Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Pictoral History of Louis Vuitton

Perhaps if we studied history of fashion houses in school, I would have paid more attention.  Here’s a history lesson about Louis Vuitton that is sure to keep you awake, unlike those dry history lessons you endured in school.

Louis Vuitton founded his company in 1854 in Paris, France.  Louis Vuitton began producing flat bottomed trunks out of canvas so they were light and waterproof.  Previously, trunks had rounded tops to prevent water from pooling, but then preventing them from being stacked.  Louis Vuitton’s trunks solved that dilemma and were copied by others soon after. In 1885 Louis Vuitton opened his first store in London England.  To prevent others from copying the look of his canvas, he changed it often.  By 1888 he created his Damier Canvas (checkerboard) pattern.  Louis Vuitton passed away in 1892, after which time his son George took over.

George launched the Monogram Canvas in 1896, which included quatrefoils, flowers, and the LV monogram.  1913 saw an LV store open on the Champs-Elysees and was the largest travel goods store in the world.  The Keepall was introduced in 1930 and the Noe was introduced in 1932.  The Noe was originally intended to transport Champagne.  The Speedy was designed shortly thereafter.  George Vuitton passed away in 1936 after which time the company was run by Louis’ grandson, Gaston-Louis.
Modern Louis Vuitton Monogram Keepall

Modern Louis Vuitton Epi Noe (originally used to carry champagne)

Modern Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Speedy 30

During WWII the company began using leather along with canvas.  By the late 1950s, the Monogram Canvas was redesigned to be more flexible so that it could be used to make handbags.  In 1966 the Papillon was introduced.  In 1985 the epi leather line was introduced.

Louis Vuitton Papillon Advertising Campaign

In 1987 Louis Vuitton merged with champagne and cognac makers Moet et Chandon and Hennessy to form LVMH.  From that point, the brand continued to explode.  Marc Jacobs joined LVMH in 1997 and two years later the first men’s and woman’s ready to wear clothing collections were introduced.  The Monogram Vernis line was also launched in 1999.

Louis Vuitton Monogram Vernis Houston

In 2001 Stephen Sprouse and Marc Jacobs collaborated to create a line of Limited Edition handbags that had graffiti overlaid on the monogram canvas. In 2003 Takashi Murakami and Marc Jacobs collaborated to create the Multicolore line, which featured 33 different colours of the standard Monogram Canvas on a white or black background. Murakami also created the limited edition Cherry Blossom pattern which was discontinued in June 2003.

Takashi Murakami

Marc Jacobs (Photo by Terry Richardson for January 2009 edition of Bazaar)

Louis Vuitton Monogram Graffiti Keepall

Louis Vuitton Monogram Cherry Blossom Keepall

Louis Vuitton Cherry Blossom Pochette

Currently, the LVMH conglomerate controls about 60 luxury brand subsidiaries.  Interestingly, Groupe Arnaud who own the Christian Dior brand, is the largest owner of the LVMH group, with over 40% ownership.  Other luxury brands you may know that are a part of LVMH include Veuve Clicquot, Belvedere, Fendi, Donna Karan, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Loewe, Celine, Guerlain, Bulgari, Sephora, TAG Heuer, and The Bon Marche.

For the Louis Vuitton Affectionado, you’ll already know all of the 20 different lines LV produces.  There are other lines as well, typically reserved for items created as Limited Editions.  For the uninitiated, or those who want to learn more, here’s a synopsis for you:

Monogram Canvas
Bar none, the most common and recognizable of all the Louis Vuitton lines.  Unbeknownst to some, only the trim on these bags are made from leather.  The body of the bag is made from a resilient canvas.

Mon Monogram Canvas
Same pattern as above, except with bold stripes and customized initials emblazed onto the Monogram Canvas.  The one way to personalize your LV.

Damier Ebene Canvas
The original Damier canvas was launched in 1888 and was re-launched in 1996.  It’s two tone brown checkerboard pattern is synonymous with Louis Vuitton.

Damier Azur Canvas
Another checkerboard pattern, this time in grey and ivory tones.  This pattern was also re-launched in 1996.

Damier Graphite Canvas
The men’s version of the Damier Canvas; in two tone dark grey and black checkerboard pattern.

Damier Infini
An embossed leather used for men’s briefcases and travel bags.

Monogram Geant Canvas
A subtle canvas with Louis Vuitton logo printed in large letters diagonally printed on men’s backpacks, messenger bags, and totes.


Monogram Vernis
The Monogram Vernis line has been available since 1998.  Vernis means varnish in French, so Vernis bags have a glossy finish.  The leather is embossed and coated.

Monogram Empreinte
Features Louis Vuitton monogram embossed soft calf leather in a variety of colours.

Monogram Idylle Canvas
This canvas is made from a blend of cotton, linen, and polyamide.  It comes in a black, denim blue, and sepia colour.

Monogram Multicolore Canvas
This black and white canvas was introduced in 2003 by Takashi Murakami.  He took the traditional monogram design and altered it to include 33 vibrant colours.

Monogram Macassar Canvas
The Macassar Canvas takes the regular monogram canvas and adds black accents.  This canvas is only used for men’s items.

Epi Leather
Epi leather debuted in 1985.  It is a very durable, heavy, ridged leather built to withstand regular use.  It does not water stain, so it can be used in all seasons.  Epi leather comes in a variety of colors including red, white, blue, black, yellow, and purple.

Mahina Leather
Is made from a soft, supple leather that has the Louis Vuitton monogram perforated into it.  Comes in a variety of subtle colours like ivory, black, and grey.

Antheia Leather
This line is made from a sophisticated leather that is embroidered with a rendition of the Louis Vuitton monogram.  Comes in a variety of rich colours including cherry, soft grey and black.

Taiga Leather
A rugged, textured leather used to make men’s briefcases and business totes.

An elegant, smooth leather used to make men’s briefcases, billfolds, agenda and portfolio covers.

Sofia Coppola Collection
This collection uses elegant suede, lambskin, and calfskin in a variety of subtle colours to create women’s items.

Described as a robust, this leather has a slight sheen and smooth texture. It is used to make men’s products.

The Naxos leather resembles durable bull hide, with more texture apparent than the Utah leather.


So, how many different Louis Vuitton canvases and leathers were you familiar with?  Which are your favorites?  We love the Vernis and Antheia for the logo look and the Epi for a more subtle look.  And, we are anxiously awaiting the next collaboration!  Until then, much love!

The Bling Girls

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