Known by the initials synonymous with luxury accessories, Louis Vuitton, one of the most valuable companies in Europe, with a value of more than €340 billion, has a history of evolution, quality and talent behind its 125 years.
200 years ago, on August 4, 1821, Louis Vuitton, creator of the brand, was born. At age 16, he left on foot from a village in eastern France for Paris against his father’s wishes. Of humble origins, he worked odd jobs along the way until he reached the French capital.
In Paris, Louis was apprenticed to the respected suitcase manufacturer, Romain Marchéal. His exceptional craftsmanship earned him an exclusive contract as a suitcase packer for Empress Eugine. At the age of 33, in 1854, Louis set up his own business and then the Louis Vuitton Malletier brand was born.
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His dedication was focused on noble luxury items that matched the spirit of the time. Experience as a pack-packer at the court of Napoleon the Third taught him how the powerful kept dresses and hats in heavy boxes with curved lids. It was from there that Vuitton started designing elegant, stackable suitcases.
Today, the LVMH conglomerate is valued at $394 billion. The group has 75 brands in its portfolio, including Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Christian Dior, in fashion; Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Hennessy, in the beverage segment; Acqua di Parma and Guerlain, in perfumery; Sephora, in retail; and Tiffany & Co., Bulgari and TAG Heuer, in jewelry and watches. In the first quarter of 2021, the group posted revenue of $16.7 billion, 30% organic growth over the same period in 2020.
In the beginning, it wasn’t just a matter of design. Functional luggage that didn’t take up much space was increasingly needed. At the time, the skilled artisan created robust and airtight suitcases, a particularity at that time when luggage was not handled with delicacy.
The structure of his suitcases were wooden and metal frames and Louis Vuitton did not use leather for the upholstery, but linen impregnated with rye flour and water repellent. Later, the artisan embellished the look with striped fabrics. Thus, the Louis Vuitton Damier Canvas checkered pattern became his trademark.
The bags were in such demand that, just five years after founding the brand, the Frenchman invested in a factory in Asnières, a suburb of Paris, where the products are still made by hand. At first it had 20 employees, but soon the number grew to 225.
The production of bags remained in the hands of the family. Along with his son Georg, Louis developed and patented a luggage lock, which is still used today. At the time, an important and innovative product, as successful customers urgently wanted even more security for their expensive luggage, according to the German portal Deutsche Welle.
When Louis Vuitton died at the age of 70 in Asnières, his son Georg took over the luggage business. In memory of his father, he developed the legendary canvas monogram, with intertwined Louis Vuitton initials and stylized floral pattern. The fashion group started to sell not only bags. They were joined by handbags, wallets, clothes, jewelry, watches and perfumes. In 1987, the company merged with beverage manufacturer Moët Hennessy to form the luxury conglomerate LVMH.
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