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Collecting Guide: 8 things to know about Louis Vuitton handbags

An introduction to the many Louis Vuitton bags on the market — including the most sought-after models — with Christie’s International Head of Handbags Matthew Rubinger  

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  • Louis Vuitton began his career in the 1830s as a maker of boxes

A classic monogram wardrobe Trunkin canvas with gold-plated hardware. Louis Vuitton, 20th century. 54 x 92 x 28  cm. This lot was offered in Sacs & Accessoires on 12 December 2017  at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €9,375

A classic monogram wardrobe Trunkin canvas with gold-plated hardware. Louis Vuitton, 20th century. 54 x 92 x 28 cm. This lot was offered in Sacs & Accessoires on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €9,375

Louis Vuitton was born in 1821 in the mountain town of Anchay, in eastern France. At around age 13, he set off on foot to find his fortune in Paris. It was a journey of some 300 miles, and it took him more than two years.

Three classic monogram Canvas Bisten 55, 65 & 75 with brass hardware. Louis Vuitton, 20th century. This lot was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €7,500

Three classic monogram Canvas Bisten 55, 65 & 75 with brass hardware. Louis Vuitton, 20th century. This lot was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €7,500

Arriving in Paris at age 16, Vuitton became an apprentice to a box manufacturer. In his early 30s he designed a flat-topped trunk that could be stacked — a radical innovation, as hitherto trunks had featured curved lids. Hired as the personal box-maker and packer to Eugenie, Empress of France, Vuitton became the travel goods manufacturer of choice among the aristocracy.

A limited-edition red pony-hair & stud monogram Iconoclast with gold hardware by Christian Louboutin. Louis Vuitton, 2014. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €2,500

A limited-edition red pony-hair & stud monogram Iconoclast with gold hardware by Christian Louboutin. Louis Vuitton, 2014. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €2,500

Passed from father to son, Vuitton's business grew to include clothing, shoes, jewellery and, of course, handbags. Its iconic offerings have included the Keepall, released in 1930; the Noé, from 1932; the Alma, from 1934; Stephen Sprouse’s 2001 Graffiti bag; Takashi Murakami’s 2003 Monogram Mulitcolore; the Neverfull tote, released in 2007; and the Capucines, from 2013. Loyal customers have ranged from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Kim Kardashian; design collaborators have included Marc Newson, Frank Gehry and Cindy Sherman. 

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  • The bags don’t just look good — they're designed to be highly practical 

A limited-edition monogram mirage bordeaux patent leather Speedy 30 with gold hardware. Louis Vuitton, 2009 spring-summer. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

A limited-edition monogram mirage bordeaux patent leather Speedy 30 with gold hardware. Louis Vuitton, 2009 spring-summer. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris


One of the reasons Louis Vuitton has so many followers is quite simple: the house makes pieces that are above all highly functional. Thoughtful design and durable materials are the hallmarks of a Louis Vuitton bag. The Keepall, for example, is completely waterproof, while the Boreal briefcase in Taiga leather  — made from smooth calfskin — is one of the most durable on the market.

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  • Limited-edition show bags are highly sought after

A limited-edition purple monogram lurex, metallic calfskin & snakeskin Lurex Bluebird with gold hardware & resin. Louis Vuitton, 2009 Spring-Summer. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

A limited-edition purple monogram lurex, metallic calfskin & snakeskin Lurex Bluebird with gold hardware & resin. Louis Vuitton, 2009 Spring-Summer. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris


Twice a year, Louis Vuitton releases its runway collection handbags. Known as show bags, these pieces are produced in extremely limited quantities and only made available to VIP clients and in the largest Vuitton stores worldwide. Often more exaggerated and complicated than the collection pieces, show bags stand out for their intricate materials and craftsmanship. They are generally numbered and always marked with the season and collection in which they were produced. Perhaps the most important of these is the 2001 Graffiti, followed by the 2003 Multicolore.

