Louis Vuitton himself was born the son of a miller in 1821 in the Jura Mountains, not far from the Swiss border. The teenager was taken on as an apprentice by Monsieur Maréchal, a box maker and packer on the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris.
In 1854, Vuitton married the 17-year-old Clémence-Emilie Parriaux and decided to open his own company on the Rue des Capucines, just around the corner from his old boss. He advertised his services on a small poster that read, "Securely packs the most fragile objects. Specialising in packing fashions." Goes to show... behind every great man stands a strong, intelligent woman! ;)
He became well known for his innovations, such as using canvas and glue for the casing rather than hide, which could impregnate the contents of the trunk with its smell. He also offered luggage in fashionable colours - in particular a pale shade he called Trianon grey.
But the big leap forward came in 1858 when he introduced the slat trunk, which was reinforced with beech slats and covered in Trianon grey canvas. This is arguably the first ever piece of modern luggage and is a design that is still used today. It was the dawn of the age of global travel and to keep up with booming demand, Vuitton moved his workshop to the village of Asnières on the banks of the Seine, three miles from central Paris, where the company's luggage is still made. The factory also became the Vuitton family home.
From here, the company went on to conquer the world. In 1889, the company presented a new canvas at the Exposition Universelle in Paris - where the Eiffel Tower was unveiled. This new design included a discreet registered trademark and was patented - a very early example of fashion branding: the pattern of alternating brown and beige squares known as Damier (French for chequerboard). It won a gold medal at the exposition and, since its reintroduction in 1996, has become synonymous with the label.
By the time the company reached its centenary in 1954, the Vuitton monogram was one of the most recognisable logos in the world. Salvador Dalí even took inspiration from it to create his own "Dalígram".
In 1997 LVMH decided to launch Louis Vuitton as a fashion label and as the saying goes ... the rest is history.
The extensive, nine-room retrospective covers 160 years, four modes of transport and hundreds of signature pieces by a handful of Vuitton descendants and designers, all of which portray the brand’s inventiveness and elegance.
A flower-filled beauty case, a gift to important customers of the time
Vuitton’s “Trunk of 1906,” with beechwood, brass corners, patent lock and monogram canvas exterior not only embodies the brand’s history and sensibility, but is also the prototype for modern luggage, making it the most appropriate piece to welcome visitors.
A fun image of Louis Vuitton in Bond Street
Imagine a travel trunk just for your shoes?!?
A colourful trunk ... just up my street.. maybe a little pink missing?
LV accompanied the explorers by sea...
... by land ...
... and by air!
Easy-jet allows you to check-in 20 kg max nowadays.
This trunk weighed 26 kilos when empty!
Travelling in style by train
A modern graffiti interpretation of the LV bags from 2000.
Proof of a well-travelled trunk
The DJ box, this record box designed by Helmut Lang in 1996 to celebrate the centennial of the monogrammed canvas.
A lovely portrait of the young M. Louis Vuitton