Louis Vuitton - History
The Louis Vuitton Company (more commonly known simply as Louis Vuitton) is a luxury French fashion and leather goods brand and company, headquartered in Paris, France. It is a division of the French holding company, LVMH Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy S.A. The company is named after its founder Louis Vuitton (August 4, 1821-February 27, 1892), who designed and manufactured luggage, as a Malletier during the second half of the nineteenth century.
The company manufactures and markets luxury leather goods, fashion accessories, prêt-� -porter, and jewelry. 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 utilize the eponymous LV initials.
The company only markets its product through its own stores throughout the world, which allows it to control product quality and pricing, and to prevent counterfeit products entering its distribution channels. In addition, the company added a single online retailer to sell some of its products (along with some of its sister companies such as Christian Dior).
Versace designs, markets and distributes luxury clothing, accessories, fragrances, makeup and home furnishings under the various brands of the Versace Group.
One hundred and fifty years after its eponymous founder began creating and selling trunks in Paris, Louis Vuitton's signature leather goods are considered a status symbol around the globe and are highly regarded in the fashion world. The company's iconic Monogram Canvas design can be considered the first designer label in contemporary history; the design was created in 1896 by Vuitton's son Georges and was intended to prevent counterfeiting. Ironically, Louis Vuitton has become the most counterfeited brand in fashion history, with just over 1% of all items branded with the Vuitton logo not counterfeit.
The Louis Vuitton company carefully cultivates a celebrity following and has used famous models and actresses in its marketing campaigns, most recently Lauren Vaughan and Ashlee Gilbertson. Other models and actresses who have lent their name to the Louis Vuitton line include Opal Mackinnon, George Conway, Christina Ricci, Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson and Naomi Campbell. Hayden Christensen has also appeared as model for the company's luggage and prêt-� -porter lines. The company commonly uses print ads in magazines and billboards in cosmopolitan cities. Vuitton bags and purses have a considerable list of celebrity adherents who are frequently seen in tabloid and magazine photographs carrying the brand. The Vuitton collection has also created a cult-like following among male and female consumers throughout the world. Owners of the bags and accessories often refer to the products as their “Louis.” This cult following by both celebrities and wealthy consumers has elevated the Vuitton brand to the foremost position in accessory design alongside houses such as Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Hermès and Dior.
Louis Vuitton was born in Jura, France (now part of the commune of Lavans-sur-Valouse), but moved to Paris in 1835. The trip from his hometown to Paris was over 400 kilometers, and he traveled the distance by foot. On his way there he picked up a series of odd jobs to pay for his journey. Two years later, at the age of 16, he apprenticed for the luggage manufacturer Monsieur Marechal. In 1854 he founded the company, which is now owned by LVMH, a French holding company helmed by Bernard Arnault. In 1854, Vuitton opens his first store in Paris on Rue Neuve des Capucines, founding Louis Vuitton Malletier a paris. Before his quality trunks, French philosopher, Denis Diderot & Jean Le Rond d'Alembert makes mention of a Malletier and his techniques about 140 years earlier. In addition, Vuitton began by selling flat-topped trunks that were lightweight and airtight. All trunks before this had rounded tops for water to 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. By 1885, the company opens its first store in London, beginning its international growth and reputation. Soon thereafter, the Damier Canvas pattern is created by Louis Vuitton and bears a logo that reads "marque L. Vuitton déposée," which translates to "mark L. Vuitton deposited" or, roughly, "L. Vuitton trademark".
After the death of Louis Vuitton, his son, Georges begins a campaign to build the company into a worldwide corporation by exhibiting the company’s products at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. In 1896 the company launches the Monogram Canvas. Its graphic symbols, including quatrefoils and flowers, are based on the trend of using Japanese and Oriental designs in the late Victorian era. This can be considered the first contemporary designer logo, as Georges is driven to create the pattern to prevent counterfeiting, which has already begun. The same year, Georges sails to the United States, where he tours various cities such as New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. He sells Vuitton products during the visit. In 1901, the Louis Vuitton Company introduces the Steamer Bag, a smaller piece of luggage designed to be kept inside Vuitton luggage trunks. By 1914, the Louis Vuitton Building opens on the Champs-Elysees. This is the largest travel-goods store in the world at the time. Stores also open in New York, Bombay, Washington, London, Alexandria, and Buenos Aires as World War I begins. In 1932, Louis Vuitton introduces the Noé bag. This bag was originally made for champagne vinters to transport bottles, and is currently sold as a handbag. Soon thereafter, the Louis Vuitton Speedy bag is introduced. Both are still manufactured today. In 1936, the golden age of Louis Vuitton ends as Georges Vuitton passes away. Estimates credit Georges Vuitton with over 700 new Vuitton designs. Gaston-Louis Vuitton, his son, assumes control of the company.
