The Louis Vuitton Monogram hides a thousand secrets that have nourished the collective imagination, from its initial inspiration to its more contemporary renderings. In 1896, one of the most coveted signatures on the planet first came out. Georges Vuitton, Louis’ son, would take up his father’s mantle after his death. To pay homage to him, the trunkmaker imagined a monogram canvas signed LV that was both supple and solid. Of course, the canvas incarnated the values of the manufacturer at 4 rue des Capucines in Paris: innovation, travel, experiencing different cultures, durability, solidity, and French luxury. The Monogram motif is the ideal combination of classic and modernity, French and universal aesthetic, but first and foremost ephemeral and timeless. Louis Vuitton’s initials and flowers are today the brand’s omnipresent signatures. When it comes to going back on the inspirations that led to Louis Vuitton’s very particular logo, experts suggest a number of possibilities. The lines for the floral motifs are such a mystery that some say they were inspired by the architectural details of old buildings that were like churches. Others evoke the tiles in the family’s home in Asnières. Some think that the floral motifs are a nod to coats of arms of the old Japanese nobility; Louis Vuitton was indeed fascinated by Japan. The Monogram print is the perfect encounter between the three great arts of humanity: gothic, contemporary, and Japanese art.
But the Monogram logo is also linked with the demands for authenticity back then. As counterfeiting was becoming a growing problem, Georges Vuitton had the idea to sign his father’s name on his trademarked work. Just like a monogram is an artist’s signature on his or her work, the Louis Vuitton logo is anchored in a secular tradition. From the very beginning of the Vuitton era, the Monogram was able to be transformed. Paul Poiret, one of the great couturiers of the 20th century, was a loyal client of the trunkmaker. He had trunks created for his brand’s couture creations, and to easily recognize them, he asked that a dot and stripes design be affixed to them. This logo has since played with a number of materials, shapes, and combinations; Louis Vuitton has never ceased to reinvent this simple and pure seal that’s synonymous with rareness and luxury. In 2014, the brand’s 140th anniversary opened with a project called: “Celebrating the Monogram”. The idea was simple and fun: invite six pioneers to interpret the timeless LV stamp for a new series of bags.
Marc Jacobs has also long reinterpreted and played around with the logo with artists like Murakami, Sprouse, and Kusama. “Ah, the Monogram, it was my obsession and my dear concern for a long time! When Mr. Arnualt entrusted me with the creative direction of Vuitton, I found that playing with LV was too expected, that I had to start somewhere else. But at the same time, like Mickey Mouse, the Mona Lisa, or the Eiffel Tower, the Monogram had the dimension of a global icon,” he indicated. For him, “The mustache on the Mona Lisa is the graffiti on the Monogram”. During his years at the head of the brand’s creative direction, the American designer ceaselessly highlighted Louis Vuitton’s emblematic logo by confronting it with postmodernity. “My second story linked to the Monogram is also artistic. I was visiting Charlotte Gainsbourg’s apartment in Paris one day, and I saw a Vuitton trunk in the corner painted black by her father, Serge. I had a flash of inspiration. And I started our work of re-appropriating the Monogram with Stephen.” More recently, Kim Jones gave a brand new dimension to the logo by teaming up with the most hyped brand of the moment, yielding Supreme and Louis Vuitton for Fall/Winter 2017. This collection is sure to go down in the books.
The monogram Louis Vuitton: Key dates
1889 : To fight the emerging attempts to copy its trunks Louis Vuitton puts inside its iconic Damier motif the signature “Louis Vuitton registered trademark”.
1896 : The measure proves to be insufficient and Vuitton’s son George makes a decisive move which will give eternal life to the brand: inspired by the “Japonism” of the Victorian age he creates a unique motif with flowers and geometrical symbols together with the LV initials. The legend is born.
1897 – 1905: The monogram is registered and patented and after the immense success at Paris and Chicago world fairs Louis Vuitton itself becomes a registered trademark.
1930 : The Keepall bag is born: this accessory is intended as an handbag and displays both the Damier or the Monogram.
1930 : In the same year the Alma bag is created both with Damier and Monogram. According to the legend it was personally commissioned to LV by Coco Chanel.
1959 : LV makes coated canvas thinner, softer, more pliable in the materials we know it today.
2001 : Stephen Sprouse is called to create the Monogram bag lines Graffiti and Roses.
2008 : Richard Prince creates the Aquarelle or Watercolor Speedy: a radical reinterpretation of the Monogram.
2008 : The Monogramouflage motif is born.
2017 : LV gives birth to the iconic collection of bags signed by Jeff Koons. The Monogram is there.