Louis Vuitton (Est.1854) is more than just a fashion icon. It’s an empire—complete with an instantly recognizable, world-renowned monogram and brand. It is among the world’s most valuable in both categories.
According to a Millward Brown 2010 study, Louis Vuitton was then the world's 19th most valuable brand, and was estimated to be worth over US$19 billion. A 2011 BrandZ study valued it at $24.3 billion, more than double the value of the second ranking brand.
With product lines that encompass everything from ready-to-wear to wireless earphones, it’s why the brand has garnered enthusiasts across the globe. Known, too, for client loyalty, as well as heritage designs from Georges Vuitton, son of founder Louis Vuitton. The inaugural collection from Artistic Director of Watches & Jewelry Francesca Amfitheatrof, titled B. Blossom, counts rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces, all featuring the monogram’s signature star-shaped flower among its offerings. The flower’s design was created by Georges-in 1896.
Founded in 1854 with the introduction of ingeniously designed trunks for the burgeoning age of steamship travel, the Louis Vuitton of today continues to reflect the company's heritage. Louis Vuitton is renowned for more than its wide range of products; it is also held in high esteem for its fine jewelry.
The inspiration for Louis Vuitton jewelry designs is most enduringly captured in the Monogram Fusion fine jewelry collection and brought to life in a profusion of rare and unusual colored gemstones in the House’s annual high jewelry collections. Louis Vuitton has also been making a name for itself in the world of luxury watches for more than a decade with original designs and complicated movements.
The Escale Worldtime Minute Repeater, designed to indicate world time without using a single hand, is one of the most colorful - and most complicated - men's watches on the market. Like each piece of Louis Vuitton jewelry, every new Louis Vuitton watch is designed to mirror the prevailing mood of its launch. In 2015, for example, Vuitton's ladies' watches echoed the colors and patterns that appeared in brand designer Nicolas Ghesquière's ready-to-wear Summer Collection.
Louis Vuitton (1821 – 1892) was a French fashion designer and businessman. He was the founder of the brand of leather goods now owned by LVMH. Prior to this, he had been appointed as trunk-maker to Empress Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III.
According to the Louis Vuitton official website, “When he was only sixteen years old, Louis Vuitton made a decision that would not only change his own life but the lives of his sons and future generations: he would become a trunk-master.”
It was in 1837 that 16-year-old Louis arrived in Paris by foot and started apprenticing for Monsieur Maréchal. At the time, horse-drawn carriages, boats and trains were the main modes of transportation, and baggage was handled roughly. Travelers called upon craftsmen to pack and protect their individual objects.
Louis quickly became a valued craftsman at the Parisian atelier of Maréchal. These were the roots of his highly specialized trade; the beginnings of his career in an artisanal industry that called upon skills to custom design boxes and, later, trunks according to clients’ wishes. Louis stayed for 17 years before opening his own workshop at 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines near the Place Vendome.
Louis’ early and rapid success meant he had to expand his operation. This led to the 1859 opening of his atelier in Asnières. Just northeast of the center of Paris, the workshop started with 20 employees. In 1900. By 1914, there were 225.
The original atelier has been expanded throughout the decades—including the addition of the Vuitton family residence—but it is still where products are crafted today. While the family home has been preserved and is part of a private museum, 170 craftsmen work in the Asnières workshop, designing and creating leather goods and special orders for clients around the world.
In 1886, Louis’ son Georges revolutionized luggage locks with an ingenious closing system that turned travel trunks into real treasure chests. In the 1900s, travelers carried all their essentials inside wardrobes and flat trunks which often attracted burglars. Master trunk maker, Louis, sought to help his clients protect the goods inside their travel pieces.
In 1886, father and son adopted a single lock system with two spring buckles. After several years of development, Georges patented this revolutionary system. It was so effective, he challenged Harry Houdini, the great American escape artist to escape from a Vuitton box and lock. Houdini didn’t rise to the challenge, but the lock’s effectiveness was indisputable. It is still used today.
Before the introduction of Vuitton's trunks, rounded-top trunks were used for water runoff and could not be stacked. It was Vuitton's gray Trianon canvas flat trunk that allowed stacking them on top of one another making it easier to load them for voyages. Many other luggage makers later imitated LV's style and design.
To protect against the duplication of his look, Vuitton changed the Trianon design to a beige and brown stripes design in 1876. By 1885, the company opened its first store in London on Oxford Street. In 1888, due to the continuing imitation of his look, Vuitton created the Damier Canvas pattern, which bore a logo that read, "marque L. Vuitton déposée", meaning, "L. Vuitton registered trademark". In 1892, Louis Vuitton died, and the company's management passed to his son, Georges.
