The Louis Vuitton luxury fashion label has one of the richest histories of any designer brand, with its captivating evolution since its founding more than 170 years ago. While the French fashion brand’s signature product has long been considered to be luxury handbags, the origins began with travel trunks in mid-1800s. With quality craftsmanship and security at the forefront of every product, the brand propelled itself into the next generation of luxury shoppers, evolving as the consumer’s needs changed.
Due to its founding in the pre-industrial era, the designer fashion brand had to cater to travelers with far different modes of transit than what we’re used to today, including horse-drawn carriages, trains, and boats. Facing harsh weather and rough handling by coachmen, travel trunks on the market at the time were built for durability, typically negating practicality. Pre-Louis Vuitton, luggage was designed with rounded convex tops to avoid rain settling in the perishable leather, resulting in the non-stackable trunks which limited the amount a traveler could bring along with them. Recognizing a gap in the market, 16-year-old Louis Vuitton traveled to Paris to apprentice for a known skilled artisan; Monsieur Maréchal, before opening his own Parisian atelier. The young entrepreneur undertook the task of composing a superior product. With the use of the innovative water-resistant coated canvas material, he was able to create a revolutionary flat design, which forever changed the way people were able to travel.
Louis Vuitton’s next obstacle in fixing the existing luggage model was security, eliminating the ease with which locks were picked and items were stolen. Along with his son; Georges Vuitton, the pair developed a more complex lock mechanism, offering a latch and keyhole design, making it 'unpickable'. Georges Vuitton was so confident in their craft that he publicly challenged escape artist Harry Houdini to breach the system. Although the experiment never came to pass, the bravado alone took roots in society, and the locks' reputation for strength and security were held in high regard among the upper-class for decades to come.
As a true heritage brand, modern day Louis Vuitton has adapted the classic lock into a push lock iteration, available on many of today's everyday models from the Petite Malle to the Pochette Metis. While still keeping a firm hand on security, many of the simple zippered Louis Vuitton handbags include an LV-engraved lock with keys.
Originally coined the “Express”, the Speedy was the first handbag to be introduced by the luxury fashion brand. Hot off the heels of their travel and luggage success, the brand worked off what they knew best, designing a silhouette inspired by a luggage piece, known as the Louis Vuitton Keepall. The Keepall was, and remains today, an easier to carry piece of luggage, with a rounded and less structured duffel body, ideal for shorter trips. By 1930, the first Speedy bag was released in the size 30, as it spanned 30 centimeters in width. Larger sizes became available as well, and the bag began to pick up momentum. The Speedy didn't truly catch icon-level fame for several decades; however, when Audrey Hepburn personally requested a Speedy silhouette in a smaller size to better complement her petite frame, creating the Speedy 25. Now with a breadth of options for the miniature duffel design, the Speedy is available in sizes nano, 25, 30, 35, and 40, and features prints including the LV Monogram, Damier Ebene, Damier Azur, and limited-edition artworks from a variety of collaborations. Additionally, the iconic top handle bag features another customization, with the bandouliere strap enabling wear as a crossbody or shoulder bag, a vision of its original inspiration, the Keepall.
Throughout its rich and storied history, the most recognizable signature of the French luxury fashion label continues to be the monogram print; an instantly discernible neutral colorway compiled of an assemblage of LV initials and floral decals. The beloved print, like most other branded details, came out of necessity and ingenuity. Seeing the rise of counterfeits taking over the market, Louis Vuitton created a carefully painted print that was not easily replicated in order to protect his brand. While the technology behind counterfeiting would advance over the years, Louis Vuitton handbags remained intricate and consistent, enabling the subtle deviations found on fakes to be easily discerned by the trained eye. With iterations including the colorful Multicolore Monogram, the leather-debossed Monogram Empreinte, the boldly enlarged Giant Monogram, and the inverted classic colorway for the Reverse Monogram, the iconic print keeps reinventing itself for relevance and desirability.
Forever a pioneer in the fashion world, the Louis Vuitton brand continues to break with the expected and adapt to the modern need. Working with a host of brilliant designers, creative directors, and artists, Louis Vuitton remains a fresh offering in a heavily saturated market. With a strong pulse on the needs of its wearers, Louis Vuitton continues to design for practicality, durability, style, and security - the same hallmarks that started the brand's success back in 1854.