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A brief history of Louis Vuitton and Hermès

Lu Xiao |
Image Credit: Tsinghua Business Review

Established in 1854, Louis Vuitton designed and introduced flat-bottom luggage trunks made with trianon canvas.

It soon became the favorite of Empress Eugenie and the brand took off as the luggage choice for the wealthy. In 1867, the company won a bronze medal at the World Exposition in Paris and its influence spread beyond France. In 1885, Louis Vuitton opened its first overseas store in London. Following the death of his father in 1892, George Vuitton began a campaign to build the company into a worldwide corporation. In 1893, it entered the U.S market and, in 1896, the company launched its signature Monogram Canvas and secured worldwide patents for it. It has since become the classic symbol of the Louis Vuitton brand.
 
Hermès began as a harness workshop in 1837 by Thierry Hermès. His grandson, Emile-Maurice Hermès was responsible for the successful diversification of the business. In the 1890s, Hermès introduced its first handbag [Sac haut-à-croire] and gradually added watches, clothing, jewellery and accessories. The company did not use assembly lines; design and manufacture of all products were done in-house. In the 1920s, Hermès opened its first overseas store in New York. In the 1950s, under the charge of Robert Dumas, Emile-Maurice Hermès’ son-in-law, more products were introduced including perfume, shoes, and porcelain.
 
Hermès is most famous for its Kelly bag and Birkin bag. Launched in 1935, the Kelly bag was originally a saddle bag and then refined into a product suitable for ladies. From tanning and the choice of leather to dyeing and tailoring, the construction of each Kelly bag requires 18 hours of work by a single artisan. This attention to detail and dedication to integrity have made the Kelly bag an enduring success. The company’s on-going dedication to family ownership and management, impeccable craftsmanship, and careful protection of the brand's mystique sets Hermès apart from many of its French luxury goods compatriots.
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