BRAND STORIES

BRAND STORIES

The Louis Vuitton Bible

Though founded on the spirit of travel, Louis Vuitton produces more than just luxury luggage today. Join us on a style journey to learn about the house’s most famous designs, who created them, and how to tell if they are authentic or not.

Want to become an expert in all things Louis Vuitton? To help you learn more about the most recognized luxury house, The Vintage Bar has created a comprehensive guide. 

It begins by detailing Louis Vuitton’s history, designers, and materials, so you can establish a background in the brand. From there, it divulges insider information on authentication, assuring you will be able to spot a fake Louis Vuitton as easily as the associates in its ateliers. 

 

Read on for everything you (could ever) need to know about Louis Vuitton. 

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Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images

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Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Louis Vuitton Background: The House’s History of Travel 

Though we all know – and love – Louis Vuitton for its classic, everyday handbags, it actually began as a luxury luggage brand. The spirit of travel has always been a theme for the house, starting from the moment its founder left his hometown in Eastern France for Paris. 

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Architectural Digest

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Portrait of Louis Vuitton, Founder of The house of Vuitton, Photo from Louis Vuitton biography.

From Anchay to 1 Rue Scribe

Louis Vuitton was born in Anchay, a small village in France’s mountainous Jura region, on August 4, 1821. From a working-class family, his father, Xavier Vuitton, was a farmer and his mother, Coronne Gaillard, was a milliner. Following his mother’s death, when Louis was just 10 years old, his father remarried. According to legend, he did not get along with his stepmother and was intent on leaving for the capital to escape her and the boredom of country living. In 1835, at the young age of 14, Louis Vuitton left home to begin the 292-mile journey to Paris. Traveling by foot, it took him 2 years to get there! 

 

Upon his arrival in 1837, Louis began an apprenticeship under Monsieur Maréchal – a respected box-maker and packer. At the time, malletiers(which translates directly to ‘trunk-makers’ in English) were responsible not only for crafting luggage, but also packing and ensuring the protection of its owner’s valuable belongings. As it was customary to travel by horse-drawn carriages, steamboats, and trains, suitcases were handled quite roughly, and this was no easy feat. After Louis Vuitton was hired by Empress Eugénie de Montijo, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte III, he gained a reputation as a master of the craft and began working for the royal and elite of Paris. 

 

In 1854, Louis opened his own workshop, located at the now-historic 4 Rue Neuve-des-Capucines. The sign outside read: “Securely packs the most fragile objects. Specializing in packing fashions.” Within four years of opening his shop, Louis developed a flat, stackable, and waterproof trunk – referred to today as the birth of modern luggage. Prior to this, all trunks were dome-shaped, so water could run off of them. Following advances in transportation and an increase in travel, his innovation quickly proved successful. Just one year later, in 1859, he expanded to Asnières, which started with just 20 employees and quickly grew to 225 by 1914. At one point, it even included the Vuitton family’s private residence. Following damages to Asnières from the civil war that dissolved the French Empire in 1871 (today, the former residence has been converted into a museum and the rest of the estate still functions as a workshop – where 170 craftsmen fulfill special orders from the brand’s most VIP customers), Louis Vuitton rebuilt at 1 Rue Scribe. He continued to work from there, an undisputed trunk-master, until he passed away on February 27, 1892. 

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Louis Vuitton

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Louis Vuitton

From the Unpickable Lock to the LV Monogram 

Prior to his father’s death, Georges Vuitton made a revolutionary change to the house’s trunks himself. Due to the methods of travel, in which close watch was not kept over baggage, burglars were especially feared. In 1886, Georges developed a single lock with two spring buckles, otherwise known as the tumbler lock, which he declared unpickable. To show his confidence, he challenged Harry Houdini, a famous escape artist, to free himself from inside a Louis Vuitton Steamer Trunk. Though Houdini never accepted, the lock’s unprecedented level of security remains indisputable. It has been featured on the house’s bags ever since (see: the Monceau and Serviette Ambassadeur). 

 

In 1896, 4 years after Louis Vuitton’s death, Georges made another advancement for the house. To commemorate his father and foil counterfeiters, he created the now-iconic Louis Vuitton Monogram, featuring the ‘LV’ logo, circle, flower, and quatrefoil pattern. 

 

Not only reserved for trunks, Georges began using the monogram on smaller bags as well. In 1901, he printed it on the Steamer Bag, which was designed to fit inside the trunks. Then, due to the faster pace of travel, Georges expanded the house’s travel line to include less cumbersome, more specialized styles. For shorter trips, he released a duffle bag called the Keepall in 1930. That same year, he sized the Keepall down to hold travelers’ more personal effects, calling it the Express (now known as the Speedy) and designing Louis Vuitton’s first-ever handbag (though, this can often be a point of contention because the Alma was originally designed for Coco Chanel in 1925, but was not released to the public until she allowed it in 1934). These styles have been re-imagined over the years and are still sold in Louis Vuitton stores today. 

