Founded in: 1854
Founder: Louis Vuitton
Headquarters: Paris, France
Key people: Jordi Constans (Chairman & CEO),Marc Jacobs (Art Director),Antoine Arnault (Director of Communications)
Revenue: €2.5 billion (2011)
Louis Vuitton Malletier – commonly referred to as Louis Vuitton or shortened to LV is a French fashion house founded in 1854 by Louis Vuitton. The label is well known for its LV monogram, which is featured on most of its products this ranging from luxury trunks and leather goods to ready to wear, shoes, watches, jewellery, accessories, sunglasses, and books. Louis Vuitton is one of the world’s leading international fashion houses,it sells its products through standalone boutiques, lease departments in high end department stores, and through the e commerce section of its website.
The Louis Vuitton label was founded by Vuitton in 1854 on Rue Neuve des Capucines in Paris, France. Louis Vuitton had observed that the HJ Cave Osilite trunk could be easily stacked and in 1858, Vuitton introduced his flat bottom trunks with trianon canvas, making them 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 with ease for 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 into “L. Vuitton registered trademark”. In 1892, Louis Vuitton died, and the company’s management passed to his son.
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 signature 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 1913, 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.
During World War II, Louis Vuitton collaborated with the Nazis during the German occupation of France. The French book Louis Vuitton, A French Saga, authored by French journalist Stephanie Bonvicini and published by Paris based Editions Fayard tells how members of the Vuitton family actively aided the puppet government led by Marshal Philippe Pétain and increased their wealth from their business affairs with the Germans. The family set up a factory dedicated to producing artifacts glorifying Pétain, including more than 2,500 busts.
Caroline Babulle, a spokeswoman for the publisher, Fayard, said: “They 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 said “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.” An LVMH spokesman told the satirical magazine Le Canard Enchainé “We don’t deny the facts, but regrettably the author has exaggerated the Vichy episode. We haven’t put any pressure on anyone. If the journalists want to censor themselves, then that suits us fine.” That publication was the only French periodical to mention the book, LVMH is the country’s biggest advertiser in the press.
During this period, Louis Vuitton incorporated its leather into most of its products, ranging 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. It is believed that in the 1920s, 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 with annual revenue up to 70 million Francs $14.27 million US$. A year later, the label opened its first stores in Japan, 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 saw the creation of LVMH. Moët et Chandon and Hennessy, leading manufacturers of champagne and cognac, merged respectively with Louis Vuitton to form the luxury goods conglomerate. Profits for 1988 were 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 it’s first Chinese location at the Palace Hotel in Beijing. Further products became introduced such as the Taiga leather line in 1993, and the literature collection of Voyager Avec in 1994. In 1996, the celebration of the Centennial of the Monogram Canvas was held in seven cities worldwide.
After introducing its pen collection in 1997, Louis Vuitton made Marc Jacobs alongside Jae it’s Art Directors the following year in 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 products introduced included the Monogram Vernis line, the LV scrapbooks, and the Louis Vuitton City Guide.
The last events in the 20th century were the release of the mini monogram line in 1999, the opening of the first store in Africa in Marrakech, Morocco in 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.
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, on certain bags, the name of the bag such as Keepall and Speedy. Certain pieces, which featured the graffiti without the Monogram Canvas background, were only available on Louis 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 2002, the Tambour watch collection was introduced. During this year, the LV building in Tokyo’s Ginza district was opened, and the brand collaborated 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 included 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 were 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 were opened, the Utah and Suhali leather lines were released, and the 20th anniversary of the LV Cup was held.
In 2004, Louis Vuitton celebrated its 150th anniversary. The brand also inaugurated stores in New York City on Fifth Avenue, São Paulo, Mexico City, Cancun and Johannesburg. It also opened it’s first global store in Shanghai. By 2005, Louis Vuitton reopened its Champs Élysées store in Paris designed by the American Architect Eric Carlson reputed to be the largest and most successful 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. In 2008, Louis Vuitton released the Damier Graphite canvas. The canvas features the classic Damier pattern but in black and grey, giving it a masculine look and urban feel.
In 2010, Louis Vuitton opened what it described as their most luxurious store in London.
On 17 September 2011, Louis Vuitton opened it’s very first Island Maison island mansion in Singapore, the first ‘maison’ to be opened in South East Asia, and Jordi Constans was announced as new CEO for the company, replacing Yves Carcelle. Constans is originally from Barcelona, Spain.
Since the 19th century, manufacture of Louis Vuitton goods have not changed Luggage is still made by hand. Contemporary Fashion gives a preview of the creation of the LV trunks: “the craftsmen line up the leather and canvas, tapping in the tiny nails one by one and securing the five letter solid pick proof brass locks with an individual handmade key, designed to allow the traveler to have only one key for all of his or her luggage. The wooden frames of each trunk are made of 30 year old poplar that has been allowed to dry for at least four years. Each trunk has a serial number and can take up to 60 hours to make, and a suitcase as many as 15 hours.”
Many of the company’s products utilize the signature brown Damier and Monogram Canvas materials, both of which were first used in the late 19th century. All of the company’s products exhibit the eponymous LV initials. The company markets its product through its own stores located throughout the world, which allows it to control product quality and pricing. It also allows LV to prevent counterfeit products entering its distribution channels. In addition, the company distributes it’s products through LouisVuitton.com.
Korean travel retailer Shilla Duty Free is on the verge of striking an agreement to open the world’s first Louis Vuitton airport store at Seoul Incheon International airport towards the end of 2011.
Louis Vuitton has branched out from luggage into evening wear. Michelle Williams wore a Louis Vuitton gown to the 2012 Academy Awards.
On 19 November 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.
In May 2010 the British Advertising Standards Authority banned two of the company’s advertising spots, depicting craftsmen at work on its products, for being in breach of its ‘Truthfulness clause’. The ASA said that the evidence supplied by Louis Vuitton fell short of what was needed to prove the products were made by hand. The ASA said that the two adverts would lead consumers to interpret that Louis Vuitton bags and wallets were almost entirely hand crafted, when they were predominantly created by machine.
The ASA stated ‘We noted that we had not seen documentation that detailed the entire production process for Louis Vuitton products or that showed the proportion of their manufacture that was carried out by hand or by machine. Vuitton denied that their production was automated, arguing that over 100 stages were involved in the making of each bag they however admitted that sewing machines had been used in production process.