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One of the oldest names in the business, Louis Vuitton got his start as a layetier (packer) to Napolean III’s wife, Empress Eugénie. After years of studying the foundation of voyage-friendly baggage, Vuitton decided to deconstruct the model and build his own, originally designing airtight canvas trunks with flat bottoms—as opposed to the time’s rounded styles—for stacking and easy storage. He opened his first store in Paris in 1854, hawking finely made trunks, hat boxes, and other luxury luggage for the well-traveled set. By 1888, he had his trademark signature brown and tan checked pattern—a literal demarcation of authenticity turned motif. Vuitton died five years later, passing his growing empire to his son, George Vuitton—who introduced the iconic monogrammed canvas we know today, and patented the graphic by 1914. His son Gaston-Louis Vuitton took over the company in 1936, furthering the business into an international brand—introducing purses and wallets, which by 1959 expanded into an iconic collective of women’s bags—the Speedy, the Steamer, the Pochette. The seventies found the brand expanding into the Asian market, with new stores in Japan, China, and South Korea. The company merged with Moët et Chandon and Hennessy in 1987, creating the luxury powerhouse anagram LVMH. Amazingly, it wasn’t until ten years later that they went into the ready-to-wear business, hiring New York designer Marc Jacobs in 1997, who immediately added an incredibly lucrative clothing business while bringing Vuitton up-to-date by collaborating with such artists as Stephen Sprouse (who irreverently graffitied bags) and later Takashi Murakami (who added a bubble-gum anime humor to the line). Today, the label encompasses ready-to-wear, watches, jewelry, home, and, of course, that want-worthy luggage.

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