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MLV-monogram created in 1896, The official Louis Vuitton website

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Medium, Steamer Bag

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Medium, Keepall Bag

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Medium, Noe Bag

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Medium, Papillon Bag

From Gaston-Louis Vuitton to Today 

Following the death of Georges in 1936, Gaston-Louis – his son and Louis Vuitton’s grandson – took control of the house. With the onset of WWII, special orders drastically declined, and Gaston-Louis recognized the need for a diverse range of catalog products. He developed a more durable and waterproof coating for the house’s monogram canvas, so the pieces could be carried day-to-day more confidently, and produced many new styles. Most notably: the Noé (which was commissioned, in 1932, to safely transport up to 5 bottles of champagne), the Speedy 25 (at the special request of Audrey Hepburn in 1965), and the Papillon (in 1966). Near the end of his tenure, around 25 new bags were created every year. 

 

In honor of the house’s 100th anniversary in 1954, Gaston-Louis moved its headquarters from the Champs-Elysées (where it had been located since 1914) to Avenue Marceau. Later, one year before his death, he opened Louis Vuitton’s first store in Tokyo. In introducing the house’s authentic products to the Asian market, he hoped to further his father’s quest in discouraging the manufacture and purchase of counterfeits. 

 

After Gaston-Louis passed away in 1970, Henry Racamier – his son-in-law – assumed leadership. Racamier pushed for expansion of the brand, opening retail locations around the world (including posh Avenue Montaigne in Paris) and allowing the company to be publicly traded in 1984. Under his direction, profits increased from $20 million to $1 billion between 1977 and 1987, and Louis Vuitton solidified its status as a world leader in luxury goods, paving the way to form a parent conglomerate. In 1987, Louis Vuitton merged with Moët et Chandon and Hennessy, the top manufacturers of champagne and cognac respectively, to create LVMH. 

 

Following a bitter battle for control over LVMH, Racamier was forced to step down in 1990, and Yves Carcelle was appointed chairman, making him the first that was unrelated to the Vuitton family. Serving until 2012, Carcelle is most known for catapulting sales through his appointment of Louis Vuitton’s first artistic director and the subsequent collaborations with artists and release of new products. 

 

Today, Michael Burke – former CEO of Fendi and trusted executive to LVMH’s chairman – fronts the house, and traveling with a LV piece, whether by plane or morning metro commute, remains the ultimate sign of luxury. 

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Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Louis Vuitton Designers 

Louis Vuitton’s heads of house have undoubtably been influential in its development, helping it to become one of the largest and most profitable luxury brands. However, in recent years, its designers – otherwise known as artistic directors – have become synonymous with Louis Vuitton and its prestige.

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Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images

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Marc Jacobs photographed by Willy Vanderperre for the2014 CFDA Awards.

Marc Jacobs, 1997-2013

Marc Jacobs, an American designer from New York City, previously had a short stint at Perry Ellis (until he was dismissed for his now-infamous Spring/Summer 1993 Grunge collection) and had just created his own eponymous design company, when he was hired by Yves Carcelle in 1997. He was appointed Louis Vuitton’s first artistic director, focusing on creating womenswear and the house’s inaugural ready-to-wear clothing line. 

 

Throughout his time at Louis Vuitton, Jacobs was known for enlisting artists to collaborate with the house. Together with them (Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, and Yayoi Kusama), he altered Louis Vuitton’s iconic monogram and materials to elevate its classic bag silhouettes, reinventing them so they continued to represent the house’s heritage, while also presenting more current, fresh options. Louis Vuitton has always had a strong connection to the arts (its founder was the first person to view Monet’s Impression: Sunrise in 1874), but Marc Jacobs definitely took it a step further, offering its customers a chance to buy the work of the some of the most seminal artists of our time. 

 

Marc Jacobs was also famous for his elaborate, showstopping fashion shows. In Spring/Summer 2008, he sent sexy nurses down the runway; complete with sheer dresses and lace face masks, they lined up at the end, spelling out ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ with their hats. In Fall/Winter 2009, he accessorized some of the models with a bunny ear scrunchie, which was later worn by Madonna at the Met Gala. In Fall/Winter 2011, he revived supers Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, and Amber Valletta (before that was the ‘thing’ to do); clad in kinky French maid uniforms, they exited from four elevators and served vodka shots as they strutted down the catwalk. In Spring/Summer 2012, he constructed an all-white carousel in the Cour Carrée; as it rotated, the models stepped off their horses, wearing Broderie Anglaise dresses in shades of pastel. In Fall/Winter 2012, a custom-made Louis Vuitton steam train pulled into the main courtyardof the Louvre; as each model stepped onto the runway (or, in this case, platform), she was accompanied by a courier that carried at least three pieces of her LV luggage. In Spring/Summer 2013, he sent models down four escalators, which descended onto a checkerboard runway that matched their looks. In Spring/Sumer 2014, he staged his farewell, and arguably most nostalgic, show for Louis Vuitton; in all-black, it incorporated set elements and clothing designs from his shows past, ending with Edie Campbell in just a G-string and Stephen Sprouse script body paint. 

 

Just 2 hours after his SS14 show, it was announced that Marc Jacobs would be leaving Louis Vuitton. 

 

With one of the longest tenures at any fashion house, apart from Karl Lagerfeld at Fendi and Chanel, Marc Jacobs made Louis Vuitton the richest brand in history (at the time of his departure, it was valued at around $28 billion). Jacobs stated that he was moving on to concentrate on his own label (a subsidiary of LVMH); however, there were rumors that he was being replaced due to slowed sales growth (halving at around 5% the year prior) and disagreements between him and LVMH. 

 

Regardless, there is no denying that Marc Jacobs transformed Louis Vuitton, growing it from a heritage malletier to a contemporary fashion house. 