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  • In 1997 Marc Jacobs became Louis Vuitton’s creative director — and breathed new life into the brand

A limited-edition red vernis Infinity Dots Lockit by Yayoi Kusama. Louis Vuitton, 2012. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €1,750

A limited-edition red vernis Infinity Dots Lockit by Yayoi Kusama. Louis Vuitton, 2012. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €1,750

A brand’s lead director not only guides its artistic vision, but can also steer the brand’s identity. Marc Jacobs, one of the architects of the collectible runway handbag market, arrived at Louis Vuitton in 1997. The acclaimed designer transformed the storied luggage brand into the blockbuster fashion house it is today, introducing the brand’s first-ever ready-to-wear collection. He also launched collaborations with the likes of fashion designer Stephen Sprouse and artist Yayoi Kusama. While staying true to Louis Vuitton’s heritage, Jacobs reinvigorated the brand for a younger generation.

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  • Collaborations with artists have resulted in groundbreaking pieces

A rare, monogram multicolour Eye Love You with gold hardware by Takashi Murakami, no 431. Louis Vuitton, 2003 Spring-Summer. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 29 November at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A rare, monogram multicolour Eye Love You with gold hardware by Takashi Murakami, no 431. Louis Vuitton, 2003 Spring-Summer. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 29 November at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Louis Vuitton’s pioneering relationships with contemporary artists have included projects with Takashi Murakami in 2003 and 2008, and Richard Prince in 2007, who created paint-splattered bags adorned with quotations. In 2013, Louis Vuitton’s menswear designer Kim Jones enlisted Jake and Dinos Chapman to develop a capsule collection known as the 'Garden in Hell'. The floral print they produced featured strange creatures resembling a bloodshot eyeball, and demonic owls.

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  • Vuitton is not afraid to take risks

A red & white epi leather Christopher Backpack with silver hardware by Supreme. Louis Vuitton, 2017 Fall-Winter. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories, Online, 22 November to 5 December 2017,and sold for $12,500

A red & white epi leather Christopher Backpack with silver hardware by Supreme. Louis Vuitton, 2017 Fall-Winter. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories, Online, 22 November to 5 December 2017,and sold for $12,500

As technology and social media have amplified the house's reaches, the lines between art, fashion and street culture have blurred. Once trunkmakers to European aristocracy, Louis Vuitton now collaborates with brands like skateboard-maker Supreme, a mainstay of New York City streetwear. 

For Fall/Winter 2017, Supreme and Louis Vuitton produced a collection that took the men’s fashion world by storm. The limited-run pieces combine the Louis Vuitton monogram with the Supreme box logo.

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  • Pieces made from crocodile, alligator, ostrich and snakeskin are the pinnacle of the collector market

A figue ostrich Capucines BB with silver hardware. Louis Vuitton, 2017. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 29 November 2017 at Christie’s in Hong Kong and sold for HKD62,500

A figue ostrich Capucines BB with silver hardware. Louis Vuitton, 2017. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 29 November 2017 at Christie’s in Hong Kong and sold for HKD62,500

Painstakingly crafted in limited quantities from the very best materials and finished in rich, deep colours, Louis Vuitton Exotics represent the finest in quality and craftsmanship. Difficult to find in stores and rarely seen on the auction market, these crocodile, alligator, ostrich and snakeskin pieces are the pinnacle of the Vuitton collector market. The shine on an alligator piece -- such as the burgundy bag above -- surpasses anything that can be crafted in leather. 

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  • Travel items remain bestsellers

A monogram canvas Boite Chapeaux Hat Box 50 with gold hardware. Louis Vuitton, 2000s. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories, Online, 22 November to 5 December 2017, and sold for $1,500

A monogram canvas Boite Chapeaux Hat Box 50 with gold hardware. Louis Vuitton, 2000s. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories, Online, 22 November to 5 December 2017, and sold for $1,500


The brand boasts one of the world’s most exceptional collections of antique trunks, many of which are displayed in its stores around the world. Travel items, such as the Keepall travel bag and the Pégase suitcase, remain some of Vuitton’s best-selling pieces.

A classic monogram Pégase Légére 65. Louis Vuitton, 2012. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €1,000

A classic monogram Pégase Légére 65. Louis Vuitton, 2012. This bag was offered in Handbags & Accessories on 12 December 2017 at Christie’s in Paris and sold for €1,000