Vuitton, Louis

(1821-1892)
   Born in Anchay, Jura, France, Vuit-ton set up his luggage-making business, Louis Vuitton Malletier (trunk maker), in 1854. By initially making trunks for Empress Eugénie, he established himself as a luxury resource. One of his first innovations was a waterproof canvas trunk (Treason), which had a flat top that allowed for stacking and stowing under beds, which was a milestone from the dome shaped trunks that preceded them. Upon the suggestion of designer Charles Frederick Worth, Vuitton created personalized drawers and hanging spaces within each trunk. In 1867, Vuitton won the bronze medal at the Universal Exhibition at the World's Fair in Paris and the gold medal in 1889. In 1872, Vuitton created the red-and-beige striped canvas and, in 1888, the Dummier canvas (checkerboard) pattern. In 1896, his son George created the famous "LV" monogram and the Japanese-inspired flower design, to prevent further copying of their designs. However, even today, it is still the most copied brand—even though it spends more than $18 million a year protecting its trademark.
   By 1900, the company expanded its product line to make car trunks and small leather goods like the steamer bag, a small handbag designed to fit inside steamer trunks. The company's product line continued to grow under George until his death in 1936 and, prior to World War I, Vuitton stores had opened in New York, Washington, London, Alexandria, Buenos Aires, and Bombay. George's son Gaston took the helm and expanded the company's product line to include wallets, handbags, and other small leather goods until his death in 1969. In 1977, Henry Recamier, a former steel executive who married into the Vuitton family, was named to run the business and formed the Louis Vuitton SA holding company. In 1987, Recamier forged the merger between Vuitton and drinks company Moët Hennessey. However, by 1989, Bernard Arnault, the financial genius behind the Christian Dior empire, took majority control of Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton (LVMH), forming the largest luxury goods conglomerate. In addition to its fashion presence, Louis Vuit-ton initiated the America's Cup Louis Vuitton Cup for Sailing in 1983 and the Louis Vuitton Classic Annual Automobile Race in 1988. In 1996, designer Hedi Slimane organized new bag shapes designed by Helmut Lang, Azzedine Aläia, Vivienne Westwood, and Manolo Blahnik. In a move to increase Vuitton's presence in North America, in 1997, LVMH's head, Arnault, signed American Marc Jacobs to become the artistic director for all leather goods and to design a new men's and women's ready-to-wear collection. His collections have been pivotal in catapulting the house into "cool" status. The Vuitton business accounts for more than half of the revenues of the LVMH conglomerate. Collaboration on handbags with artists including Stephen Sprouse, Julie Verhoeven, and Takashi Murakami has resulted in a tweaking of tradition logo stereotyping and given the label a street-style credibility. As a result, young celebrities are now fans, such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Madonna, and Jennifer Lopez. Today, there are more than 300 Louis Vuitton stores in fifty countries. The product lines include watches, clothing, key chains, wallets, pens, jewelry, diaries, scarves, and shoes. Asnières-sur-Seine, France, is home to both the private Louis Vuitton Museum and Patrick-Louis Vuitton, a direct descendant of Louis, who works in the Vuitton luggage factory and handles all of the made-to-order pieces.
   See also Counterfeiting.

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. .

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