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Vogue official website, Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2012, Ready-To-Wear

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Vogue official website, Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2012, Ready-To-Wear

Nicolas Ghesquière, 2013-

If Marc Jacobs’s final show for Louis Vuitton was a mournful swan song, then Nicolas Ghesquière’s first – Fall/Winter 2014 – was a fresh start. Ghesquièretented the Cour Carrée, forcing the attendees to take their seats in the dark, but then, as the first model strutted out, he opened large metal shutters to let light stream in and illuminate the runway. Place cards on the seats included a personal statement from Ghesquière, which started: “Today is a new day.”

 

Born in Loudun, a small city in the Loire Valley, Nicolas Ghesquièregot his start in fashion at the young age of 14, when he interned with Agnés B. (a French designer, who had just opened a boutique on SoHo’s Prince Street). By 17, he had decided to forego fashion school and moved to Paris instead. Within just a year, he was working as Jean Paul Gaultier’s assistant and, after designing for Pôles and Callaghan, was hired to freelance for Balenciaga. At the time, Balenciaga was ailing and surviving off only the licensing of its fragrances. Serving as its creative director from 1997 until 2012, Ghesquière’s innovative color blocking, fearless mix of silhouettes, and ‘IT’ bag (today known as the City) re-built the house, making it a ‘do not miss’ in the Paris Fashion Week lineup. 

 

In 2013, Nicolas Ghesquière met with Bernard Arnault – chairman and CEO of LVMH. After a long meeting about bags, Ghesquière returned home and began cutting up magazines to make a collage mockup of what would become the Petite Malle (Louis Vuitton’s signature trunk refashioned into an everyday crossbody or clutch bag). Arnault recognized its potential for commercial success (it retailed for $5,200 and was an instant hit) and brought Ghesquière in to replace Marc Jacobs as the artistic director of womenswear at Louis Vuitton.

 

Thus far, Nicolas Ghesquière’s time as a Louis Vuitton designer has been distinguished by his bags (in addition to the Petite Malle, the Capucines and revival of the Cannes), debut sneakers (the LV Archlight), relationship with many celebrities that have become faces of the brand (including Emma Stone, Michelle Williams, and Jaden Smith), and Cruise collections (a tradition started in 2013, after Ghesquièrejoined the team). 

 

There were rumors that Nicolas Ghesquière’s Spring/Summer 2018 show would be his last with Louis Vuitton; however, he extended his contract and remains at the house today.

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Nicolas Ghesguiére Photographed by Annie Powers, for Business of Fashion

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Kim Jones Photographed by Brett Lloyd for GQ

Kim Jones, 2011-2018

A graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins, where he sold his thesis collection to John Galliano, Kim Jones went on to start his own titular label (which made its debut in 2003) and design for Alexander McQueen, Hugo Boss, Umbro, Pastelle, and Dunhill (where he was named creative director in 2008). In 2011, toward the end of Marc Jacobs’s reign at Louis Vuitton, Kim Jones took over for Paul Helbers as its artistic director of menswear. 

 

Though Jones was celebrated for his unique accessories (the trunk backpack from Fall/Winter 2013-2014, the guitar case from Fall/Winter 2015-2016, and the record player from Fall/Winter 2017-2018, as well his collaboration pieces with Supreme and The Chapman Brothers), his time as a Louis Vuitton designer was marked by his ready-to-wear contributions. Jones is credited with taking Louis Vuitton’s menswear beyond just the leather goods that had been popular up until then. Inspired by travel, as he was born in Britain but raised in Ecuador, the Caribbean, Botswana, Kenya, and Tanzania, Jones pulled influences from many different cultures for his 14 collections with Louis Vuitton. In referencing Thailand’s Lahu tribe and borrowing stones from Mt. Everest, for example, Jones created the luxury athleisure, hype pieces he quickly became known for, bringing streetwear to the catwalks. 

 

Shocking many, Kim Jones left Louis Vuitton after 7 years. Following much speculation over what he would do next (fill Christopher Bailey’s shoes at Burberry…restart his own label?), he went to Dior Homme.  

Virgil Abloh, 2018-

From Rockford, Illinois, Virgil Abloh got his start from his seamstress mother, who taught him the basics. Though he never received a formal education in fashion (Abloh earned an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison and a Master’s degree in Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology), it did not seem to matter. Abloh reportedly skipped his final review on graduation day to take a meeting with Kanye West’s manager, began consulting for the rapper right after, interned with him at Fendi in 2009, and became the creative director of DONDA (West’s ultra-secretive creative agency) one year later. By 2012, Abloh started his own label, Pyrex Vision, releasing deadstock Ralph Lauren flannels that were printed with the brand’s name and Michael Jordan’s famed number. Closing it shortly after, he opened OFF-WHITE c/o Virgil Abloh in 2013, using air quotes and zip ties to create luxury pieces with a streetwear edge. In addition to all this, Abloh also collaborated with Nike and IKEA, created a blog called The Brilliance, worked as a DJ, and showed collections at Paris Fashion Week (with his Fall/Winter 2018 Women’s RTW show generating so much hype, that it incited a riot). 

 

In 2018, Virgil Abloh accepted the artistic menswear position at Louis Vuitton, stepping in for Kim Jones – a close friend and mentor of his – and continuing the streetwear legacy he started at the house. This made Abloh the first person of color to hold such a high position at Louis Vuitton and one of the only in the history of French fashion houses (apart from Olivier Rousteing at Balmain and Ozwald Boateng at Givenchy). 

