at high end department stores like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's, and the website eLuxury (update: as of 05/15/09, LV will longer be available on eLuxury and will instead only be available on their own personal site). Oh, and they NEVER go on sale. In fact, many of their products, especially when new or limited-edition, are so sought after that they're waitlisted for months and, sometimes, years, and often sell out very shortly after release. Since Paris is the birthplace of LV, it's the destination to get the best deals on LV because there are no import/export taxes, and other fees to go on top of the price of the product, thus tourists flock to it. There is also a limit on how much LV can be purchased by household per year in France. For tourists, I believe it was up to five pieces a year, and for locals, I believe it was three. This is to prevent their products from being resold in places like eBay for a profit.
My first LV purchases were from their Monogram line (the one with the classic LV and flower symbols), but I later branched out their other lines, like Damier (brown checkerboard pattern) and Damier Azur (creme and blue checkerboard pattern). Those three lines utilize the same materials, are the lowest priced of all LV lines (still pricey though), and are often available in the same cut of handbags for the same price. For example, the Speedy 30 is $700 whether you choose the Monogram, Damier, or Damier Azur line. However, getting the same handbag from any of LV's other lines is going to cost you. For example, the Speedy 30 in Epi (ridge-patterned leather) is $1050, in Monogram Roses (rose pattern inspired by Stephen Sprouse) is $1310, in Monogramouflage (camouflage pattern) is around $1500, and in Multicolore (multicolor monogram pattern created by Takashi Murakami in collaboration with Marc Jacobs) is $2240. The lowest priced, practical LV handbag that I've seen is the pochette for $325, and they can go to hundreds of thousands (think solid gold and platinum clutches). Most authentic LV handbags that I've seen women carrying are under $2000 though.
Aside from trunks and handbags, clothing, accessories and jewelry were later created by Marc Jacobs for LV, and footwear and timepieces were introduced, as well. I've gotten a couple of scarves and belts, but I don't think I could ever fathom spending $800 on a pair of shoes, $4000 on a dress, or $3500 for a bracelet that's gold is probably only worth about $300 on the gold market. Looking at pictures of them in W and Vogue as they're draped over Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell in their print ads sure is nice though, and good enough for me.
Kudos to Louis Vuitton (the man, not the company) for being able to create such an influential company from scratch. I'm sure that this 19th century man would've never imagined in his wildest dreams that his humble trunk-making venture would eventually lead to his name being stamped on the world's most sought-after handbags, wallets, clothing, footwear, jewelry and time pieces, and would revolutionize the world of fashion and luxury goods in such a dramatic way in the 21st century.
Though they did cost me a pretty penny, I'm in love with every single one of my twenty-something LV pieces. At this point, they're classic and timeless, and they wouldn't be going out of style any time soon. Call it sad, call it pathetic, but gosh darn it, whenever I tote my multicolore Murakami pochette around town and whip out my matching Murakami mirror to check myself out, I sure do feel extra fabulous, and that's all that really matters :)
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
When I'm not Lunching, I'm a jeweler, and an all around, self-proclaimed web geek. My passions include social media, the interweb, technology, writing, yoga, fitness, photography, jewelry, fashion, … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
Louis Vuitton, commonly referred to as LV, is a French luxury fashion and leather goods company that was founded in 1854. LV is also one of the oldest fashion houses in the world, and one of the main divisions of LVMH (LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A.) headquartered in Paris, France. Known especially for bags and trunks, the company collaborates with prominent figures for marketing and design (most notably supermodel Gisele Bündchen and fashion designer Marc Jacobs).
Internationally renowned and highly regarded for name recognition in the fashion world, as a result LV has become one of the most counterfeited contemporary luxury brands. LV sells its products strictly through its own retail stores, small boutiques in high-end department stores, and online.