The Louis Vuitton logo is one of the most recognizable logos in the world. That is no mistake. Exquisite craft, timeless design and masterful marketing are all at play within the brand’s success. Read on to learn about the rich history of Louis Vuitton and their powerful logo, but first a little background on Louis Vuitton:
Louis Vuitton was born in 1821 to a poor family of farmers. He left his home at age thirteen and walked (yes, walked) 290 miles to Paris. Naturally, this took a while (2-3 years). Vuitton took on odd jobs to survive until he made it to Paris and launched a career that would eventually become his legacy. This legacy started through working as a box packer at a box making company under Monsieur Marécha. This job was much more important than it probably sounds. Imagine travelling back in the 1800s – by horse-drawn carriage, boat or train. Imagine that baggage and how it must have been handled when loaded onto those modes of transportation. That is why Vuitton’s position as a packer was crucial as consumers required each item to be packed carefully so that their belongings would not be damaged during transit. He stayed under Monsieur Marécha for 17 years where he became a true trunk-master. He carefully designed custom and detailed trunks for discerning luxury clientele.
1859 marks the year when Vuitton left the company that made him into a true artisan and started his own workshop. This workshop is still a symbol of the maison – it housed the Vuitton family as well as acting as the birthplace of the Vuitton brand and production.
This production was unique to the current trunk market. He wanted his trunks to be durable and stylish. Vuitton selected canvas (still the key textile today) for his trunks in addition to making them waterproof (and shock protected) in order to hold up against the harsh travel of the time. They were also flat so that they could easily stack – another concept that was rare in the market. The frames were made of poplar wood which was a stand-out because existing trunks often broke in transit. What was the one thing missing? The logo.
Since the Vuitton luggage was a first in terms of design and durability, it became extremely popular. However, the high price tag eliminated many from buying. This leads to something that we are all familiar with today – fakes. Yes, eighteenth century fake Louis Vuitton was a thing. The iconic logo was not created until four years after Louis Vuitton’s death. His son, Georges Vuitton, designed the logo as a means to combat these counterfeit trunks. He also invented a pin tumbler locking system in 1886, which made the trunks even more desirable due to the added security. He even challenged Harry Houdini in the newspaper to try to unlock it (sadly, no attempt was made).
The logo itself is exactly as we see it today. Georges hired professional designers to craft the interlocking serif L and V italicised letters. The four-sided flower that you see in the traditional monogram was also invented at this time. This monogram design reduced the amount of fakes significantly because (unlike today) it was difficult to duplicate.
The monogram cemented the brand and intrigued the icon herself, Gabrielle Chanel. The domed bag, known as the Alma, was made specially for Coco Chanel in 1925 as a bag for personal use (this shape of handbag was exclusively for personal use and not travel at the time). It went into mass production in 1934 and continues to be a best-seller today.
Also developed in the early 1930s was the Keepall, the Speedy, and the Noe. They were all a smashing success amongst the public and icons like Chanel, Hélène Rochas, the Rothschild family and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Experimentation with finishes (hemp oil and red cloth) and with the also popular Damier print. It was not until Georges Vuitton’s son, Gaston-Louis Vuitton took over (after Georges Vuitton’s passing) that leather was incorporated into products.
Gaston-Louis Vuitton passed away in 1970, and the brand stayed in the family as his son-in-law, Henry Racamier marked a strong moment for the brand. Henry was the reason that the company is as global as it is today. He got the brand to be publicly traded in the 1980s and partnered with Moet et Chandon and Hennessy to create LVMH in 1987. LVMH is one of (if not the most) influential fashion conglomerates in existence today.
The 1980s is also the era where Harlem designer, Dapper Dan famously created designs for his community by illegally using the monogram as the print for his trail-blazing street-wear.
The 1990s sparked momentous changes for Louis Vuitton. It was not until 1990 that the brand went under a non-Vuitton family member. Marc Jacobs started as the first creative director for the brand in 1997. Under his rule, Jacobs introduced iconic collaborations and iterations of the logo. Notably, he removed the full name of ‘Louis Vuitton’ that previously rested underneath the LV logo in advertisements. He was the creator of the delectable Monogram Vernis handbag range as well as the neon graffiti monogram (in a collaboration with Stephen Sprouse).
Jacobs sparked a golden era for Vuitton through thoughtful collaborations with trending artists. One of the most successful of these was the Multi-Colour Monogram collaboration with Takashi Murakami. This iteration of the monogram was made up of thirty-three different colours and the collectable cherry-blossom monogram print.
Jacobs left Vuitton in 2013. This left big shoes to fill. Nicolas Ghesquière crossed over from Balenciaga and brought the Balenciaga edge to Vuitton. Ghesquière made the brand more marketable to the younger generation with his angular logo clasp and by continuing limited edition collaborations (including the sought after Supreme collaboration).
The newest edition to the Louis Vuitton family is Virgil Abloh. After he started as artistic director of menswear in 2018, Abloh is moving the brand into a new era (alongside Ghesquière). His menswear first bag collection featured iridescent, transparent Keepalls and monochrome monogrammed goods.
The new era of Louis Vuitton reflects that of its origin. A dedication to usable and cravable product. The brand has come a long way from trunks made for luxurious travellers and is host to one of the most recognisable logos in the world. Watching the brand evolve is an exciting adventure of quality, design and innovation.
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