Louis Vuitton was a French entrepreneur and designer who founded the iconic fashion house that carries his name. The brand which is today one of the world's leading international fashion houses, operates in 50 countries with more than 460 stores worldwide. Vuitton the designer hailed from a family of humble means and rose to become one of the most famous names in the world of luxury goods through his ingenuity, creativity and sheer hard work. Born to working class parents in rural 19th century France, he was expected to make a living as a carpenter, joiner, or a farmer. However, the ambitious young boy decided to seek out his fortunes in Paris and ran away from home when he was just 13. Arriving in Paris after two years, he became an apprentice in the workshop of a successful box-maker. Box-making provided him with ample opportunities to express his creativity and soon he established a reputation for himself as one of Paris’ most fashionable box-makers. Eventually he went on to found the Louis Vuitton label in 1854 which became immensely popular within a few years. He managed the company until his death in 1892.
Childhood & Early Life
Louis Vuitton was born on 4 August 1821 in Anchay in the Jura region in Eastern France. His father, Xavier Vuitton, was a farmer, and his mother, Corinne Gaillard, was a milliner.
He had a normal childhood until the age of 10 when tragedy struck the family and his mother died. His father soon remarried, and his new wife turned out to be a strict woman.
Louis was a stubborn child who did not get along with his step-mother. He also grew increasingly bored of the simple life in his small village. He was very ambitious even as a child and planned to run away from home.
At the age of 13 he decided to travel to Paris in order to seek his fortune in the big city. And thus he set off, alone and on foot, in the spring of 1835.
He travelled for more than two years, taking up odd jobs on the way in order to fend for himself, and staying wherever he could find shelter. The journey to Paris was not an easy one, but he courageously endured on.
He finally reached his destination after the 292-mile trek from his native Anchay to Paris in 1837. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing in Paris, and the city offered ample opportunities for his professional growth.
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Aged 16 now, he became an apprentice in the workshop of a successful box-maker and packer named Monsieur Marechal. Louis was a creative young man and box-making suited him well.
Box-making was considered to be respectable craft in 19th century Europe, and he proved to be very skilled in this art. Within a few years his boxes became a favorite among the fashionable and elite classes, and he became quite popular.
His fortunes changed for the better in 1853 when he was appointed as the personal trunk-maker to Empress Eugénie de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III. He was assigned the responsibility of aesthetically packaging her clothes for transportation between the Tuileres Palace, the Château de Saint-Cloud and various seaside resorts.
He excelled in this position and the royal family was very happy with his services. This position also enabled him to attract elite and royal clientele.
After making a name for himself as a premier box-maker who worked for the royalty, he decided to open his own business. Thus he left Marechal's shop and opened his own box-making and packing workshop in Paris in 1854. The sign outside the shop read: "Securely packs the most fragile objects. Specializing in packing fashions."
His company was successful from the very beginning and became even more famous after Louis Vuitton introduced his revolutionary stackable rectangular shaped trunks in the market, in 1858. Till that time, only trucks with rounded tops were available and his new design was more convenient to use than the rounded ones. Thus the demand for his products grew manifold.
Following the commercial success of his rectangular shaped trucks, he expanded his business and opened a larger workshop outside Paris. His bags became so popular that he even received personal orders from Isma'il Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt.
His business suffered a setback during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71 when his workshop was looted and destroyed. Ever the resilient soul, he did not let this setback curtail his ambitions. He re-established his business after the war and set up a new workshop in central Paris, once again winning the hearts of his clientele with his innovative and fashionable boxes and bags.
Awards & Achievements
He won a bronze medal at the Exposition Universelle, an international exposition organized by Napoleon in 1867.
In 1889, he was honored with a gold medal and the grand prize at the Exposition Universelle.
Personal Life & Legacy
Louis Vuitton married 17-year-old Clemence-Emilie Parriaux in 1854 and raised a family with her.
A very hard working man, he continued working till the very end of his life. He died on 27 February 1892. Upon his death, the company was inherited by his son, Georges Vuitton.