Vuitton, Louis (1821-1892)

**One of the most sought after status symbols of our time, and an everlasting classic, is a Louis Vuitton bag with its Monogram Canvas pattern. This memorable appearance, however, was preceded by a plain-Jane style coated linen, which was developed by Louis Vuitton himself in 1877.

**At 13 years of age, Louis Vuitton set off on foot from Anchay, in the French Jura Mountains, to Paris. Here he found an apprenticeship, at which he trained to become a layetier and emballeur - a box maker and packer. A respected career, working as a layetier and emballeur opened doors for Louis Vuitton to the wealthiest homes of 19th century Paris. Back then, most luggage was custom made, as precious objects had to be packed carefully and safely to prevent damage, since trunks were often treated roughly in coaches or at sea. Layetiers would visit their clients at home and take measurements of each object - clothing, jewellery, mirrors, tables and sculptures - that the layetier then used to create custom-made boxes. After the precise manufacturing of each box, the emballeur saw to it that every piece was carefully packed into its traveling home.

**During these years in Paris, Louis Vuitton gained the know how that would later be the foundation for his successful enterprise. He opened his first store in the Rue Neuve des Capucines in Paris when he was 33 years old. Here, he refined his craftsmanship and created quality luggage with four core requirements; each piece had to be lightweight, sturdy, dirt- and water-proof, and easily stowable.

**In the 19th century, suitcases were commonly covered with sow skin. However, this covering material came with a big problem; in new or wet conditions, it would give off a pungent odor that often transferred to the contents of the cases. Louis Vuitton began experimenting with other materials, such as canvas treated with a flour-based glue. The result was an odor-free, dirt- and water-resistant, and lightweight luggage. For traveling trunks he replaced the domed lid with a flat shape, allowing the luggage to be easily stacked, and in 1886, Louis Vuitton and his son Georges Vuitton developed their patented, lock-pick proof tumbler lock. As simple as these innovations might have been, they were crucial for the success of their products.

**Demand for the convenient and high-quality items created by Louis Vuitton and his son skyrocketed, leaving room for competitors to make illegitimate copies. In order to distinguish his products from these imitations, Louis Vuitton introduced the trademarked Damier-pattern in 1888.

**After his father's death in 1892, Georges Vuitton created the world-famous LV-signet. As a tribute to his father, he had this signet printed on the tried and trusted impregnated canvas. Inspiration for the stylized blossoms on the new signet pattern stemmed from the trend of that time to employ oriental and Japanese designs.

**Today, the Monogram Canvas is printed on vinyl-impregnated cotton fabric which was developed during the 1950s, and is more resistant against water and dirt than leather.

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