LV is also one of the oldest fashion houses in the world, having started in 1854. It sells its products strictly through its own retail stores and online (as an effort against counterfeit). It primarily competes with Versace, Gucci, Chanel, Armani, Prada and similar luxury fashion brands.
Prominent figures to have exclusively ordered Louis Vuitton luggage in history include Congo explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, who ordered a combined trunk and bed from the company, and American conductor Leopold Stokowski (for his travels), whose travelling secrétaire was designed by Gaston-Louis Vuitton.
Louis Vuitton (born, August 4, 1821; died, February 27, 1892), future founder of his eponymous company, was born in Jura, France (now part of the commune of Lavans-sur-Valouse). In 1835, he moved to Paris. The trip from his hometown to Paris was over , and he travelled the distance by foot. On his way there, he picked up a series of odd jobs to pay for his journey. There, he became an apprentice Layetier to prominent households. Because of his well established reputation in his field, Napoleon III of France appointed Vuitton as Layetier to his wife, Empress Eugénie de Montijo. Through his experience with the French aristocracy, he developed expert knowledge of what made a good travelling case. It is now that he begins to design his own luggage, setting the foundations for LV Co.
In 1867, the company participated in the universal exhibition in Paris. To protect against the duplication of his look, he changed the Trianon design to a beige and brown stripes design in 1876.By 1885, the company opened its first store in London, England on Oxford Street. Soon thereafter, due to the continuing imitation of his look, in 1888, the Damier Canvas pattern was created by Louis Vuitton, bearing a logo that reads "marque L. Vuitton déposée," which translates to "mark L. Vuitton deposited" or, roughly, "L. Vuitton trademark". In 1893, Louis Vuitton died, and the company's management passed to his son.
By 1914, the Louis Vuitton Building opened on the Champs-Elysees. It was the largest travel-goods store in the world at the time. Stores also opened in New York, Bombay, Washington, London, Alexandria, and Buenos Aires as World War I began. Afterwards, in 1930, the Keepall bag was introduced. During 1932, LV introduced the Noé bag. This bag was originally made for champagne vintners to transport bottles. Soon thereafter, the Louis Vuitton Speedy bag was introduced (both are still manufactured today). In 1936 Georges Vuitton passed away, and, his son, Gaston-Louis Vuitton, assumed control of the company.
1987 witnessed the creation of LVMH. Moët et Chandon and Hennessy, leading manufacturers of champagne and brandy, (respectively) merged with Louis Vuitton to form the luxury goods conglomerate. Profits for 1988 are reported to be up by 49% more than in 1987. By 1989, Louis Vuitton came to operate 130 stores worldwide. Entering the 1990s, Yves Carcelle was proclaimed president of LV, and in 1992, his brand opened its first Chinese location at the Palace Hotel in Beijing. Further more introduced products became the Taiga leather line (1993) and the literature collection of Voyager Avec... (1994). In 1996, the celebration of the Centennial of the Monogram Cavas was held in seven cities worldwide.
After introducing its pen collection (1997), Louis Vuitton made Marc Jacobs along side Christian Jae its Art Director (1998). In March of the following year, he designed and introduced the company's first prêt-à-porter line of clothing for men and women. Also in this year, the Monogram Vernis line, the LV scrapbooks, and the Louis Vuitton City Guide were launched. 1300 km from Dalian to Beijing, the first rally in China is held (\"China Run\") as well. The last events in the 20th century were the release of the mini monogram line (1999), the opening of the first store in Africa in Marrakech, Morocco (2000), and finally the auction at the International Film Festival in Venice, Italy were the vanity case \"amfAR\" designed by Sharon Stone is sold with proceeds going to The Foundation for AIDS Research (also in 2000).
In the year of 2002, the Tambour watch collection was introduced. During this year as well, the LV building in Tokyo is opened, and the brand collaborates with Bob Wilson for its Christmas windows sceneography. In 2003, Takashi Murakami, in collaboration with Marc Jacobs, masterminded the new Monogram Multicolore canvas range of handbags and accessories. This range includes the monograms of the standard Monogram Canvas, but in 33 different colors on either a white or black background. (The classic canvas features gold monograms on a brown background.) Murakami also created the Cherry Blossom pattern, in which smiling cartoon faces in the middle of pink and yellow flowers are sporadically placed atop the Monogram Canvas. This pattern appeared on a limited number of pieces. The production of this limited-edition run was discontinued in June 2003. Within 2003, the stores in Moscow, Russia and in New Delhi, India are opened. The Utah and Suhali leather lines are released, and the 20th anniversary of the LV Cup is held as well.