 

His first collection for Louis Vuitton, Spring/Summer 2019, was highly anticipated and, with a 200-meter long, hand-painted, rainbow runway, a slew of celebrities in its FROW (Kylie Jenner, Rihanna, Kanye West, Naomi Campbell, and Takashi Murakami to name a few), and the release of the Prism Keepall (which went on to sell even faster than Jones’s Supreme collaboration pieces), it was an indisputable hit.

 

Maintaining momentum ever since, his upcoming collection (Pre-Fall 2020) is already generating buzz. A collaboration with NIGO, a Japanese streetwear tycoon, it will feature a lot of denim and Damier. Abloh has hinted that their partnership, which they call LV2, will likely continue, proving he is one to watch at Louis Vuitton. 

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Virgil Abloh Photographed by David Kasnic forThe New York Times

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Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Materials 

Seeking to offer its customers pieces that are both luxurious and durable, Louis Vuitton has experimented with a variety of materials and patterns since its beginning in 1854. 

 

At first, it crafted its trunks out of solid gray Trianon. A hemp oil fabric, it gave Louis Vuitton an edge over its competitors, who were all using leather at the time, as it was much lighter and completely waterproof when varnished. In 1872, Louis Vuitton switched up its design, introducing a red and white striped canvas; however, due to its simplicity and Louis Vuitton’s growing popularity, it was easily copied by other luggage makers. Already struggling against counterfeiters, Louis Vuitton began creating patterns specifically to foil them, starting with its Rayée canvas (in the same stripes, but the brand’s now-signature brown and beige colorway) in 1876. Much later, in order to keep its pieces contemporary, Louis Vuitton started introducing new materials as part of both permanent collections and limited releases. 

 

Continue reading to learn more about its most popular, many of which are still sold in stores today. 

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Louis Vuitton official website

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Yoogis Closet official website

Damier

Damier, Louis Vuitton’s first signature canvas, was created in 1888 (before even the iconic monogram coated canvas!). It featured a checkerboard pattern (Damier translates directly to ‘checkerboard’ in English). To deter imitations, it was hand painted and ‘marque L. Vuitton déposée’ (Louis Vuitton’s first registered trademark) was written within some of the squares. For a limited period of time, it was released in red and white, which is now extremely hard to find and, as a result, highly collectible. Shortly after, it was offered in brown and beige. 

 

In 1998, it was reintroduced as Damier Ebène, which remains a classic of the house today. Still a brown and beige checkerboard pattern, though it is now printed on black canvas, it is available on styles like the Neverfull and Zippy Wallet. 

 

Since then, the pattern has been launched in a variety of color combinations and materials: Damier Azur (in 2006), Damier Graphite (to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the coated canvas in 2008), Damier Infini (embossed onto leather in the Men’s Fall/Winter 2011-2012 collection), Damier Adventure (stitched into nylon canvas in 2011), Damier Challenge (similar to the Adventure series, but meant for outdoor sports, in Spring/Summer 2013), Damier Carbone (produced in collaboration with BMW in 2014), and Damier Cobalt (part of a racing capsule for the Men’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection). 

Coated Canvas 

To make it more difficult to replicate Louis Vuitton’s pieces, Georges Vuitton created the ‘LV’ monogram in 1896. Consisting of the Louis Vuitton logo, circles, quatrefoils, and flowers, arranged in a very specific order, it was inspired by Japanese designs that were on-trend in the Victorian era. 

 

The house considers the monogram sacred, as it was also created to commemorate its founder, but it has allowed various artists to restyle it over the years, giving it a modern touch while still preserving Louis Vuitton’s heritage.

 

Today, the monogram is printed on a wide range of materials, including the original used by Georges. A cotton canvas that is coated with PVC (though, due to its pebbled texture, it is often mistaken for leather), it is resistant to scuffs and water and, hence, extremely long lasting. The Monogram coated canvas material remains the most used by Louis Vuitton (nearly every silhouette has been made in it), the most favored by its customers, and the most recognized around the world. 

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Yoogis Closet official website

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Yoogis Closet official website

Epi 

In response to the demand for more structured, tough pieces, Louis Vuitton introduced its signature leather in 1985. Called Epi, it is a leather that is dyed, printed with a 3D wave pattern, and then painted with a matching topcoat, which gives it a graphic, two-toned effect and makes it hardwearing. Much more subtle than Louis Vuitton’s other materials, Epi features one lightly embossed ‘LV’ logo in the lower corner of the bag. To start, it was only offered in 6 colors (Kouril Black, Kenyan Fawn, Borneo Green, Toledo Blue, Winnipeg Sable, and Castilian Red), but others have been added and retired from its range every year (though, the greatest number of new additions was in 2011). 

 

Since its initial release, Louis Vuitton has updated its Epi many times. For Spring/Summer 2001, the wave pattern was embossed onto transparent PVC and called Epi Plage (which Virgil Abloh just reintroduced in his Men’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection). In 2004, certain colors were accompanied by silver hardware (instead of the traditional brass). A high-shine finish, named Electric Epi, was introduced in 2010. And, in 2017, Epi was printed with Supreme’s famous box logo for a record-breaking collaboration. 

