History of the Famous Louis Vuitton Monogram April 19 2022

Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have an encyclopedic-like knowledge of brand logos—it’s got to be massive validation for all those marketing geniuses out there. It seems like companies are always looking to brand themselves in a different way, maybe come up with a new logo, or create enough goodwill with their customers that they will forgive them the latest faux pas. For some lucky companies, the branding was done decades ago, and has stood the test of time. Perfect example—the Louis Vuitton monogram. It’s one of the most recognizable fashion brands out there—those interlocking LVs are known by all.

The brand itself has some historic beginnings—when Napoleon became Emperor of France in 1852, his wife hired Louis Vuitton to be her personal packer and box-maker. (Complete side note here—I’m one of those strange people who love packing…I wonder if there’s still a job market for packers?)

Vuitton was born in 1821 in Anchay, France, the son of a farmer and milliner. When Vuitton’s milliner mother passed away when he was just 10, his father remarried a woman who was reportedly very mean to Vuitton. It is no wonder, then, that Vuitton left home at the tender age of 13, bound to get to Paris to make a new life for himself. Apparently he walked the entire 292 miles to France’s capital, taking odd jobs along the way, and arriving after two years (!!). When he finally did arrive, he took an apprenticeship in the workshop of a box-maker and packer, a job which entailed custom-making all boxes to fit whatever goods needed to be stored, and loading and unloading them as needed. (I would be so awesome at this—if I only knew how to make boxes.)

Louis Vuitton

Vuitton had already built a reputation for himself when Eugenie de Montijo, a Spanish countess and the new Empress of France, hired him as her personal box-maker and packer—but the connections she brought him with the elite of France really helped solidify his position. In 1854 Vuitton opened his own shop, and just four years later debuted what would become his trademark trunk. It was made of canvas instead of leather, proved to be more durable and waterproof than anything else on the market, and rectangular in shape instead of dome-shaped (hello, genius).

Louis Vuitton Ad 1898

From there, the rest is history. Louis Vuitton died in February of 1892 at the age of 70, and the line was carried on by his son Georges, who began a campaign to bring the company to the status of a worldwide corporation. In 1890 the company revealed a patented tumbler lock reported to be unbreakable (and still in use today). Georges exhibited the company’s products at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and then three years later created the historic LV monogram we all know in honor of his late father. The monogram—which consisted of an interlocking L and V, interspersed with quatrefoils and four-petaled flowers—was revolutionary at the time. Georges took out patents on the design, and before long, it was known everywhere. The Louis Vuitton brand is many things to many people—classic, special, high-quality, fashionable—but one thing it consistently is is recognizable. Branding is one way we are able to tell what is what, and the branding Georges Vuitton put on the Louis Vuitton label all those decades ago was completely innovative. So the next time you pass a girl with a bag on her shoulder proudly displaying a historic Louis Vuitton monogram canvas, give a little good-job acknowledgement to dear old Georges.

written by Heather Cox for Rice and Beans Vintage