Cover Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

In celebration of his milestone birthday, we look back at Louis Vuitton: the man, the myth, the malletier

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.

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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.

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Vuitton continued to work until his death, aged 72, and the company moved forward with son Georges at the helm. During his tenure, Georges oversaw the creation of Vuitton’s signature monogram and floral pattern, deterring counterfeit attempts and cementing the brand’s air of exclusivity.

Louis Vuitton travelled out of necessity, but the activity inspired his lifelong work. Through the years, his clientele has experienced the label’s essence of wanderlust through carefully crafted luggage, ready-to-wear fashion, accessories and even a curated series of city guides. And while crossing borders remains an inaccessible pastime for many, the brand’s savoir faire keeps the spirit of travel alive.

In celebration of the malletier's 200th birthday, Louis Vuitton has launched an exciting roster of global initiatives. Louis The Game—an adventure-filled video game—invites users to embark on a quest as Vivienne, the brand's mascot, journeying through the maison's 200-year history. It has simultaneously launched Windows, filling 200 storefront windows with trunks designed in collaboration with 21st-century talents. These range from actress and singer Karena Lam in Hong Kong to K-pop sensations BTS in South Korea and acclaimed fashion designer Nigo in Japan.

Louis Vuitton: Milestones Through The Years 

  • 1821—Louis Vuitton is born in the town of Anchay in eastern France
  • 1854—The Louis Vuitton brand is launched, and the first store opened in Paris
  • 1858—The stackable flat trunk is unveiled for the first time, creating a more efficient travel experience
  • 1896—To quash the attempts of counterfeiters, the trademark monogram pattern is added to canvas linings, a pattern too intricate to replicate
  • 1979—The brand opens its first store in Hong Kong
  • 1999—Louis Vuitton launches its city guide series
  • 2004—The brand’s 150th anniversary is celebrated in Hong Kong at Tamar in the iconic “Trunk Tent”
  • 2012—Objets Nomades, a travel-inspired furniture series, makes its worldwide debut
  • 2014—After eight years of construction, the Louis Vuitton Foundation museum opens its doors in Paris; The first Louis Vuitton apartment opens in Hong Kong
  • 2019—Louis Vuitton collaborates with Riot Games to present a League of Legends capsule collection

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