 

Epi was Louis Vuitton’s first leather and remains its most commonly used today. Whether new or vintage, many of Louis Vuitton’s styles can be purchased in it – from the Twist to the Concorde. 

Taïga

Named after the largest forest in Russia, Taïga is a fine cowhide leather that was first produced by Louis Vuitton in 1993. It is corrected, which means that it has been sanded and buffed to remove any imperfections and imprinted with a new, understated grain. Used mostly for briefcases and travel accessories, it has only been offered in the men’s leather goods collections. 

 

In Spring/Summer 2019, it was updated and re-released under Taïgarama, mixing Louis Vuitton’s Taiga leather and Monogram canvas in both neutral and neon shades. 

 

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Yoogis Closet official website

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Yoogis Closet official website

Vernis

In 1998, just one year after he started as Louis Vuitton’s artistic womenswear director, Marc Jacobs created his own material for the house. A calfskin leather embossed with the ‘LV’ monogram and coated with a patent finish, he called it Vernis (which directly translates to ‘varnish’ in English). Originally, it was offered in a pastel palette, but it has since been released in virtually every color of the rainbow. Though its glossy, micro-glitter effect has made Vernis a favorite among Louis Vuitton’s customers, it is not the most long lasting of its materials. It is especially prone to chipping with use and discoloration when exposed to direct sunlight. To address this, Louis Vuitton later created Mat, which has a similar look, but lacks the high-shine luster that makes Vernis more susceptible to wear. With proper care, however, Vernis bags can maintain their beauty for decades. 

 

Today, select styles are still crafted of Vernis, but Louis Vuitton no longer offers a wide range of colors. Many of the popular shades have been discontinued by the house, making vintage bags like the Wooster, Roxbury Drive, and Reade especially searched for. 

 

Suhali 

Marc Jacobs launched Suhali, an especially luxe material, in 2004. A rare goat skin leather, it was hand-selected and left untreated by Louis Vuitton, ensuring it was of the highest quality and its natural grain was unaffected. Jacobs used it to craft a line of bags that resembled the house’s famous trunks, naming them after adjectives that describe the ‘Louis Vuitton woman’ (for example: Le Fabuleux meaning ‘fabulous’ and L'Épanouimeaning ‘radiant’). They have since been discontinued but remain popular among serious collectors. 

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Yoogis Closet official website

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Yoogis Closet official website

Denim

In 2005, Denim was introduced as a fun, on-trend alternative to Monogram coated canvas. It was stonewashed in five colors (classic blue, green, pink, gray, and black) to feature the house’s ‘LV’ monogram. Denim was especially popular on the Baggy style but, with Virgil Abloh heading the men’s creative, it has recently made a resurgence. 

Mahina

In Polynesian culture, Mahina is the name for the lunar deity. Released in 2007, Louis Vuitton’s Mahina material symbolizes the phases of the moon. It is a leather, which is drummed and then perforated with the house’s ‘LV’ monogram. It is still used by Louis Vuitton today – especially sought after on the Hobo, a style that was also crafted in a patent version called Surya. 

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Yoogis Closet official website

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Yoogis Closet official website

Mini Lin/Idylle 

Seeking to offer a softer, more flexible canvas, Louis Vuitton created its Mini Lin. It is made of a cotton, linen, and polyamide blend and features a sized down ‘LV’ monogram. It was updated in 2010, making it even more durable, and re-released under the name Idylle. Though it is no longer in use, vintage Mini Lin and Idylle bags (see: the Juliette and Lucille) are still loved for their more casual look. 

Empreinte

Empreinte, a high-quality calfskin leather, was first produced by Louis Vuitton in 2010. Prior to being used, it undergoes an extensive treatment process: it is dyed and enriched with tannins, drummed several times to pull out its natural grain, and then embossed with the ‘LV’ monogram. Empreinte is known for its less rigid, more supple feel (bags crafted of it become even softer over time!). Louis Vuitton continues to design bags out of Empreinte today, with the Pochette Métis being the most desired style. 

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Yoogis Closet official website

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Yoogis Closet official website

Taurillon

Taurillon is a calfskin leather, which has a raised grain that can be seen and felt. Similar to lambskin, it is soft; however, it is much more resistant to scratches and scuffs. It is Louis Vuitton’s most subtle leather, featuring only a tonal heat stamp. Taurillon is most commonly used on men’s leather goods like the Armand Briefcase; though, it is the most popular material for the women’s Capucines. 

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Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images

How to Tell If a Louis Vuitton Bag Is Real  

At The Vintage Bar, we assume the responsibility of authentication, aiming to eliminate all anxiety that accompanies shopping vintage. But, do you want to become an expert authenticator yourself? Because Louis Vuitton is the most counterfeited of any brand, we have broken down our rigorous authentication process for you. Before you spend your hard-earned money, just answer the questions we pose, and you will be able to confirm with certainty whether a pre-loved Louis Vuitton bag is genuine or fake. 

 

Afraid someone else will add your dream bag to their own cart first? Check out our How to Spot a Fake Louis Vuitton guide. It – very briefly – lists 10 giveaways that the piece you are considering is a fake Louis Vuitton, so you will not waste your time looking into the details. 

