Louis Vuitton Malletier (/lwi bwit??/), commonly referred to as Louis Vuitton, or sometimes shortened to LV, is a French multinational giant that is the global leader in the retail of fashion products: including but not limited to travel luggage, clothes, clothing accessories, watches, wallets, handbags, jewellery items, shoes etc. Founded in 1854, one of the main divisions of LVMH is headquartered in Paris, France. Known especially for bags and trunks, the company collaborates with prominent figures for marketing and design (most notably supermodel Gisele Bündchen and fashion designer Marc Jacobs). Internationally renowned and highly regarded for name recognition in the fashion world, as a result LV has become one of the most counterfeited contemporary luxury brands.
LV is also one of the oldest fashion houses in the world, having started in 1854. It sells its products strictly through its own retail stores, small boutiques in high-end department stores, and online (as an effort against counterfeit). It primarily competes with Versace, Hermès, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Dior, Chanel, Fendi, Armani, Prada and other similar luxury fashion brands.
Louis Vuitton History
In the mid 19th century, Louis Vuitton was a renowned trunks and luggage retailer. Entering into the 20th century, the company expanded in terms of locations and financial success. Beginning in the middle of the century, it entered the fashion world, integrating its signature Monogram Canvas into purses and bags. Its merger to create LVMH became a milestone step, and from then on, LV came to acquire its luxury fashion image known today.
Prominent figures to have exclusively ordered Louis Vuitton luggage in history include Congo explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, who ordered a combined trunk and bed from the company, and American conductor Leopold Stokowski (for his travels), whose travelling secrétaire was designed by Gaston-Louis Vuitton.
Biography of Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton (born, August 4, 1821; died, February 27, 1892), future founder of his eponymous company, was born in Jura, France (now part of the commune of Lavans-sur-Valouse). In 1835, he moved to Paris. The trip from his hometown to Paris was over 400 kilometers (249 mi), and he travelled the distance by foot. On his way there, he picked up a series of odd jobs to pay for his journey. There, he became an apprentice Layetier to prominent households. Because of his well established reputation in his fields, Napoleon III of France appointed Vuitton as Layetier to his wife, Empress Eugénie de Montijo. Through his experience with the French aristocracy, he developed expert knowledge of what made a good travelling case. It was then that he began to design his own luggage, setting the foundations for LV Co.
1854 through 1892
Louis Vuitton: Malletier à Paris was founded by Monsieur Vuitton in 1853 on Rue Neuve des Capucines in Paris. In 1858, Monsieur Vuitton introduced his flat-bottom trunks with trianon canvas (they were lightweight and airtight). Before the introduction of Vuitton’s trunks, rounded-top trunks were used, generally to promote water run off, and thus could not be stacked. It was Vuitton’s gray Trianon canvas flat trunk that allowed the ability to stack for ease with voyages. Becoming successful and prestigious, many other luggagemakers began to imitate LV’s style and design.
In 1867, the company participated in the universal exhibition in Paris. To protect against the duplication of his look, he changed the Trianon design to a beige and brown stripes design in 1876.By 1885, the company opened its first store in London, England on Oxford Street. Soon thereafter, due to the continuing imitation of his look, in 1888, the Damier Canvas pattern was created by Louis Vuitton, bearing a logo that reads „marque L. Vuitton déposée,“ which translates to „mark L. Vuitton deposited“ or, roughly, „L. Vuitton trademark“. In 1892, Louis Vuitton died, and the company’s management passed to his son.
1893 through 1936
After the death of his father, Georges Vuitton began a campaign to build the company into a worldwide corporation, exhibiting the company’s products at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. In 1896, the company launched the legendary Monogram Canvas and made the worldwide patents on it. Its graphic symbols, including quatrefoils and flowers (as well as the LV monogram), were based on the trend of using Japanese and Oriental designs in the late Victorian era. The patents later proved to be successful in stopping counterfeiting. In this same year, Georges traveled to the United States, where he toured various cities (such as New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago), selling Vuitton products during the visit. In 1901, the Louis Vuitton Company introduced the Steamer Bag, a smaller piece of luggage designed to be kept inside Vuitton luggage trunks.
