Louis Vuitton founded his eponymous luxury fashion brand in 1854 on Rue Neuve des Capucines in Paris. From his origins as a master trunk maker, Louis Vuitton and his successors introduced the flat-top trunk- lightweight canvas- signature patterns and the tumbler lock. Today Louis Vuitton’s legacy is expressed through its spirit of innovation and the boldness of its creations.
It was in 1837 that sixteen-year-old Louis Vuitton 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. Travellers called upon craftsmen to pack and protect their individual objects.
Louis Vuitton quickly became a valued craftsman at the Parisian atelier of Monsieur 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 Vuitton stayed for 17 years before opening his own workshop at 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines near the Place Vendome.
In no time he was named the personal box-maker and packer of the Empress Eugenie de Montijo, the wife of Emperor Napoleon III. Vuitton revolutionized the design of steamer trunks by creating flat boxes that allowed them to be stacked on top of each other as well as by making them from canvas to allow them to be waterproof. Outside his fledgling workshop, a sign read, “Securely packs the most fragile objects. Specializing in packing fashions.” But Vuitton couldn’t have imagined that a century-and-a-half later his name would not only remain synonymous with luxury, but also stand as an influential force in global fashion.
The early success of Louis Vuitton encouraged him to expand his operations. This lead to the 1859 opening of his atelier in Asnières. Just northeast of the center of Paris, the workshop started with twenty employees. 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, a hundred and seventy craftsmen work in the Asnières workshop.
In 1886 Georges Vuitton revolutionised luggage locks with an ingenious closing system that turned travel trunks into real treasure chests. After several years of development, George patented this revolutionary system and it was so effective, he challenged Harry Houdini, the great American escape artist, in a public newspaper to escape from a Vuitton box and lock. Houdini didn’t rise to the challenge but the lock’s effectiveness is indisputable. It is still used today.
Louis Vuitton became part of LVMH in 1987 when the conglomerate was created. Moët et Chandon and Hennessy- leading manufacturers of champagne and cognac- merged with Louis Vuitton to form the luxury goods conglomerate. Fashion was on the anvil for Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs launched Louis Vuitton ready-to-wear in 1997. During the twelve-year period he developed special projects and collaborations with a number of artists and fashion designers and was key to the growth of the maison.
Kim Jones took up the reins on the menswear in 2011 and held the title of artistic director until 2018 when he was succeeded by Virgil Abloh. Since 2014 French designer Nicolas Ghesquière has been creative director of womenswear combining his futuristic aesthetic with the craftsmanship of the maison’s artisans. In a letter posted on the official website, he said: “… my stylistic expression is at one with the Louis Vuitton philosophy. The proud legacy. The inspiring history that looks to the future and to the world. The quest for authenticity and innovation. The desire for timelessness. Does not every designer ultimately seek to create something timeless?” However, there were more corporate changes in store. The LVMH-owned company announced that Pharrell Williams would take over in February 2023.
Sustainability is the backbone of the luxury brand and as of 2022 78 per cent of raw materials sourced are either certified or recycled under the strictest environmental standards. “Most of the raw materials used to make and protect Louis Vuitton products come from nature, whether they are derived from animal, plant or mineral sources. Since these raw materials are not all renewable, we are committed to supply chains that have a regenerative impact on biodiversity. Our priorities are therefore to preserve resources and the climate, respect animal welfare, avoid deforestation, eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals, and reduce air and water pollution.” – the official website.
Founded at the dawn of the modern travel era.. Louis Vuitton is on a perpetual mission to explore new horizons propelled by an innovative spirit, boundless creativity and unparalleled savoir-faire. At Louis Vuitton the core team believes that sustainability is a journey that takes long term commitment and humility. The humility to pay as much attention to what the luxury brand has already achieved as to what remains to be done.
The mission of the LVMH group- and Louis Vuitton- is to represent the most refined qualities of Western “Art de Vivre” around the world. The core team believes that the luxury brand must continue to be synonymous with both elegance and creativity. The products- and the cultural values they embody- blend tradition and innovation and also kindle dream and fantasy.
Ready to wear, leather goods, handbags, trunks, shoes, watches, jewellery, accessories and fragrance.