Georges Vuitton began a campaign to build the company into a worldwide corporation, exhibiting the company's products at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. In 1896, the company launched the signature Monogram Canvas and established worldwide patents on it. Its graphic symbols, including quatrefoils and flowers (as well as the LV monogram), were based on Japanese Mon designs in the late Victorian era.
The patents later proved to be successful in stopping counterfeiting for a time. Also in 1896, Georges traveled to the United States, where he toured New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, selling Vuitton products. In 1901, the Louis Vuitton Company introduced the Steamer Bag, a smaller piece of luggage designed to be kept inside the brand’s luggage trunks.
By 1913, the Louis Vuitton Building had opened on the Champs-Elysees. It was the largest travel-goods store in the world at the time. Stores also opened in New York, Bombay, Washington, London, Alexandria, and Buenos Aires as World War I began.
In 1930, the company introduced the Keepall bag. During 1932, LV introduced the Noé bag. This bag was originally made for champagne vintners to transport bottles. Soon thereafter, the Louis Vuitton Speedy bag was introduced (both are still manufactured today). In 1936 Georges Vuitton died, and his son, Gaston-Louis Vuitton, assumed control of the company.
During World War II, Louis Vuitton collaborated with the Nazis for the length of the German occupation of France. The French book, Louis Vuitton, A French Saga, authored by French journalist Stephanie Bonvicini and published by Paris-based Editions Fayard tells how members of the Vuitton family actively aided the puppet government led by Marshal Pétain and increased their wealth from their business affairs with the Germans. The family set up a factory dedicated to producing artefacts glorifying Pétain, including more than 2,500 busts.
From 1945 – 2000, Louis Vuitton began to incorporate leather into most of its products, which ranged from small purses and wallets to larger pieces of luggage. In order to broaden its line, the company revamped its signature Monogram Canvas in 1959 to make it more supple, allowing it to be used for purses, bags, and wallets. In 1966, the Papillon was launched (a cylindrical bag still popular today). By 1977 the brand’s annual revenue was up to 70 million Francs ($14.27 million US$).
A year later, the label opened its first stores in Japan: in Tokyo and Osaka. In 1983, the company joined with America's Cup to form the Louis Vuitton Cup, a preliminary competition (known as an eliminatory regatta) for the yacht race. Louis Vuitton later expanded its presence in Asia with the opening of a store in Taipei, Taiwan in 1983 and Seoul, South Korea in 1984. In the following year, 1985, the Epi leather line was introduced.
1987 saw the creation of LVMH as Moët et Chandon and Hennessy, leading manufacturers of champagne and cognac, merged with Louis Vuitton to form the luxury goods conglomerate. By 1989, Louis Vuitton was operating 130 stores worldwide.
Entering the 1990s, Yves Carcelle was named president of LV, and in 1992, his brand opened its first Chinese location at the Palace Hotel in Beijing. Further products were introduced including the Taiga leather line in 1993. In 1996, the celebration of the Centennial of the Monogram Canvas was held in seven cities worldwide.
In 1997, Louis Vuitton made Marc Jacobs its Artistic Director. In March of the following year, he designed and introduced the company's first "prêt-à-porter" line of clothing for men and women. Also in that year products introduced included the Monogram Vernis line, LV scrapbooks, and the Louis Vuitton City Guide.
The last events in the 20th century were the release of the mini monogram line in 1999, the opening of the first store in Africa in Marrakech, Morocco, in 2000, and finally, the auction at the International Film Festival in Venice, Italy, where the vanity case "amfAR," designed by Sharon Stone, was sold with the proceeds going to the Foundation for AIDS Research.
By 2001, Stephen Sprouse, in collaboration with Marc Jacobs, designed a limited-edition line of Vuitton bags that featured graffiti written over the monogram pattern. The graffiti read Louis Vuitton and, on certain bags, the name of the bag (such as Keepall and Speedy). Certain pieces, which featured the graffiti without the Monogram Canvas background, were only available on Louis Vuitton's V.I.P. customer lists. Jacobs also created the charm bracelet, the first-ever piece of jewelry from LV.
In 2002, the Tambour watch collection was introduced. During this year, the LV building in Tokyo's Ginza district was opened, and the brand collaborated with Bob Wilson for its Christmas windows scenography.
In 2003, Takashi Murakami, in collaboration with Marc Jacobs, masterminded the new Monogram Multicolore canvas range of handbags and accessories. This range included the monograms of the standard Monogram Canvas but in 33 different colors on either a white or black background.
Murakami also created the Cherry Blossom pattern in which smiling cartoon faces in the middle of pink and yellow flowers were sporadically placed atop the Monogram Canvas. This pattern appeared on a limited number of pieces. The production of this limited-edition run was discontinued in June 2003. During that year stores in Moscow, Russia and in New Delhi, India were opened, the Utah and Suhali leather lines were released, and the 20th anniversary of the LV Cup was held.