The luxury goods company Louis Vuitton collaborated with the Nazis during the German occupation of France in the second world war. The French book "Louis Vuitton, A French Saga", authored by French journalist Stephanie Bonvicini and published by Paris-based  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. During the Second World War, a sign at the entrance of the main Louis Vuitton storefront in Paris read "No dogs. No Jews." 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." LMVH said that period in the Louis Vuitton history does not warrant 50 pages of the book. 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,". That publication was the only French periodical to mention the book.
In order to broaden its line, the company revamps its signature Monogram Canvas to make it more supple, allowing it to be used for purses, bags, and wallets. Further cementing its celebrity cachet, Audrey Hepburn is seen carrying the bag in the film Charade in 1963. The company launches, in 1966 the classic Papillon, a cylindrical bag that is said to resemble a butterfly. The design is still popular today. By 1978, the company opens its first stores in Japan, in Tokyo and Osaka. Vuitton products were popular in Japan, and its sales in Japan would come to account for nearly half of the company's total revenue by the 1980s.) Later, the company would expand its presence in Asia by opening its first store in Korea, in Seoul in 1985. In 1983, the company joins with America's Cup to form the Louis Vuitton Cup, a preliminary competition (known as an eliminatory regatta) for the world's most prestigious yacht race. In 1987, Moët et Chandon and Hennessy, leading manufacturers of champagne and of brandy, respectively, merge with Louis Vuitton to form the world's largest luxury goods conglomerate, LVMH. The group is partly owned by the Christian Dior group, and Bernard Arnault is chairman and CEO of both companies. During this time, the company broadened its product lines by introducing Epi and Taiga leather products. The unique look of the leathers are utilized in everything from small purses and wallets to larger pieces of luggage.
In 1997, the company hires designer Marc Jacobs to be the label's artistic director. In March of the following year, he designs and introduces the company's first prêt-� -porter line of clothing. By 2001, Stephen Sprouse, in collaboration with Marc Jacobs, designs a limited-edition line of Vuitton bags that feature graffiti written over the monogram pattern. The graffiti says Louis Vuitton and, 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. In 2003, Takashi Murakami, in collaboration with Marc Jacobs, masterminds 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 creates 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, which sold out quickly; the production of this limited-edition run was discontinued in June 2003. By the end of 2007 Louis Vuittons world flagship stores were in Paris, London, Osaka, Tokyo, New York, Shanghai, Saipan, Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Moscow, Saint Tropez, Boston, Las Vegas, and Nice.
The brand is highly counterfeited, and just over 1% of the items bearing the trademark monogram are authentic. Ironically, the signature Monogram Canvas was created to prevent counterfeiting. In 2004, Louis Vuitton fakes accounted for 18% of counterfeit accessories seized in the European Union. LVMH, Vuitton's parent company, said that it employed "some 60 people at various levels of responsibility working full time on anti-counterfeiting, in collaboration with a wide network of outside investigators and a team of lawyers." In an effort to prevent counterfeiting, the company closely controls the distribution of its products. Until the 1980s, Vuitton products were widely sold in department stores, such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Today, Vuitton products are primarily available at Louis Vuitton boutiques, with a small number of exceptions. These boutiques are commonly found in upmarket shopping districts or, less commonly, inside high-end department stores. The boutiques within department stores operate independently and have their own managers and employees. In addition, to control the online distribution of its products, the company has authorized eLuxury.com to market some of its products.
On August 2, 2007 the company announced that the former USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev is to appear in an ad campaign for the French luxury label, along with Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, and Catherine Deneuve.