Louis Vuitton turns 200: Get to know the legend behind the brand
By: Yana Fung
August 5, 2021
When a 33-year-old Louis Vuitton founded his eponymous house, he may have dreamed of the success he would enjoy and envisioned the triumphs of his brand in great detail. However, it is hard to imagine that a humble trunk maker in 19th century Paris could have predicted the global sensation that the brand Louis Vuitton has become just two centuries later.
Branching out beyond its simple beginnings as a trunk brand, the brand has extended its repertoire into the fashion industry and beyond. From dressing virtual artists to collaborating with real-life artists, if you don’t own something yourself from Louis Vuitton, you’ll most certainly know someone who does.
To properly appreciate the brand that is Louis Vuitton now, it’s important to understand Louis Vuitton, the founder, and his origins. Born into a family of artisans and carpenters in 1821, Louis Vuitton seems to have been destined to create. Nonetheless, he left the picturesque landscapes of his hometown Anchay and made his way to Paris at just 13 years old. There, he was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of Romain Maréchal, a master trunk maker.
Later on, Vuitton was named as the trunk maker and packer of Empress Eugénie, who trusted him with packing her most exquisite clothes. This position provided him with an excellent vantage point from which he could witness the changes in how people travelled and he could predict the impacts these changes would have on luggage.
Gathering up everything he had learnt from his apprenticeship, he established his own maison in 1854. Vuitton chose the heart of the Place Vendôme neighbourhood as the birthplace of his brand, hallowed ground for all fashion lovers as this neighbourhood went on to become the center of fashion with all major fashion houses calling Place Vendôme home from the end of the 19th century onwards. It seems that Vuitton was a trendsetter from the very beginning.
In a show of genius, Vuitton created Gris Trianon at the end of the 1850s. This trunk model broke tradition with two revolutionary new features. The first feature was that Vuitton’s creation touted a coated canvas which made luggage waterproof. The second and more groundbreaking feature were the flat lids on his trunks. No longer adorned with rounded tops (imagine a treasure chest), the flat tops allowed for stacking and were better suited to travelling by train and ship, two modes of travelling that were rapidly becoming more popular. Even then there was an abundance of copycats happy to ride on Vuitton’s coattails, in an effort to stay ahead of the counterfeiters, he evolved his designs constantly in different colours and registered patents for each of his innovations.
Vuitton may have founded the iconic brand, but the classic Monogram pattern was only developed after his death in 1859 by his son Georges Vuitton. By combining his father’s initials with the house’s famous geometrical and floral pattern, Vuitton the younger created the instantly-recognisable Monogram canvas that we have today.
In the subsequent years of the brand operating, it became clear that Vuitton’s initial genius was just a precursor of what the brand would evolve into. It is beyond any doubt that creativity is an irrefutable part of the brand’s DNA. Evident from their technologically-advanced collaborations, Louis Vuitton is leading the trend of cutting-edge partnerships with the tech world.
Most notable perhaps is their partnership with Riot Games, the game developer responsible for League of Legends. For the 2019 League of Legends World Championship Finals, Louis Vuitton designed a bespoke travel case for the trophy, which showcased a fusion of traditional Louis Vuitton craftsmanship (it took 900 hours to make) and advanced technology. On top of that, in a luxury fashion meets gaming moment, Louis Vuitton also designed skins for two League of Legends champions, Qiyana and Senna. In a move that hints at a future of intangible luxury clothing, the brand also dressed K/DA, the virtual girl group.
To celebrate turning 200 in the coming year, Louis Vuitton will be launching a visual kick-off brand campaign, an interactive video game, windows featuring 200 artists, and much more to come from now till December 2021.
History goes to show that the brand will continue to be a benchmark of innovation in the industry. If the past 200 years are anything to go by, we can rely on Louis Vuitton to always be a pioneer in the luxury world. Happy birthday, Monsieur Louis Vuitton!