Louis Vuitton celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2004 worldwide. In this year, the brand inaugurated stores in New York City (on Fifth Avenue), São Paulo and Johannesburg. It also opened its first global store in Shanghai. Furthermore, it joined with Ugo Rondinone for the creation of the Christmas window scenography of the year. By 2005, Louis Vuitton reopened its Champs-Élysées store (reputed to be the largest LV store in the world), and release the Speedy watch collection. In 2006, LV held the inauguration of the Espace Louis Vuitton on its 7th floor. Other inaugurations were of the houses located at Fifth Avenue in New York City and Taipei. Further releases are the publication of the \"Louis Vuitton Icons\" book, the Monogram mini lin line, and the Damier Azur line. The icons are launched in Nomande leather, and the icon lockit is repamped. Between Budapest, Vienna and Prague takes place the LV Boheme Run. For this Christmas window Scenography, Danish artist Olafur Eliasson presents LV with his artwork.
The Louis Vuitton company carefully cultivates a celebrity following and has used famous models and actresses in its marketing campaigns. Breaking from their usual traditions of employing supermodels and celebrities to advertise their products, on August 2, 2007, the company announced that the former USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev would appear in an ad campaign along with Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, and Catherine Deneuve.
The company commonly uses print ads in magazines and billboards in cosmopolitan cities. It previously relied on selected press for its advertising campaigns (frequently involving prestigious stars like Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, Gisele Bündchen and Catherine Deneuve) shot by Annie Leibovitz. However, Antoine Arnault, director of the communication department, has recently decided to enter the world of television and cinema: The commercial (90 seconds) is exploring the theme \"Where will life take you?\" and is translated into 13 different languages. This is the first Vuitton commercial ad ever and was directed by renowned French director Bruno Aveillan.
The company manufactures and markets luxury leather goods, fashion accessories, prêt-à-porter, and jewelry. Many of the company's products utilize the signature brown Damier and Monogram Canvas materials, both of which were first used in the late 19th century. All of the company's products utilize the eponymous LV initials. The company markets its product only through its own stores throughout the world, which allows it to control product quality and pricing and to prevent counterfeit products entering its distribution channels. Louis Vuitton has no sales or any duty-free stores. In addition, the company added a single online retailer, eluxury.com, to sell its products (along with some of its sister companies such as Christian Dior).
One of the Louis Vuitton's emblems is the Alzer suitcase, with retail price of 3,400€ to 3,950€ ($5,250 to $6,100 USD). The prices are for the Monogram canvas line. For special orders, a leather Alzer suitcase can go up to 30,000€.
The brand is highly counterfeited, and just over 1% of the items bearing the trademark monogram are authentic. Ironically, the signature Monogram Canvas was created to prevent counterfeiting. In 2004, Louis Vuitton fakes accounted for 18% of counterfeit accessories seized in the European Union. The brand has always been a target of counterfeit (since its establishment) due to the goods' rather prestigious state.
LV takes a serious view of all counterfeiting, employing a team of lawyers and special investigation agencies, actively pursuing offenders through the courts worldwide, and allocating about half of its budget of communications to counteract piracy of its goods. LVMH (Vuitton's parent company) further confirmed this by stating that "some 60 people at various levels of responsibility working full time on anti-counterfeiting in collaboration with a wide network of outside investigators and a team of lawyers. In a further effort, the company closely controls the distribution of its products. Until the 1980s, Vuitton products were widely sold in department stores (e.g. Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue). Today, Vuitton products are primarily available at authentic Louis Vuitton boutiques, with a small number of exceptions. These boutiques are commonly found in upscale shopping districts or, less commonly, inside ultra high-end department stores. The boutiques within department stores operate independently from the department and have their own LV managers and employees. LV has recently launched an online store, through its main website, as an authorized channel to market its products.
Caroline Babulle, a spokeswoman for the publisher (Fayard) said, "They [Louis Vuitton Co.] have not contested anything in the book, but they are trying to bury it by pretending it doesn't exist." Responding to the book's release in 2004, a spokesman for LVMH stated that "this is ancient history...The book covers a period when it was family-run and long before it became part of LVMH. We are diverse, tolerant and all the things a modern company should be." Another LVMH spokesman told the satirical magazine, Le Canard Enchainé, that "We don't deny the facts, but regrettably the author has exaggerated the Vichy episode,". That publication was the only French periodical to mention the book.