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Jean McClelland: Quality is the key when sourcing a Louis Vuitton

March 11, 2018 GMT

Louis Vuitton was a 19th-century Parisian who once was a professional box maker and luggage packer for wealthy French families such as Eugenie, empress of France. He noted that the popular round-top trunks were difficult to stack, so he designed a high-quality flat-top trunk that won favor with the upper class. And as the old saying goes, “the rest is history.”

Early on, Vuitton was challenged by reproductions, so he engineered a signature design that his son would eventually refine. George Vuitton added to his father’s checkerboard design with quatrefoils, flowers and the “LV” logos. In 1896, the design was patented globally and has remained the very recognizable logo for the merchandise ever since. In recent years designers have instituted some trendy changes to the logo, but the basics remain.

Louis Vuitton was originally a luggage company specializing in high-end trunks and travel bags. Over time, the bags got smaller, until the 1930s, when the luggage business also became a purse business, along with clothing, shoes and jewelry. Each change in merchandise over the years can help a knowledgeable collector date an item.

The Louis Vuitton Company has jealously guarded the distribution of its bags through time, but, even so, many reproductions get to the market. It is a known fact that a new original Louis Vuitton product can only be purchased from an official Louis Vuitton store. Secondhand is another story, and one of the safeguards for a buyer is the reputation of the seller. One should always research the seller before shelling out hundreds of dollars for a collectible bag.

Collectors have learned to watch for factors that assure any purchase is authentic. Some of those real-deal factors include checking the quality of the prospective purchase. For example, the stitching should be impeccable with a high number of stitches per inch of seam. The patterns on the bag should match; thus, any mismatching assures you have a fake. The real thing always uses brass or metal in its hardware but the fakes often have plastic. Quality, quality, quality from the thread to the hardware to the textiles is key to verifying a true Louis Vuitton piece.

Those who covet authentic Louis Vuittons need deep pockets - this is one pricey collectible, reaching into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars for one product, new or used. There are many educational internet sites about this topic that interested parties should access and study prior to making a purchase.

Jean McClelland writes about antiques and collectibles for The Herald-Dispatch.