By 1914, the Louis Vuitton Building opened on the Champs-Elysees. It was the largest travel-goods store in the world at the time. Stores also opened in New York, Bombay, Washington, London, Alexandria, and Buenos Aires as World War I began. Afterwards, in 1930, the Keepall bag was introduced. During 1932, LV introduced the Noé bag. This bag was originally made for champagne vintners to transport bottles. Soon thereafter, the Louis Vuitton Speedy bag was introduced (both are still manufactured today). In 1936 Georges Vuitton died, and his son, Gaston-Louis Vuitton, assumed control of the company.
1936 through 2000
See also: Louis Vuitton Cup, America’s Cup, and LVMH
During this period, the look of the leather was utilized in everything from small purses and wallets to larger pieces of luggage. In order to broaden its line, the company revamped its signature Monogram Canvas in 1959 to make it more supple, allowing it to be used for purses, bags, and wallets. Audrey Hepburn is seen carrying the bag in the film Charade (1963). It is believed that in the 1960s, counterfeiting returned as a greater issue to continue on into the 21st century. In 1966, the Papillon was launched (a cylindrical bag that is still popular today). By 1977, LV owned two stores, with annual revenue up to 70 million Francs ($10 million USD). A year later (1978), it opened the first stores in Japan (in Tokyo and Osaka). In 1983, the company joined with America’s Cup to form the Louis Vuitton Cup, a preliminary competition (known as an eliminatory regatta) for the yacht race. Louis Vuitton later expanded its presence in Asia with the opening of a store in Taipei, Taiwan in 1983 and Seoul, South Korea in 1984. In the following year (1985), the Epi leather line was introduced.
1987 witnessed the creation of LVMH. Moët et Chandon and Hennessy, leading manufacturers of champagne and cognac, (respectively) merged with Louis Vuitton to form the luxury goods conglomerate. Profits for 1988 are reported to have been up by 49% more than in 1987. By 1989, Louis Vuitton came to operate 130 stores worldwide. Entering the 1990s, Yves Carcelle was named president of LV, and in 1992, his brand opened its first Chinese location at the Palace Hotel in Beijing. Further more introduced products became the Taiga leather line (1993) and the literature collection of Voyager Avec… (1994). In 1996, the celebration of the Centennial of the Monogram Canvas was held in seven cities worldwide.
After introducing its pen collection (1997), Louis Vuitton made Marc Jacobs alongside Jae its Art Directors (1998). In March of the following year, they designed and introduced the company’s first prêt-à-porter line of clothing for men and women. Also in this year, the Monogram Vernis line, the LV scrapbooks, and the Louis Vuitton City Guide were launched. 1300 km from Dalian to Beijing, the first rally in China was held („China Run“) as well. The last events in the 20th century were the release of the mini monogram line (1999), the opening of the first store in Africa in Marrakech, Morocco (2000), and finally the auction at the International Film Festival in Venice, Italy, where the vanity case „amfAR“ designed by Sharon Stone was sold with the proceeds going to The Foundation for AIDS Research (also in 2000).
2001 to present day
The store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.
By 2001, Stephen Sprouse, in collaboration with Marc Jacobs, designed a limited-edition line of Vuitton bags that featured graffiti written over the monogram pattern. The graffiti read Louis Vuitton and as well, on certain bags, the name of the bag (such as Keepall and Speedy). Certain pieces, which feature the graffiti without the Monogram Canvas background, are created and only available to the customers on Vuitton’s V.I.P. customer list. Jacobs also created the charm bracelet, the first ever piece of jewelry from LV, within the same year.
In the year of 2002, the Tambour watch collection was introduced. During this year as well, the LV building in Tokyo is opened, and the brand collaborates with Bob Wilson for its Christmas windows sceneography. In 2003, Takashi Murakami, in collaboration with Marc Jacobs, masterminded the new Monogram Multicolore canvas range of handbags and accessories. This range includes the monograms of the standard Monogram Canvas, but in 33 different colors on either a white or black background. (The classic canvas features gold monograms on a brown background.) Murakami also created the Cherry Blossom pattern, in which smiling cartoon faces in the middle of pink and yellow flowers are sporadically placed atop the Monogram Canvas. This pattern appeared on a limited number of pieces. The production of this limited-edition run was discontinued in June 2003. Within 2003, the stores in Moscow, Russia and in New Delhi, India are opened. The Utah and Suhali leather lines are released, and the 20th anniversary of the LV Cup is held as well.
Louis Vuitton situated on the famous Champs-Elysées.
