CHAPTER 1: LOUIS VUITTON, PORTRAIT OF A TALENTED CRAFTSMAN
Photo: Louis Vuitton
Everyone has already heard the name "Louis Vuitton". Everyone knows what their LV monogrammed brown canvas looks like, which has become so famous that it is also the most counterfeited in the world. But who is Louis Vuitton, founder of the brand? Today we confide you the portrait of a man who started from scratch and went down in history.
Born on August 4th, 1821, at the water mill of Chabouilla, near Anchay, in Jura, Louis Vuitton lived in a family more than modest. His father, a miller and a joiner, soon taught him how to handle tools and to work with wood. At the age of 16, he decides to leave the family home in order to try his luck in Paris and walks the 400 kilometres that separate him from the capital. Old enough to be an apprentice, and knowing how to handle woodworking tools, he joins the workshop of Mr. Maréchal, a box-maker, packer and trunk-maker (a job that consisted of packing the many belongings of wealthy travellers) and makes trunks for travelling.
Louis Vuitton distinguishes himself by his sense of aesthetics, his delicate and well-done work as well as his discretion. More and more customers of Mr. Maréchal are insistent that it should be the Jurassien who takes care of packing their belongings. Moreover, he becomes Empress Eugenie’s favourite packer in 1852. The revolution in the means of transport, with steam trains and automobiles, enables international tourism to develop. Travelling becomes more and more accessible. Louis Vuitton has then a revelation: rather than create a specific packaging for each object, why not make a line of innovative and functional luxury luggage? He creates then his first "Louis Vuitton" boutique in 1854, at 4 Neuve-des-Capucines street in Paris, as well as a line of high-quality trunks, and begins to stand out with his trianon grey canvas.
Louis Vuitton is an ambitious man. He really wants the brand that bears his name to be recognized as the best on the market, not only in France, but also abroad. He decides then in 1859 to develop and transfers his firm to Asnières, along the Seine in order to take advantage of the inland waterway transport.
The Louis Vuitton brand begins to expand abroad in 1885, with the help of Georges, Louis’s son. The first boutique outside France is situated in Oxford Street in London, and despite some difficult beginnings, it develops with great success. They will open subsequently other shops in New York and Philadelphia.
Louis Vuitton dies in 1892, leaving his son Georges a valuable inheritance, a rapidly expanding real empire. At the present time, the workshop in Asnières still exists and has 180 employees still working in leather goods. He started from scratch and has become one of the most famous names in the world; the talent of this legendary craftsman will be maintained from year to year by his heirs.