If it weren’t for the decisive decision of a teenager Louis Vuitton to go through a long 2-year trip to Paris to become a trunk maker, today’s world would be absent from his eponymous luxury brand. It would have been a world without high-quality luggage, without high-end, fashionable jewelry that bears the iconic LV monogram.
In commemoration of Vuitton’s 200th anniversary, let’s take a moment to retrace his steps from a simple teenager looking to improve his life to a successful man who founded what is today one of the biggest luxury fashion brands. in the world.
Born on August 4, 1821 in the Jura, the young Vuitton decided in 1835 to leave his hometown of Anchay and go to Paris to do his apprenticeship with the master trunk maker and packer Romain Maréchal. Armed with his carpentry skills passed down through a family line of craftsmen, he traveled on foot and did odd jobs along the way, until he finally reached his destination in 1837. He quickly mastered the manners. trunks during his 17-year apprenticeship, even becoming the favorite “packer” of the Empress Eugenie. This last experience, coupled with his close relationship with Charles Frederick Worth, the founder of Parisian Haute Couture, gave Vuitton a glimpse of the revolution that was taking place in transport and clearly envisioned the beneficial effects on luggage. .
Vuitton founded his own Maison in 1854, located in 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines, Paris. It was in this district of Place Vendôme that the great fashion houses were established in the second half of the 19th century. Vuitton’s first ad promised that his luggage “securely pack the most fragile items.” He also declared himself a fashion “packer”, as ingenious containers and skillful hands were required to package and import the 1850s style choices of opulent dresses, crinolines and wide skirts.
Realizing that a “flat” trunk would be more practical and efficient than the domed trunks that were the most popular style of luggage at the time, Vuitton began to reinvent fashion packaging. Towards the end of the 1850s, he created Gris Trianon, a coated canvas that waterproofed luggage and transformed the shape of the trunk by giving it a flat cover. Its manufacture of easily stackable square luggage, which also allows clothes to be hung vertically, led to the birth of flat-top luggage which revolutionized the art of packaging.
The canvas will continue to evolve over the decades, not only for aesthetic and technical reasons, but to deter the many counterfeiters and competing manufacturers who also copy its innovations. His designs became more complicated, changing from gray cloth to striped canvas launched in 1876, which, by dint of being too imitated, was replaced by Damier canvas in 1888. This checkered pattern was the first to bear the Vuitton name. in its external signature.
Georges-Louis, Vuitton’s eldest son, created the now legendary Monogram in 1896 in honor of his late father. A major icon of the Maison was born from the mixture of the Vuitton initials with the distinctive floral and geometric patterns. Its unique attribute – the intertwined initials, the circled rounded flower, and the four-petal flower encased in a concave diamond – made the Revolutionary Monogram highly recognizable, and earned it instant recognition as a universal symbol of modernity. Numerous prizes were won by the brand at the Universal Exhibitions of Paris at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century for its avant-garde creations.
Many of the Maison’s trunks and luggage were born in the Vuitton workshops in Asnières, a village north-west of Paris. Opened in 1859 to meet the demands of his growing business, the light and airy workshops were built in the futuristic Eiffel style of the time, their design contrasting well with the dark workshops of the city. Accessibility was the key element in the selection of Asnières by Vuitton for its workshops. Its location on the banks of the Seine allows easy delivery of raw materials, including poplar wood used for the manufacture of the famous Vuitton trunks, and Asnières is also one of the stages of the very first railway lines in France.
Nearly two centuries now, the Asnières workshop continues to thrive, still producing iconic creations that include not only leather goods and rigid designs, but also the unique requests for special orders for worldwide shipping. Since ccustomization has long been part of the House’s services, some of the legendary tailor-made creations from the luxury brand are Maharajah’s tea trunk from Baroda, explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza’s bed trunk and a DJ’s musical trunk. These iconic pieces, all designed and handcrafted in Asnières, span the past, present and future, ranging from a classic flat trunk to a bespoke container for digital recording equipment, each showcasing heritage to adapt to the contemporary era.
In the workshops, the workstations are occupied by men and women of all ages and origins, all forming a perfect harmony of manufacture as they carefully apply glue to the Monogram canvas in order to spread it on the wooden structure. , nail rigid lozine to the edges and corners of a trunk for strength, etc. Even over time, many manual gestures repeated daily by the master craftsmen here have not changed.
Located on the top floor of the workshops was the family home of Vuitton, which gives him the advantage of staying close to his production center while not renouncing his duties as a father. Before even starting the business, the Vuitton children were able to learn the family trade in the workshops while spending their free time playing in the garden and rowing on the nearby Seine. The family home was renovated by Georges-Louis Vuitton at the end of the 19th century in a French Art Nouveau style that remains to this day, with stained glass windows and wall decorations that still echo the many memories the family had there , celebrating many remarkable occasions and achievements.
Those who seek to better understand and appreciate the creation of the brand have the possibility of doing so with the installation of Time Capsule within the Galerie Louis Vuitton in Asnières. It invites guests to walk through the history of the Maison from the beginning to the present day, revisiting its milestone moments of innovation in design and technology via a visual chronology. Rare and famous objects from the archives are used in the storytelling. As guests roam freely around Time Capsule, they will see numerous heritage models coexist with some of the Maison’s most contemporary pieces, testifying to its continued commitment to constant innovation.
Louis Vuitton died in 1892, but his legacy lives on. What started out as a trusted brand for luggage and bags has grown over the years to include ready-to-wear, shoes, accessories, watches, jewelry, and perfumes. Coveted around the world and renowned for their quality and exclusivity, the carefully created products bear witness to Louis Vuitton’s commitment to fine craftsmanship and the House will undoubtedly continue to revolutionize the world of haute couture.