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Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images

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Real Louis Vuitton Speedy

Style

First things first, acquaint yourself with Louis Vuitton’s different styles. Make sure the bag you are eyeing is even a style Louis Vuitton has made, and then delve into the details. If, by the end, you can confidently answer that the Speedy should never have feet and the Alma ranges in size from BB to GM, then you are ready to checkout and score your dream bag! 

The ‘LV’ Monogram

First appearing in 1896, the monogram was invented specifically to ward off counterfeits. The trademark ‘LV’ logo is joined by the diamond, circle, and quatrefoil symbols. When assessing a bag’s monogram, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the monogram light gold in color? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. On the traditional coated canvas, the monogram should never have a green tinge to it. 
  • Does the Louis Vuitton pattern order repeat: one row of alternating quatrefoils and circles, one row of flowers, one row of alternating ‘LVs’ and quatrefoils, and, again, one row of flowers? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. The monogram pattern should always be in this order. 
  • Is the ‘LV’ logo upside down on the backside of the bag? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Certain styles are made with one continuous piece of leather, which wraps around with no seam on the bottom [see: the Speedy, Keepall, Papillon, and Cosmetic Pouch ]. While monogram pieces with a bottom made of Vachetta or separated by seams, should have right-side-up ‘LVs’ on both sides [see: the Montsouris, Cabas Piano, Reade, and Sac Plat ]. 
  • Is the ‘LV’ logo hidden under a seam or strap? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. Louis Vuitton would never obscure its iconic namesake! 
  • Does the monogram pattern match at every seam? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Follow one line – diagonally – from its beginning to end; it should start and stop with the same symbol. 
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Vachetta Leather

Vachetta – an untreated, natural cowhide leather – is used for handles, straps, trim, and bottoms of many Louis Vuitton bags [see: the Alma, Noé, Boulogne, and Trocadéro]. Because Vachetta is untreated and, consequently, unprotected, it is especially susceptible to exposure to water, sunlight, and skin oils. Its color is a very soft, creamy beige to begin with, but darkens to a deep caramel or brown – a process called patina – over years of use. This coloring is completely unavoidable and, if the bag’s owner carries it frequently or wears a lot of hand cream, may be quickened. Though oil, dirt, stains, and water marks can be stripped off with proper cleaning solutions, softening the patina, this is not recommended. The patina gracefully ages a Louis Vuitton without devaluing it; rather, telling its story. Many buyers procure only vintage Louis Vuitton because they prefer their bag to have – at least – a honey shade of patina prior to carrying it! 

 

Aside from adding aesthetic value, the patina also serves as a fundamental step in the Louis Vuitton authentication process. Vachetta leather has become synonymous with Louis Vuitton bags, and its patina has become synonymous with their authenticity. When inspecting a bag’s patina, ask yourself these questions: 

  • If the bag is relatively new or only lightly used, does the patina have a distinct yellow or pink tint? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. 
  • Is the glaze around the edges of the handles or strap a deep burgundy color? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. It should never be bright red; though, the burgundy will deepen to brown over time. 
  • Is the color of the patina even throughout? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. 
  • Is the patina more concentrated around the top of the handles? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. 

Heat Stamp

A heat stamp is a Louis Vuitton marking located either inside or outside the bag. If inside, it can be found directly on the lining or, in newer styles, on an interior leather or cloth tag; if outside, it can be found on the Vachetta trim, detailing, or strap. The heat stamp will read: 

LOUIS VUITTON

PARIS

made in (Country)

 

In studying the content of a heat stamp, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it read ‘MALLETIER’ instead of ‘made in (Country)’? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Older styles that were made in France often say this instead. 
  • Does the interior cloth or leather tag read: ‘made in U.S.A of imported materials’? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. This is standard in newer styles. 

 

The heat stamp should be printed clearly, with no signs of smudging or bleeding, and in a font that, completely unique to Louis Vuitton, manifests very specific stylistic characteristics. Because the Louis Vuitton font has such strict constraints, it is often used to expose counterfeits. Be mindful that the nuances in shape and size can be extremely subtle, but ask yourself these questions when examining the font on a bag’s heat stamp:

  • To begin with, is the font crisp, easily readable, and thin? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. 
  • Are the ‘L’ and ‘O’ in ‘LOUIS’ positioned so close that they almost appear to overlap or share a border? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. 
  • Is the leg of the ‘L’ short? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. 
  • Are the ‘Os’ in ‘LOUIS’ and ‘VUITTON’ wider and rounder than is typical – to the point that they appear large in comparison to the ‘L’? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. 
  • Do the ‘Us’ in ‘LOUIS’ and ‘VUITTON’ appear to be slightly different fonts? Does one appear to be wider than the other? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. 
  • Does the ‘S’ in ‘LOUIS’ appear standard, while the ‘S’ in ‘PARIS’ appears to have a slightly shorter upper curve than bottom curve? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. 
  • Are the ‘Ts’ in ‘VUITTON’ positioned so close that they appear to touch and share the same arm? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. 
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Interior Lining 

