It was in 1837 that a 16-year-old Louis Vuitton arrived in Paris by foot and started apprenticing for Monsieur Maréchal. At the time, horse-drawn carriages, boats and trains were the main modes of transportation, and baggage was handled roughly. Travellers called upon craftsmen to pack and protect their individual objects.
Louis Vuitton quickly became a valued craftsman at the Parisian atelier of Monsieur Maréchal. These were the roots of his highly specialised trade; the beginnings of his career in an artisanal industry that called upon skills to custom design boxes and, later, trunks according to clients’ wishes. Louis Vuitton stayed for 17 years before opening his own workshop at 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines near the Place Vendome.
The early success of Louis Vuitton meant he had to expand his operations. This lead to the 1859 opening of his atelier in Asnières. Just northeast of the centre of Paris, the workshop started with 20 employees. In 1900, there were nearly 100 people and by 1914 there were 225.
The original atelier has been expanded throughout the decades—including the addition of the Vuitton family residence—but it is still where products are crafted today. While the family home has been preserved and is part of a private museum, 170 craftsmen work in the Asnières workshop, designing and creating leather goods and special orders for clients around the world.
In 1886, Georges Vuitton revolutionised luggage locks with an ingenious closing system that turned travel trunks into real treasure chests.
In the 1900s, travellers carried all their essentials inside wardrobes and flat trunks—which, unfortunately, often attracted burglars. Master trunk maker, Louis Vuitton sought to help his clients protect the goods inside their travel pieces.
In 1886, father and son, Georges, adopted a single lock system with two spring buckles. After several years of development, George patented this revolutionary system and it was so effective, he challenged Harry Houdini, the great American escape artist, in a public newspaper to escape from a Vuitton box and lock. Houdini didn’t rise to the challenge, but the lock’s effectiveness is indisputable. It is still used today.
Famed for being one of the most recognised luxury brands in the world, Louis Vuitton is synonymous with high-end leather goods, legendary steamer trunks, iconic monogram handbags, sublime watches and jewellery and cutting edge fashion. Vuitton started his career making trunks for Napoleon III's wife, Empress Eugénie de Montijo, and it was at the age of 33 that he opened his own artisanal workshop at 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines. Thus came to fruition the beginnings of his much-lauded brand, Louis Vuitton.
To this day, Louis Vuitton trunks, with their monogram logos and revolutionary unpickable spring buckle single lock systems are highly sought after and collectable. When Louis Vuitton died in 1892 his son Georges took the helm and four years later the very first 'LV' monogram, quatrefoil and flower design canvas was launched. That signature monogram design is the one still seen on Louis Vuitton handbags, jewellery and clothing and it remains a symbol of luxury travel, sophistication and style.
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