The History of Louis Vuitton — Pt.2 (1893–Present)

Bentleys present a story of the Louis Vuitton brand and the remarkable family behind it. 

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Georges exhibits luggage at the Chicago World’s Fair. The only vendor of French travel accessories present, he sells out entirely. J.P Morgan and his family become valued clients and Georges is introduced to famed retailer, John Wanamaker.

Tired of imitation, Georges patents the iconic LV monogram design. The pattern truly is centuries in the making, paying homage to the rosette motif of a medieval Franc box from his personal collection, and is first used on a Vuitton trunk in 1897.

The Steamer Bag is introduced.

The LV symbol, minus its floral rosette, is patented in its own right. Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza commissions a “Malle Lit” explorer’s camp bed trunk in monogram canvas. Vuitton had previously developed a range of trunks covered in zinc, aluminium and copper designed for expeditions to the tropics.

New Vuitton premises are opened at 70, Champs Élysées.

From humble beginnings, Louis Vuitton laid the foundations for a luggage enterprise that would serve the upper echelons of 19th-century society. His son, Georges, expanded on his father’s work through the 20th century.

(Left) Exhibition stand, (Below) Lily Pons's special trunk

Vuitton provides luggage for La Crociera Nera, an expedition organised by Citroën from Paris to Timbuktu.

Georges’ son, Gaston-Louis, designs the company’s stand at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, Paris. It is difficult to overstate the impact this event had on the Art Deco movement, with the Vuitton display featuring a tortoise-shell fitted dressing case made for Marthe Chenal in crocodile skin. The great opera singer Lily Pons orders a special trunk to carry 36 pairs of shoes – six pairs more than usual as her feet were so small. The trunk’s design still bears her name today.

The Indian Maharajas become important clients of Vuitton, their love and understanding of craftsmanship leading them to place great orders. Picnic and dressing sets with silver fittings, cases for polo and fishing equipment and a shoe polishing kit are commissioned by Hari Singh, Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.

Citroën’s La Croisière Jaune expedition from Paris to Peking is furnished with Vuitton luggage. The Vuitton Keepall is introduced.

The Exposition Coloniale Internationale opens in Paris, Vuitton’s pavilion centred around a 20-foot high totem. Gaston-Louis’ creations for the exhibition marry exotic skins and luxurious materials, each sourced from and inspired by the imperial colonies.

A visit to Paris by the British King George VI and his wife, Elizabeth, prompts a special gift to young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret; a set of smooth cowhide suitcases, lined in pink moiré silk and crafted to house a pair of dolls.

Rubberised canvas is introduced and enables the first flexible luggage in monogram canvas to be made. 

Louis Vuitton merges with Moët Hennessy to create LVMH, the world’s first true luxury goods group.  Under the guidance of Bernard Arnault, LVMH expansion continues across the globe. Louis Vuitton is consistently ranked as the world’s number one luxury goods brand.

Du Cadeau ou La Bonne Manière – 1924 Edition
Louis Vuitton ‘Extrait de la Revue Mobilier et Decoration’ - circa 1925
‘100 Legendary Trunks – Louis Vuitton’ – Pierre Leonforte and Eric Pujalet-Plaa. Abrams, 2010.

Read Pt.1 – 1835 –1892