Louis Vuitton began as a lowly apprentice | AspenTimes.com

Louis Vuitton began as a lowly apprentice

Louis Vuitton trunks at Ute House, Aspen
Courtesy Louis Vuitton

In a world (and a mountain town) awash with luxury brands, Louis Vuitton is one of the most enduring and recognizable.

LV’s influence on fashion and pop-culture cannot be overstated. The brand has defined status and wealth, skilled craftsmanship, and luxury travel from the first film appearance of the Monogram Steamer bag in the 1963 Audrey Hepburn-led film Charade, to the vintage luggage in Coming to America (1988), and the pink Murakami cherry-blossom Pochette sported by Regina George in Mean Girls (2004), as well as countless other film and television cameos, to celebrity endorsements, double-digit mentions in rap lyrics, and beyond.

But, it all started humbly in 1837, when an orphaned 16-year-old boy from northeastern France was literally fleeing a cruel stepmother. Louis Vuitton arrived in Paris and started apprenticing for Monsieur Maréchal, a Parisian trunk-maker and packer.  

Vuitton worked for Maréchal for 17 years. During this time, he was commissioned to make trunks for Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugénie de Montijo, which garnered him access to royal and elite clients. The era of Louis Vuitton the brand began when steam, boat and horse-drawn carriage were the main modes of transportation and travelers needed sturdy luggage.

In 1858, he revolutionized the trunk by replacing the standard rounded-top leather trunks with a canvas, flat rectangular design, making his trunks lighter, stack-able, waterproof, and easier to transport.

Prior to Vuitton’s death in 1892, his only child, son Georges, invented the “unpickable lock” to counteract theft and, in 1896, worked to foil counterfeits and honored his father by copyrighting the now ubiquitous Louis Vuitton monogram featuring the “LV” logo, circle, flower, and quatrefoil pattern.

In 1925, Coco Chanel requested a bespoke handbag, which she allowed to be mass produced in the 1930s. It is now known as The Alma and kicked off the Maison’s foray into small luxury goods and handbags. The Keepall, Speedy 25, Noé bucket bag, and the cylindrical Papillon all became staples of any LV collection.

Louis Vuitton may have started out as a luggage company, but, over the past 168 years, it has evolved from luggage and handbags to clothing, accessories, fragrance, and fine jewelry and watches and is now part of one of the most valuable multinational corporations specializing in luxury goods in the world — Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, commonly known as LVMH.