Louis Vuitton got his start as a box maker and packer in Paris and became famous when the wife of Napoleon III chose him as her personal box maker and clothes packer. Packing goods for transport was an important business, and the patronage of the Empress made Vuitton one of the premier craftsmen in his field. In 1854, he opened his own shop, developing his own unique luggage styles.
Louis Vuitton was the father of modern luggage. In the 19th century, traveling trunks were dome shaped and unwieldy. In 1854, Vuitton developed a new trunk that was lighter and sturdier than other designs but also rectangular in shape. This made the cases much easier to transport and stack, and Vuitton’s fortunes took off. His bags and baggage became popular among the high society of France, creating a legacy of luxury that his descendants would parlay into a lasting fashion accessory company.
Vuitton was also famous for being a self-made man. At the age of 14, he left his village and walked to Paris, spending two years taking many odd jobs along the way. He apprenticed himself to a box maker and learned the trade as he went. In 1871, the Franco-Prussian War devastated Paris and destroyed his business, but he managed to recover and open a new shop within months, continuing to serve the wealthy clientele that made him famous.