Louis Vuitton is a label that requires little by way of introduction. Synonymous with luxury and craftsmanship, its reputation, cultivated over 167 years, precedes it. But the global brand’s origins are surprisingly humble.
Louis Vuitton was born in 1821 in Anchay, a small hamlet in eastern France; his father was a farmer and his mother a milliner, who died when he was just 10 years old. After Vuitton’s father remarried, his relationship with his stepmother was quick to sour, and aged 13, he packed his bags and made the journey to Paris on foot—it would take two years, with several entrepreneurial stops along the way to fund his journey.
In 1837, after establishing himself in Paris, Vuitton took up an apprenticeship with trunk maker Romain Marechal, and was quick to develop a reputation as a leading malletier in his own right. Shortly after getting married in 1854, Vuitton struck out on his own, offering handmade trunks and professional packing services on the Place Vendôme, surrounded by luxury brands and his eventual counterparts.
Over the ensuing decades, Vuitton’s successes became manifold; being appointed trunk maker and packer to Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, played a pivotal role in establishing his skills among the Parisienne elite.
Vuitton laid the foundations for a business built on innovation. His was the first brand to produce flat-lid trunks, allowing them to be easily stacked and more practical for long-haul voyages. Vuitton also introduced the gris trianon waterproof canvas to his luggage, adding a lasting durability to the brand’s products and demonstrating an unwavering commitment to staying ahead of the curve.