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200 years of Louis Vuitton – the success story of the luxury brand

He made practical suitcases for wealthy travelers and built a company that long after his death still stands for luxury “à la française”. Frenchman Louis Vuitton was born 200 years ago. But his first years were not exactly luxurious.

Going out partying in the evening with the clutch, going shopping on weekends with the Weekender or traveling for days on end with the suitcase – during the Corona crisis, all of this was rather rare.

So it was not a golden age for the handbag industry. And just as little for all those who wanted to glamorize with the small or large accessory on their arm. But 200 years after the birth of the visionary and virtuoso Louis Vuitton (born August 4, 1821), whose idea gave birth to a huge luxury brand, the market is recovering.

Luxury is more in demand than ever after the crisis

The French luxury goods group LVMH, which also includes Louis Vuitton, made a profit of 7.6 billion euros in the first half of 2021. It thus performed significantly better than expected. Luxury goods such as clothing, shoes, leather goods, perfume and jewelry are now selling even better than before the crisis, a study found.

Louis Vuitton had no idea of the crises and opportunities of the 21st century: The later founder of the company was born into simple circumstances in 1821 in a small town in eastern France near what is now the border with Switzerland. As the son of a miller and in a family of craftsmen, he learned to work with his hands from an early age. As a teenager, he began an apprenticeship with a renowned suitcase maker in Paris. It was the time of steamboats, trains and horse-drawn carriages, and travel became a trend among the wealthy.

After 17 years with the master, Vuitton opened his own workshop in Paris in 1854, making suitcases by hand. In contrast to the usual bulbous travel luggage, his flat products stood out because they were particularly easy to stack. A few years later, Vuitton opened a workshop in Asnières-sur-Seine, north of Paris. Stores outside France followed later.

From suitcase to golf set – the success story of Louis Vuitton

Fashion expert Leyla Neri from the Institut Français de la Mode in Paris attests to the luxury label Louis Vuitton’s exceptional heritage, which goes back to the craftsmanship of its founder. There is a tradition of functionality and workmanship, a timeless and slightly minimalist design. Even today, the company keeps its DNA as a luggage maker.

But Louis Vuitton has long been marketing more than just classic travel luggage. Those with a penchant for luxury goods can also buy loudspeaker boxes, a golf set or a bicycle from the company. Of course, with the iconic "Monogram"pattern. However, this was designed by Vuitton’s son Georges in 1896, four years after the death of the company’s founder. During his lifetime, he had focused on plain and striped fabrics and a checkerboard pattern.

In addition to patterns, promises of quality and tradition, sustainability now also plays a role in the noble handbag business. As a study by consulting firm Deloitte shows, luxury companies are making an effort to work in a more resource-friendly way and to get involved, especially among the younger generation, in view of an awareness of the issue. According to Neri of the Fashion Institute, the origin of leather goods is becoming increasingly important.

Louis Vuitton on the Börse and luxury through the ages

And what else is in fashion? Fine bags are not only in demand again – they also come in all sizes, materials and styles. Because as Leyla Neri says: "Trend is almost that there is no trend." From micro bags to the huge oversized bag, everything is currently in fashion.

"In" are sporty bags and backpacks in addition to classic leather goods. As well as those made of more refined materials such as shell or mesh bags, explains the head of the Masters Fashion Design at the Paris University of Applied Sciences. Bags with highly visible logos are also particularly popular, she adds.

200 years after the birth of Louis Vuitton, the way of traveling and the demands on the market have changed significantly. Nevertheless, fine leather bags remain a sought-after accessory.

With material from dpa