Nearly 200 years after the birth of Louis Vuitton, the fashion house that he founds continues to flourish and be synonymous with unconditional luxury. But how does this tale begin? Actually, the story of our character, who has become a legend in the fashion world, does not start glamorously at all. Life has big plans for Louis, but first puts him through rough challenges. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He cries out for the first time on 4th August 1821 in a family of a farmer and a hat maker. His mother dies when he is at the tender age of 10. Soon, his father gets married for the second time, and his step-mother turns out to be a very severe woman, who treats him in a cruel rather than motherly way. This, coupled with the boring daily life that he has in the French mountainous region, makes him run away to Paris.
At the age of 13 he finds the courage and at the beginning of spring he sets out for the capital on foot, because he cannot afford transport of any kind. He has about 500 kilometres in front of himself and he takes the way step by step, with more than 2 years of adventures on the road, making a living out of jobs that he finds at one place or another. At the end of the day, he manages to reach the city of his dreams at the height of the Industrial Revolution, where the glamorously rich live next the desperately poor in fatal epidemics.
In those years the packaging of luggage for the long journeys of the wealthy families is a prosperous trade. Louis starts doing an apprenticeship at one of the established ateliers – that of Monsieur Marchal. He quickly shows talent and just for a few years he makes his name known as one of the best in this business.
After the coup that is organised in 1851, Napoleon III accepts the title of Emperor of France. Eugénie, his wife, hires Louis Vuitton to take personal care of packaging her clothes and to create special boxes for this purpose. And this is the time when the future designer shoots to fame and the doors to the elite royal society open for him.
In 1854 Louis opens his own atelier for suitcases and travel boxes. Success follows immediately. Initially, he works with a small workshop, but the huge interest in his products requires the opening of a bigger factory and a new store. In 1885 he opens his first store in London. His fame crosses the borders of France and his clients become royalties from the rank of Isma’il Pasha of Egypt.
1870 is a year of challenges, the Frnaco-Prussian War breaks out, Paris is under siege, a lot of blood is shed. After the end of the siege in 1871, Louis stands in front of his atelier only to find its ruins. His store is completely destroyed, and all the equipment is stolen.
But instead of giving up his vocation, the designer does quite the opposite – he dedicates all his energy to creating a new store and only after a few months it is a fact, but with a new address right at the very heart of Paris, 1 Rue Scribe. The new beginning marks the establishment of Louis Vuitton as a luxury brand. Soon, Louis presents a new design for a suitcase in beige with red lining, which rapidly becomes a favourite among the French elite.
The next 20 years the designer dedicates to innovation and the creation of luxury suitcases. He leaves this world on 27th February 1892. His son George takes over the company and creates the iconic monogram LV, which becomes a recognisable symbol all over the world and guards the spirit, principles and magic that Louis bequeaths forever to Louis Vuitton.
Text: Fashion Inside
Photos: Louis Vuitton