The Greatest Travel Brand On Earth: A History of Louis Vuitton, Luggage and the LV Monogram

julianne laplante blog
Got your Louis Vuitton bag? Shoes? Dress? Trunk? DJ vinyl box? Since his working-class beginnings in the French countryside almost 200 years ago, Louis Vuitton built a True Fashionista legacy sure to last another few hundred and then some. His signature monogram and style adorns luxury items spanning the globe and across wardrobes.
When young Louis was 13, he ditched his quiet surroundings and set out, on foot, on a 300-mile quest to Paris. His odyssey took two years to complete, stopping along the way to do odd jobs to support himself. Once in Paris, Vuitton became an apprentice at a successful box-making and packing workshop, garnering a reputation as one of the city’s best in just a few years’ time. He stayed with the Parisian atelier of Monsieur Marechal for 17 years before opening his own workshop. He also made a decision that would affect the world of fashion for generations: he would become a trunk-master and open his own business.
With rail and steamship travel growing in popularity, the need for improved travel boxes became apparent and in 1860 Vuitton introduced stackable rectangular shaped trunks, made from waterproof, durable canvas instead of leather. Many consider Vuitton’s trunk the birth of modern luggage.  After Vuitton’s death in 1872, son Georges made further history by designing that signature, involved monogram canvas complete with diamonds, circles and flowers to combat imitators and rip-offs. With advances in technology and a new coating process soon to come, the monogram canvas could be designed in a more bendable fabric, allowing it to be used for purses, bags and wallets. A True Fashionista design, it adorns many a Vuitton creation to this day!
Should you feel the need to head to the mothership, the iconic House of Vuitton is located in Asnieres just outside of Paris. Its been home base for the Vuitton empire since 1859. Luggage of all sizes and uses is created here, from standard travel trunks and iPad trunks to one-off pieces like violin cases and the afore-mentioned DJ vinyl trunk, designed by Helmut Lang in 1996 as part of the 100thanniversary of the brand. But what good is a trunk if a would-be thief wants to get inside of it?
Louis’ son Georges Vuitton solved that problem in 1886 with the design of an ingenious closing system that rendered their trunk locks nearly impossible to break into. It was so effective that Georges patented the system, then famously challenged escape artist Harry Houdini via a newspaper ad to attempt an escape from a Vuitton box and lock, to which Houdini declined. Vuitton trunks use this locking system even today.
It was famed designer Marc Jacobs, hired as Vuitton’s first creative director in 1997, who was charged with opening up the line to men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections. Jacobs told VogueMagazine upon his appointment, “What I have in mind are things that are deluxe but that you can also throw into a bag and escape town with, because Louis Vuitton has a heritage in travel.” During Jacobs’ incredible 16-year run at Vuitton, he accomplished the company vision transformation to a global fashion presence.  Jacobs earned the reputation, along with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel and the late Alexander McQueen, of staging extravagant runway shows beyond what had yet to be imagined.
Following Vuitton’s merger with French multinational luxury goods corporation Moët et Chandon and Hennessy in 1987, the new conglomerate known as LVMH set about to create a True Fashionista center of art and culture in Paris. La Fondation Louis Vuitton, designed by renowned American architect Frank Gehry, (You have GOT to watch the time lapse video!) opened in 2014 following 13 years of planning and development. Eiffel Tower aside, this is the must-see next time you’re in Paris, dahling! In the meantime, enjoy this insane read: Louis Vuitton: The Birth of Modern Luxury Updated Edition.
With signature style and True Fashionista class, Louis Vuitton continues to reinvent and excite the fashion world.

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