Louis Vuitton celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2004 worldwide. In this year, the brand inaugurated stores in New York City (on Fifth Avenue), São Paulo and Johannesburg. It also opened its first global store in Shanghai. By 2005, Louis Vuitton reopened its Champs-Élysées store (reputed to be the largest LV store in the world), and released the Speedy watch collection. In 2006, LV held the inauguration of the Espace Louis Vuitton on its 7th floor.
Controversy and disputes
Collaboration with Nazi Germany
The French book Louis Vuitton, une saga française (Louis Vuitton: A French Saga)) tells how members of the Vuitton family actively aided the puppet government led by Marshal Philippe Pétain, increasing their wealth from their business affairs with the Nazis. The family set up a factory dedicated to producing artifacts glorifying Pétain, including more than 2,500 busts. Petain’s Vichy regime was responsible for the deportation of French Jews to German concentration camps.
Caroline Babulle, a spokeswoman for the publisher (Fayard) said, „They [Louis Vuitton Co.] have not contested anything in the book, but they are trying to bury it by pretending it doesn’t exist.“ Responding to the book’s release in 2004, a spokesman for LVMH stated that „this is ancient history…The book covers a period when it was family-run and long before it became part of LVMH. We are diverse, tolerant and all the things a modern company should be.“ Another LVMH spokesman told the satirical magazine, Le Canard enchaîné, that „We don’t deny the facts, but regrettably the author has exaggerated the Vichy episode.“ In an article published by L’express, France first weekly news magazine, Jacques Attali, then advisor to president François Mitterand, described the book as a „remarkable enquiry“ and a „must read“.
Louis Vuitton vs. Britney Spears video
On November 19, 2007 Louis Vuitton, in further efforts to prevent counterfeiting, successfully sued Britney Spears for violating counterfeiting laws. A part of the music video for the song „Do Somethin'“ shows fingers tapping on the dashboard of a hot pink Hummer with what looks like Louis Vuitton’s „Cherry Blossom“ design bearing the LV logo. Britney Spears herself was not found guilty, but a civil court in Paris has ordered Sony BMG and MTV Online to stop showing the video. They were also fined €80,000 to each group. An anonymous spokesperson for LVMH stated that the video constituted an „attack“ on Louis Vuitton’s brands and its luxury image.
Louis Vuitton vs. Darfur Charity
On February 13, 2007 Louis Vuitton sent a Cease and Desist order to artist Nadia Plesner for the „reproduction“ of a bag that infringes Louis Vuitton’s Intellectual Property Rights. The reproduction referred to is a satirical illustration that depicts a malnutritioned child holding a designer dog and a designer bag. The illustration features on T-shirts and posters, with all profits going to the charity „Divest for Darfur“. The artist defended her „Simple Living“ campaign and her right to artistic freedom in a written response to Louis Vuitton on February 27, 2008, calling attention to the lack of the famous monogram, further asserting that the illustration refers to ‚designer bags‘ in general, with no specific mention of the Louis Vuitton brand in either the illustration or any associated campaign material. On April 15, 2008, Louis Vuitton notified Plesner of the lawsuit being brought against her. It has been reported that Louis Vuitton is demanding $7,500 (5,000 Euro) for each day Plesner continues to sell the Simple Living products, $7,500 for each day the original Cease and Desist letter is published on her website and $7,500 a day for using the name „Louis Vuitton“ on her website. In addition, it is alleged that Louis Vuitton is demanding that the artist pays Louis Vuitton’s legal costs, including $15,000 to cover additional expenses the company has incurred in protecting their intellectual property rights. Although the outcome of this lawsuit is yet unknown, the contested image was removed from Plesner’s website for an extended period. Although an alternative image is now used for Plesner’s fundraising campaign, the original image has since reappeared and is featured prominently on the site.
New York Magazine reported that Louis Vuitton attempted to stop the case from going to court, but that they were forced to take legal action when Plesner did not respond to their original request to remove the contested image, nor to the subsequent Cease and Desist order. The LVMH spokeswoman also claimed that Plesner was attempting to conceal the lengths that LVMH went to in order to „prevent the lawsuit.“ These claims do not align with Plesner’s published response to the Cease and Desist order, and the article has since been criticized for not allowing Plesner to respond to the claims made by LVMH, particularly as the magazine had been in contact with her only days earlier.