Fashion Geek: 160 Years of Louis Vuitton

Believe it or not, Louis Vuitton is 160 this year. 

That's right, my dear collectors, the French luxury fashion house, best known for its ubiquitous monogram motif, is older than most people we know. And it is still going strong. 

To celebrate the triumphant occasion (let's face it: It is quite a feat for any brand to last that long), LV has commissioned six icons from the fashion, art, architecture and industrial design industry to re-imagine the brand's iconic monogram for a new limited-edition series of bags. 

The six icons are: fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld and Rei Kawakubo, architect Frank Gehry, performance artist Cindy Sherman, product designer Marc Newson as well as shoe designer Christian Louboutin. Each icon has created a curated collection of bags that will definitely be must-haves for collectors (that's you!). For instance, Lagerfeld has created a trio of travel pieces consisting of a punching bag, a suitcase and a trunk. Comme des Garcons' Kawakubo, on the other hand, gave the signature LV tote a new look - complete with burned-out holes as a design detail. 

The six icons: (from top left) Cindy Sherman, Karl Lagerfeld, Frank Gehry, Marc Newson, Rei Kawakubo and Christian Louboutin; The Louis Vuitton 160th anniversry iconoclast collection

Called the Louis Vuitton 160th Anniversary Iconoclast collection, the pieces will be in LV stores worldwide starting from this month. 

The new project, according to fashion news site Buro 24/7, sports a similar theme as the one done in 1996, for LV's 100th anniversary celebration, and saw designers Azzedine Alaïa, Manolo Blahnik, Romeo Gigli, Helmut Lang, Isaac Mizrahi, Sybilla and Vivienne Westwood contributing their own designs for the French fashion house.

Vintage Louis Vuitton trunks became the popular choice for elite travellers for its chic design that allowed for easy stacking. 

Now that we've got the news out of the way, let's take the time to go back in history and learn more about the luxury fashion giant.

Founded in 1854 by designer Louis Vuitton, the brand started out as a leathergoods maker, specialising in travel cases and trunks that are lightweight and easily stackable. Before that, trunks were often designed to be rounded at the top to prevent water from collecting and ruining the cases. This design feature was a minor flaw as it meant that the trunks cannot be stacked on top of one another and, thus, took up alot of space. 

In 1896, the company launched the Monogram Canvas (which has since become its signature and recognised the world over) and made the worldwide patents on it. Its graphic symbols, including quatrefoils and flowers (as well as the LV monogram itself), were based on the trend of using Japanese and Oriental designs.

By 1913, Louis Vuitton became one of the most popular brands in the world and the company unveiled its first Louis Vuitton Building on the illustrious Champs-Elysees. It was then the largest travel-goods store in the world.

Fast forward 84 years later and LV appointed Marc Jacobs, then a young up-and-coming American designer who was fired from Perry Ellis, as its artistic director. The next year, in 1998, Jacobs introduced the brand's first ready-to-wear line of clothing for both men and women. He also introduced LV's Monogram Vernis line, the LV scrapbooks, and the Louis Vuitton City Guide. Till today, Jacobs is credited as the one who turned the label around to become one of the world's most formidable fashion brands. 

During his tenure, Jacobs brought the brand to greater heights of fame with his RTW lines as well as collaboration pieces with Stephen Sprouse and, most recently, Yayoi Kusama. He left LV in 2013 after a successful 16-year run. His final collection comprised of mainly black pieces and a vast set that included aspects of his most memorable Louis Vuitton shows of previous seasons. They include a pair of escalators, old fashioned lifts, a hotel hallway, a grand fountain, clock and carousel - all painted black - formed the landscape.

Two months after Jacob' departure, Nicolas Ghesquiere was announced as the brand's new creative director. Ghesquiere, who left Balenciaga in 2012 after a 15-year tenure, brought new life to the brand - a decidedly new look to the Louis Vuitton girl. 

Louis Vuitton under Nicolas Ghesqueiere stays true to the brand's spirit of travel but with a touch of 1970s bourgeois codes. Picture credit: VOGUE UK

In an interview with British Vogue recently, Ghesquiere said: "You know the Vuitton woman is someone who is interested in fashion but she's not someone who is craving the last new thing. She has a sense of excellence, of quality, of timeless pieces. So I was like… I have to combine both those two feelings. Create a strong desire for fashion, a statement, and at the same time to give a feeling that this is the beginning of a wardrobe I will build. I didn't want to give the feeling that I will jump and do this story and then jump and do another."

Regardless, loyal fans of Louis Vuitton will definitely not be disappointed from here on. It is without a doubt, that with Ghesquiere onboard, LV as a brand is cooler than ever before.