Depending on the style, its exterior material, and the year of release, Louis Vuitton has used many different fabrics to line the interior of its bags. The most common include: Alcantra microfiber [see: the Croissant], canvas [see: the Pochette Métis], cross-grain leather [see: the Nile], and Vuittonite [see: the Spontini]. As you look more closely at the lining of a Louis Vuitton bag, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Is this the lining typically used on this style and with this exterior material? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. For example, in Epi and Multicolore monogram, the Pochette Accessoires should have Alcantra interior lining; however, in traditional coated canvas, it should have canvas interior lining.
  • Is the Alcantra lining becoming thin and nappy? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. The Alcantra lining on an authentic Louis Vuitton should feel soft and plush – almost like suede.
  • Is the Vuittonite or pocket lining peeling off? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Due to the high cost and craftsmanship of Louis Vuitton, many consider this to be a telltale sign that a bag is fake; however, it is actually a strong indicator of authenticity. The Vuittonite – a vinyl-like material – and pocket lining often crack, peel, and become sticky with a strong residue. After 1997, Louis Vuitton corrected this problem, so it should only occur in vintage pieces [see: the Bucket Bag and Compiegne for examples]. If you notice this in a pre-loved Louis Vuitton you are eyeing, do not worry. Louis Vuitton will re-line all authentic bags – for a price, of course – or you can restore it yourself at home.

Date Code Formats

Louis Vuitton does not imprint their bags with serial numbers but, instead, date codes, which disclose where and when the bag was manufactured. This means they are not unique, so encountering identical date codes on multiple bags, should not necessarily sound any counterfeit alarm bells! Date codes are located, in many different fonts, inside the bag. [The Sac Shopping is an example of an exception to this norm. Its date code lies along one of its seams, outside the bag, where the handles attach.] A bag’s date code can most commonly be found along one of its side seams on the lining itself, along one of the seams in its pockets, or on a small leather tag – always toward the top of the bag. Often the date codes are stamped very close to the stitching or almost completely blend in with the lining, making them difficult to spot. Familiarizing yourself with the different styles will make the process of finding Louis Vuitton date codes much faster and far less frustrating. 

 

If you come across a Louis Vuitton without a date code, do not panic and assume it is fake; prior to the 1980s, date codes were not included at all, and on older, heavily used bags, they may have rubbed off entirely or been removed if the interior lining was replaced. The existence of a date code does not always guarantee authenticity, especially since many counterfeiters are savvy enough to include them, but proceed with caution if you are completely unable to find one. 

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Currently, date codes consist of a combination of two letters and four numbers but, over time, their format has varied. When hunting for pre-owned Louis Vuitton, it is important to acquaint yourself with the different date code configurations: See Figure 1.

In the early 1980s, date codes were only three or four numbers. The first two numbers represent the year, while the following represent the month. So, for example, 841 signifies the bag was made in January 1984. 

 

In the mid-to-late 1980s, date codes were three or four numbers followed by two letters. The first two numbers represent the year, while the following represent the month. The two letters, appearing for the first time, identify the factory and country where the bag was manufactured. So, for example, 874 A2 signifies the bag was made in France in April, 1987.

From 1990 to 2006, date codes simply reversed so the two letters came first. While the two letters still identify the factory and country where the bag was manufactured, the order of the numbers changed, making their identification of when the bag was made a little more intricate. From this time on, date codes always consist of four numbers and, within this time period, the first and third numbers represent the month, and the second and fourth represent the year. So, for example, NO1921 signifies the bag was made in France in December, 1991.

From 2007 through present, date codes continue to be two letters followed by four numbers. Now, however, the numbers more approximately detail when the bag was made. The first and third numbers represent the week, and the second and fourth represent the year. So, for example, LA3059 signifies the bag was made in the USA during the 35th week of 2009. 

 

When deciphering a bag’s date code, ask yourself these questions:

Does the date code make logical sense? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. For example, if the date code reads 8415 or LA6029, then you can be certain the bag is a counterfeit because there are not 15 months or 62 weeks in a year!

Do the country letters match the ‘made in (Country)’ on the bag’s heat stamp? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. For example, if the date code reads LP0973 but the heat stamp claims the bag was manufactured in Switzerland, then you can be certain it is a counterfeit because LP identifies a factory in Germany!

Does the Vachetta on the bag’s exterior have a worn and darkened patina, while its interior Vachetta and lining are mysteriously clean and light? Is the bag’s country code also DK? If the answers are yes, the bag might be authentic. A DK country code signifies that the bag’s lining was replaced by Louis Vuitton, so it makes perfect sense that its exterior shows signs of exposure and use, while its interior does not.

Louis Vuitton’s meticulous craftsmanship does not stop at its stitching. It must be even and consistent – completely flawless – or the bag will not even make it out of the factory! When scrutinizing a bag’s stitching, ask yourself these questions:

Are the stitches straight and equidistant from the edges? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Some stitches will be on an angle [see: the handles of a Neverfull or closure tab on a Saint Cloud], but they should still always be equidistant from the edges at every point and for their entire length.

Are the individual stitches the same length? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.

Is the number of individual stitches consistent? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. For example, there should always be five stitches across the top – where the handles attach – of a Speedy. Study the stitching on different styles, so you can be sure your pre-owned bag measures up!

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Hardware

In order to ensure its bags are made with only the finest materials and to maintain its highest level of craftsmanship, Louis Vuitton has used its own line of signature – ‘LV’ stamped – golden brass hardware since 1991. This includes all zippers, grommets, rivets, and studs found on its range of bags. They should all look luxurious, but still be functional and sturdy. 