In 2004, Louis Vuitton celebrated its 150th anniversary. The brand also inaugurated stores on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, São Paulo, Mexico City, Cancun, and Johannesburg. It also opened its first global store in Shanghai. By 2005, Louis Vuitton re-opened its Champs-Élysées store in Paris designed by the American Architect Eric Carlson and released the Speedy watch collection.
In 2008, Pharrell Williams co-designed a series of jewelry ("Blason") and glasses for Louis Vuitton. In 2010, Louis Vuitton opened what it described as its most luxurious store in London.
In early 2011, Louis Vuitton hired Kim Jones as its "Men Ready-to-Wear Studio and Style Director". He became the lead designer of menswear while working under the company-wide artistic directorship of Marc Jacobs. In September 2013, the company hired Darren Spaziani to lead its accessory collection.
In November 2013, the company confirmed that Nicolas Ghesquière had been hired to replace Marc Jacobs as artistic director of women's collections. Ghesquière's first line for the company was shown in Paris in March 2014.
On March 26, 2018, Virgil Abloh was named artistic director of men's wear, replacing Kim Jones who had departed for Dior where he became that label's first African-American artistic director and one of few black designers of a major European fashion house.
In October 2011, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA acquired Bulgari SpA in an all-share deal for €4.3 billion ($6.01 billion.) Under the deal, the Bulgari family sold their controlling interest in exchange for 3 per cent of LVMH, thereby becoming the second-biggest family shareholder in LVMH behind the Arnaults. The takeover doubled the size of LVMH’s watch and jewelry units which at the time included Tag Heuer timepieces and De Beer’s diamond necklaces.
In August 2019, the annual High Jewelry collection was called Riders of the Knights and inspired by “lands of legends and audacity.” It explored “the power of vision that drove several medieval heroines to transcend their status as women in order to forge their own destiny.”
Riders of the Knights marked the first High Jewelry collection under the leadership of Amfitheatrof, who was formerly design director at Tiffany & Co. A collection of sapphire and diamond jewelry inspired by arms and armor and medieval legends is also an homage to the brand’s heritage.
“Vuitton women have always followed their sense of adventure; they are curious and powerful. It’s a strong brand. And Vuitton began with trunks, pieces that are meant to be protective, and deliberately built to hand down from generation to generation,” said Amfitheatrof in an article published in Town & Country magazine.
In the recently introduced and playful, B. Blossom Collection, Louis Vuitton’s signature flower is interpreted throughout. There are rings with the famous design in malachite, onyx, white agate, pink opal, diamonds, or plain gold; statement signet rings; chain-link earrings, necklaces, and charm bracelets, and pendant necklaces. Everything is available in in both yellow and pink gold.
Pieces designed for men include accessories and leather goods.
Louis Vuitton is one of the most counterfeited brands in the fashion world due to its image as a status symbol. 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.
The company actively seeks to eradicate counterfeiting, and employs a team of lawyers and special investigation agencies to pursue offenders through the courts worldwide.
LVMH, Vuitton's parent company, has described "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."
The company closely controls the distribution of its products. Until the 1980s, Vuitton products were widely sold in department stores, such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Today, Vuitton products are primarily available at company-owned Louis Vuitton boutiques, with a small number of exceptions in upscale shopping districts or inside luxury department stores. Company boutiques within department stores operate independently, and are operated by company managers and employees. LV has an official online store through its main website.
The Louis Vuitton Company cultivates a celebrity following and has featured famous models, musicians and actors, such as Jennifer Lopez, Keith Richards, Madonna, Sean Connery, Angelina Jolie, Mikhail Gorbachev, and David Bowie in its marketing campaigns.
According to the June 2019 edition of Esquire Magazine, Louis Vuitton launched a new men's jewelry line. The House has created a selection of necklaces and bracelets that deploy the house’s monogram.
The new collection consists of pendants, bracelets, and rings. The pieces can be worn as both daily and evening wear. The new collection is a reinterpretation of classic menswear chains that debuted during the men’s Spring-Summer 2019 show.
Inspired by hip-hop and skate culture, the new multi-hued chain comes with different colored enamel along with the classic LV monogram across all pieces. The chunky chains come in a variety of different finishes that include silver and gold.
All necklaces and bracelets come with a new clasp that has been developed to ensure wearers don't lose their high-fashion piece. The clasp comes embellished with Louis Vuitton branding and an “R” engraving, the registered trademark symbol, a detail that runs throughout the collection.
In June 2019, the brand collaborated with six contemporary artists Sam Falls, Urs Fischer, Nicholas Hlobo, Alex Israel, Tschabalala Self and Jonas Wood on "Artycapucines." Each artist designed their version of the Capucine bag which were sold in numbered, limited quantities.
In July 2019, Louis Vuitton opened a temporary exhibition titled "Louis Vuitton X" in Los Angeles, showcasing items from its various collaborations over the years.