The Big Three from France: Part I

It’s not surprising that three of the world’s most successful luxury houses, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Chanel all originated in France. Regardless of fashion, the French are synonymous with a rich history, style and an egalitarian mantra that has served them well since the French revolution. These three houses are built on strong foundations. Whilst a myriad of other established French Luxury houses exist, (Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and Lanvin, just to name a few) it is thanks to the ‘big three’ that the French have maintained their global dominance as world leaders in fashion. 

The french fashion designer and businessman Louis Vuitton
(1821 – 1892), the older man with white hair sitting in the seat of the driver of the wagon, portrayed with all the employees of his trunk and suitcase factory in France / Alamy

In 2021 at the top of the tree by brand value is Louis Vuitton, at an estimated 75.7 million. Followed by Chanel who sits at 47 million, with Hermès in third place at 33.8 million. Which global pandemic was that? The three houses have very different company structures, but all have a very strong unassailable image and a defined look that is unmistakable when compared with rival luxury houses. 

Louis Vuitton, who opened his first store in 1854, came from humble beginnings. Having lost his parents early in his life, the thirteen-year-old Louis walked 470km over two years from his country origins to reach Paris. He initially started his career as a box maker for the Empress Eugénie of France. With obvious flair, the young Louis then began an apprenticeship with Marechel, making travel trunks for the well-to-do. It was here that he became famous for his craftsmanship, specialising in domed leather trunks of superior quality. During this time, Louis experimented with the types of products that we associate with his brand today, including the more practical flat cases and travel trunks that are synonymous with the company’s image. By the time of his death in 1892, Louis Vuitton had left a solid foundation for his successors who have built upon the rich legacy he left behind.

Stay tuned for the next issue of Leonard Magazine, in which we’ll look at Hermès, the second of our three French luxury giants. 

John D’AGATA / Head of Luxury

Banner Image (detail): An Alma GM by Louis Vuitton. Sold for $1,375

May 2022