 

Depending on the bag style and time period, many variations of these hardware elements have been released. You will undoubtedly come across many different styles of zippers! It is best, but not entirely reasonable, to memorize which hardware has been paired with which bag – and when! So, when referencing a bag’s hardware, focus on its smaller details instead, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are the backsides of all the zippers blank? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic, but, if the answer is no, the bag still might be authentic. Prior to 1991, Louis Vuitton did use zippers from TALON, ECLAIR, and C&C. If you see one of these names etched onto the back of a zipper, then check the date code. If it is a pre-1991 bag, the branded zippers might actually be evidence of its authenticity.
  • Are the ‘LV’ on the padlock and the ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ on any grommets and studs etched clearly – with no waves – and centered? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. All engravings on the hardware should be completely flawless.
  • Written on any grommets and studs, are the ‘Os’ in ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ more squared than in the heat stamp? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. All, even small, hardware details will have ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ engraved onto them in what looks like a different font, showing clearly in the squared ‘Os’ [see: the grommets that the drawstring is wound through on the Noé or the studs on the sides of the Drouot]. Often, bags are sent to be repaired because small studs have come loose or fallen off. Be aware that, when these details have been replaced, they may no longer feature the ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ engraving.
  • Are there chips on any of the bag’s hardware? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. While Louis Vuitton’s padlocks are solid brass, its other hardware is plated. So, chipping can be expected – especially on older vintages.
  • Is the hardware uncharacteristically lightweight or discolored? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic. Most counterfeits use plastic hardware that is coated with gold paint – a giveaway that the bag is not genuine.
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Stitching

For its stitching, Louis Vuitton uses a high-quality linen thread that is strengthened by beeswax. Because of this, on slightly used, like-new bags, you should never see a loose thread; though on worn, vintage bags, it is not unheard of – but still, extremely rare. 

 

Louis Vuitton’s meticulous craftsmanship does not stop at its stitching. It must be even and consistent – completely flawless – or the bag will not even make it out of the factory! When scrutinizing a bag’s stitching, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are the stitches straight and equidistant from the edges? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. Some stitches will be on an angle [see: the handles of a Neverfull or closure tab on a Saint Cloud], but they should still always be equidistant from the edges at every point and for their entire length.
  • Are the individual stitches the same length? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic.
  • Is the number of individual stitches consistent? If the answer is yes, the bag might be authentic. For example, there should always be five stitches across the top – where the handles attach – of a Speedy. Study the stitching on different styles, so you can be sure your pre-owned bag measures up!
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Smell

Do not be shy; take a whiff! It is completely normal for vintage Louis Vuitton bags to have a slight storage or leather odor. But, clarify:

  • Does the bag smell of chemicals or plastic? If the answer is no, the bag might be authentic, but if the answer is yes, the bag is almost certainly a counterfeit. Authentic bags should never have such an odor.

Dustbags

Just like Louis Vuitton’s bags, you can study the details of its dustbags to determine whether they are authentic or not. Throughout the years, Louis Vuitton has updated them, so they will look different, depending on what year they come from: 

 

Prior to 2004, Louis Vuitton’s dustbags were crafted of thick, light brown flannel, which was detailed with a brown ‘LV’ logo. They closed with a brown or blue drawstring. 

 

From 2004 until 2016, Louis Vuitton’s dustbags were still crafted of thick, light brown flannel, which was detailed with a brown ‘LV’ logo. However, they closed with a fold over flap and had a small white tag inside, indicating where the dustbag was made. 

 

Since 2016, Louis Vuitton’s dutbags have been crafted of a cream-yellow cotton, which is detailed with ‘LOUIS VUITTON’ in navy. They close with a fold over flap. 

 

Pre-loved Louis Vuitton bags should always be authenticated independently of their dustbags. Just because a dustbag is genuine, does not mean the bag inside it is. When reviewing a dustbag, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Is it printed with more than an ‘LV’ logo or ‘LOUIS VUITTON’? If the answer is no, the dustbag might be authentic. It should never have more branding information, than listed above, on it.
  • Is it felt-like with saw-tooth edges? If the answer is yes, the dustbag might be authentic – especially if it accompanies an older bag.
  • Does its white interior tag say it was made in Italy, India, or Japan? If the answer is yes, the dustbag might be authentic.
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Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images

It Might Be Authentic

Take note that, following all our authenticity questions, we always assert the bag only might be a true Louis Vuitton. In hopes of making the authentication process more comprehensible and less overwhelming, we have broken it down into parts; however, in the end, a bag must be considered wholly. All of the elements listed must be in sync before a bag can be declared an authentic Louis Vuitton. 

Trust Your Gut!

Keep in mind: at the end of every season, Louis Vuitton burns or shreds all of its bags that have not been sold, so you will never see an authentic Louis Vuitton on sale unless, of course, it is pre-owned. But, do not let this send you into a frenzy, impulsively purchasing an especially rare vintage style. If there is no guarantee of authenticity, it is always best to do your research and take your time. If a find seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your gut and may we all be lucky in Louis. 

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Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images

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Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

What to Know Even More about Louis Vuitton? 

This guide covers all of the information you need to know about this iconic brand, but do you want to know even more? For those of you who have no idea what LVMH actually is, would like to restore your vintage ‘LV’ bag with confidence, seek to spot a fake within just minutes, or are on the hunt for rare collaboration pieces, we have written some extra articles just for you. Check them out to know absolutely everything there is to know about Louis Vuitton! 

Written by : anv

The people pictured are not associated with The Archive or The Vintage Bar, and do not endorse the products shown.