Louis Vuitton was a French designer of fashionable leather and clothing items and accessories. He was born in August 1821, in the small town of Anchay in the French Alps, close to the Border with Switzerland. He passed away in February 1892 in Asnières-sur-Seine, France. Louis Vuitton is mostly famous for his state-of-the-art luggage boxes, trunks, and leather travel bags.
The Louis Vuitton Company that he started in 1854 still makes luxury trunks and leather bags, as well as men’s and women’s leather shoes. Interestingly, the fashion house also puts its LV logo on watches, fine jewels, sunglasses, hardcover leather-bound books, and other fashion accessories for men and women.
Louis Vuitton Facts
1. Louis Vuitton descends from a humble background
Louis Vuitton was the son of trunk maker Xavier Vuitton and Corrine Gaillard, a humble girl from Eastern France’s Jura region. When Louis was just ten years old, his mother Corrine suddenly died. His father remarried soon thereafter, but Louis never developed an affection for his stepmother. Eventually, at the age of thirteen, he left his family home in Anchay and set off on a two-year-long journey to the capital, Paris.
When he finally reached the outskirts of Paris in 1837, the fifteen-year-old boy was emaciated and scared. Luckily, he was spotted by a good man by the name of Romain Maréchal, who took him under his wing and made him an apprentice in his small carpentry. The young boy was quite handy, and soon earned himself a reputation as one of the best box makers in the city.
2. Louis Vuitton was the personal trunk maker of Empress Eugénie de Montijo
Eugénie de Montijo was born in 1826 in Granada, Spain. Prior to her marriage to Napoleon III, she was the 16th Countess of Teba and had a total of six names. When she married Napoleon, she became Empress of the French and assumed the much shorter name Eugénie de Montijo.
At the beginning of the 1850s, she accidentally came across a purse made by Louis Vuitton and immediately fell in love with its exquisite design, the softness of the genuine leather it was made of, and the item’s overall practicality. Thus, in 1953, she officially appointed Vuitton as the Emperor Court’s maker of all sorts of leather items, from trunks, through shoes, to luggage boxes and saddles, an interesting Louis Vuitton fact.
3. He started his first company in 1854
Having worked for the Empress for just one year, Louis Vuitton accumulated enough capital to open his own company in 1854. The firm’s name was Louis Vuitton Malletier and it was located in one of Paris’ most famous streets, Rue des Capucines.
An interesting fact about Louis Vuitton is that his company specialized in the production of high-quality, heavy-duty leather boxes and trunks with advanced security features. He would glue together several layers of fine but, at the same time, extra-tough leather to make his suitcases and boxes practically impenetrable. These leather containers of supreme quality were designed to store and carry the valuable personal belongings of the rich and the famous.
4. Louis Vuitton’s vertical steamer trunk was his most famous design
With the development of the railway and maritime transport in Europe, Africa and India in 1860-1870, Europe’s rich aristocrats started traveling further, and to more exotic destinations. For their expeditions, they needed custom-made leather containers to accommodate their most valued and, oftentimes, quite peculiar possessions.
One of Louis Vuitton’s most popular designs of that time was the deluxe vertical steamer trunk. Practically, it was a portable wardrobe with multiple compartments and plenty of hanging space, allowing its owner to change their outfit on the go.
For one of his most pretentious clients, Vuitton designed a special leather box that could house all the volumes of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. For the intrepid French explorer of Italian origin Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, Louis Vuitton designed a trunk with a folding bed inside. Brazza would use that super-portable bed during his 1876 expedition to Congo.
5. Vuitton’s flat-top canvas trunk is the predecessor of modern travel bags
African explorers like Brazza made up a large part of his clientele. They soon tipped him that his traditional dome-top trunks were too bulky to stack in the overhead cases of train compartments. Additionally, as they were made of leather, they tended to get covered in black mold and emit a pungent smell in the tropical climate.
Louis Vuitton immediately set about to meet those new challenges. After several months of trial and error, he would come up with his canvas flat-top trunk, an interesting Vuitton fact. The flat-top meant that the trunk was easier to stack and transport, while the canvas it was made of was lighter than leather, 100% waterproof, heat-resistant, and practically odorless.
6. Louis Vuitton made trunks that were easily recognizable to prevent luggage loss
In the 1850s, Europe and India’s biggest railway stations were as busy as today’s largest airport terminals. Sweaty porters would frantically rush in all directions, trying to identify and snatch their clients’ luggage, but all trunks looked almost the same.
Louis Vuitton then decided that he should be making trunks that were easily identifiable to prevent the loss of their owner’s luggage. He would decorate his luggage boxes and suitcases with stripes, crests and, most of all, with the owner’s monograms to make them more difficult to lose.
7. Vuitton’s Damier canvas earned him a gold medal at the 1889 Industrial Exhibition
To counter forgery, Louis Vuitton came up with a new canvas design, an interesting fact about Louis Vuitton. It consisted of alternating brown and beige squares and became known as Damier canvas. The fashionable pattern earned its creator a gold medal at the 1889 Industry Expo in Paris. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very difficult to imitate.
Louis Vuitton, the man who made traveling a far more pleasant experience with his beautiful leather trunks and travel bags, had only one son, Georges Ferréol Vuitton, by his wife Clemence-Emilie Vuitton. Born in 1857, Georges succeeded his father at the helm of Louis Vuitton Malletier after his death in 1892.
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