Although founded in 1854, it would be more than four decades before Louis Vuitton released the monogrammed pattern that we associate so closely with the brand today.
Traditionally, trunks had featured domed covers, which ensured that mud and water would roll off the case during transit, however, this made it impossible to stack luggage effectively. With this issue in mind, the first trunks created by Louis Vuitton were flat-topped, and featured a grey cotton canvas coined Grey Trianon, which was waxed to ensure waterproof protection.
His lightweight, stackable trunks were such a sensation that they naturally became susceptible to counterfeiting, and in 1872 Louis was forced to introduce a red and beige striped motif as his first step towards protecting his brand against forgeries. By 1876 Louis changed the Trianon design to a brown and beige striped pattern in a further effort to protect his products from imitation. In 1888, Louis Vuitton trunks were still being widely copied, so Louis’ son George (who had joined the firm), created the Damier canvas pattern in an effort to preserve the brand. Featuring a brown and beige checkered motif with an embroidered logo reading ‘Marque L. Vuitton déposée’, this pattern was one of his most successful creations and remains popular to this day.
Four years after Louis’ death in 1892, George wanted to celebrate his father’s legacy by creating a fresh and unique canvas. Composed of geometrically arranged stylised quatrefoil flowers and the letters LV (Louis Vuitton), many believe George was inspired by the Gien’s majolica tiles that decorated the kitchen of his family’s house at Asnières, others believe it was his love of Asian art. Representing innovation, travel, cultures, durability, solidity, and French luxury, the instantly recognisable monogram canvas was born. Patented worldwide, it was a move that successfully prevented much (though certainly not all) counterfeiting in years that followed.
Antique and vintage Louis Vuitton trunks, with their monogram logos and revolutionary unpickable spring buckle single lock systems remain highly sought after and collectable, achieving stunning prices at auction…
In July 2023, Dawsons had the pleasure of offering an early 20th century Louis Vuitton trunk for sale. The lid featured a brass plaque inscribed 'Princess Victoria of Schleswig Holstein', who was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, it is no surprise that the hammer went down on this piece for an impressive £8,000.
Just last year, a Louis Vuitton steam trunk which was valued on the BBC Antiques Roadshow in 2021 for £3,000 – 5,000, sold on auction for £7,300. These achievements are clear indicators of a growing demand for an ever-shrinking market.
Indeed, there is something quite thrilling and enthralling about each and every one of these vintage handmade trunks… embossed cloth coverings with timber straps and leather edging, featuring embossed brass studs all exhibiting scars of many storied travels, while the luxurious quilted interior reveals clues to a history long since past. The signature monogram of Louis Vuitton remains a symbol of luxury travel, sophistication and style to this day, and the allure of possessing anything LV continues to go from strength to strength.
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