WORDS BY STEPHEN YU
The History of Louis Vuitton
It was 1837 when a 16-year-old Louis Vuitton arrived in Paris after a 292-mile journey by foot. He arrived in the midst of the industrial revolution and secured an apprenticeship learning the art of crafting custom trunks and boxes; 17 years later, in 1854, he established his eponymous luggage business at 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines.
His atelier in Asnières was opened in 1859 and is still the main manufacturer of the iconic bags. Louis Vuitton (pronounced lew-ee vwee-ton) quickly expanded, and, in 1886, the founder’s son, Georges Vuitton, designed an ingenious closing mechanism with two spring buckles that is still used today.
The storied family business celebrated the 100-year anniversary of its iconic monogram in 1996 and was re-launched back into the fashion zeitgeist. When Marc Jacobs took the design helm in 2001, its transformation into one of luxury fashion’s main players was complete. Today, Louis Vuitton is the gold standard of opulent fashion.
The fashion industry places a lot of weight on newness, with a constant quest for the next ‘It’ thing, but a big purchase like a designer handbag is timeless. If you're in the position to invest in a Louis Vuitton bag, you'll probably want to put some thought into it. We’ve done the research for you and identified five classic Louis Vuitton bags that have only become more popular with age. There are bags that were created over 100 years ago and some that are just a few years old, but are all modern classics in their own right.
Louis Vuitton’s Most Iconic Bags
Louis Vuitton first transitioned away from its iconic trunk design in 1924, with the Tient-tout or ‘hold-all’ bag known as the Keepall. With the rise of long-distance travel and its accompanying luggage limitations, heavy suitcases and boxy trunks morphed into something more flexible. Light and supple thanks to its coated canvas construction, the Keepall was designed to be folded up and placed at the bottom of your suitcase, making it the weekend bag or overflow-luggage piece of choice for the elite traveller. In 1930, the Speedy (then known as the Express) was introduced as a more portable version of the Keepall in response to the faster pace of travel. Initially available in three sizes – 30, 35 and 40 – actress Audrey Hepburn personally requested a further miniaturised version she could use every day, which led to the introduction of the Speedy 25. No matter what size you choose, this iconic duffle silhouette comes with its unmistakable rolled leather handles, LV-engraved padlock and detachable shoulder straps. It’s the perfect statement bag for travel or channelling your inner Audrey.
Released in 1932, the Noé is the original bucket bag and one of the most recognisable of Louis Vuitton’s bag names. Made by Gaston Louis Vuitton at the request of one of France’s finest champagne producers, the bag was designed to carry four bottles of champagne upright, with a fifth upside down in the middle with a drawstring closure to stop rattling. While it’s much more likely you’ll be struggling to carry a bucket bag after five glasses of champagne, the mighty Noé remains a functional and versatile addition to any woman’s wardrobe to this day.
Another house signature miniaturised for the modern day at the hands of a French icon, the Alma is a day-sized version of the Alma Voyage, which was first commissioned for personal use by Coco Chanel. With its structured lines and silhouette inspired by the arched design of the Pont de l’Alma (Alma Bridge), the Alma Voyage was a more feminine and Art Deco-inspired take on a weekend bag. By 1934, Coco Chanel would allow the smaller Alma to be released to the public, complete with its twin hand-stitched Toron cowhide handles, golden engraved hardware and leather key bell. So while you can never be as chic as Coco, you can at least own the same bag as her.
Only released in 2007, the Neverfull is now one of the most popular Louis Vuitton bags. Mixing a timeless design with heritage-inspired details, the LV best-seller is shaped like a large tote bag and is finished with side lacing and slim, comfortable handles. Worn slung over the shoulder or dangling casually from the arm, cinched shut or fully open, the Neverfull is a sleek day bag that’s big enough for all your essentials without ever feeling bulky, making it one of Louis Vuitton’s best bags for everyday use. We love the removable pouch, too, which doubles up as a clutch or separate compartment for those guilty of overpacked and forever full bags.
Smart and structured on the outside, spacious and well-organised on the inside, the Montaigne was made with business women in mind. Named after one of the most elegant and fashionable streets in Paris, the Montaigne remains chic without sacrificing on function – there are multiple interior pockets and compartments for Mont Blanc pens and Moleskine notebooks, a roomy main pocket for your Macbook, and a removable shoulder strap designed to take all that added weight. Basically, the Montaigne will have you walking into boardrooms looking like you own the place.