The Ultimate Guide to Louis Vuitton Leather and Canvas
August 22, 20174 min read
Since Louis Vuitton invented his famous stackable flat top trunk around 1857, it’s safe to say the master trunk maker has forever reinvented the art of travel and, in modern times, the way we embrace luxury. With the brand’s rising popularity, Louis Vuitton trunks were an easy target for counterfeit even back in the late 1890s. Vuitton’s first-ever material for his popular trunks was a solid gray Triannon canvas. As a way to prevent counterfeiting of Louis Vuitton bags, the founder’s son, Georges, debuted the Damier canvas and, shortly after, the Monogram canvas. To this day, these two iconic materials are the gold standard of designer luxury. Because the brand’s signature leather and canvas materials are a core part of its durability, timelessness and enduring popularity, many fanatics of the designer brand often collect Louis Vuitton bags in a varied mix of materials. After all, for luxury lovers, there is nothing to apologize or be shy about for wanting to be noticed while wearing a Louis Vuitton handbag. If you happen to be part of this exclusive club of couture lovers, here’s the ultimate guide to Louis Vuitton leather and canvas materials you need to know about.
Damier is a French term for "checkerboard," which explains the check pattern of Louis Vuitton’s first-ever signature canvas. Unlike common misconceptions, canvas is not leather but a man-made material made of plain-woven fabric. The Damier canvas was reintroduced in 1996 in Ebene color, which is a neutral brown shade. Between 2006 to 2014, several other colors were launched, such as Damier Graphite (dark gray), Damier Cobalt (dark blue) and Damier Couleurs (multi-color and limited edition). Next to Damier Ebene, however, the other most popular color in this material is Damier Azur, which comes in navy blue with a white checkerboard overlay.
Perhaps the most recognizable of all the Louis Vuitton canvas materials, the Monogram canvas was a ground-breaking design concept when it was first launched in the late 1890s. Back then, many trunk manufacturers use plain leather for their products, so it was revolutionary for Louis Vuitton to use a branded material. Not only did it differentiate the brand from its competitors, it also hampered counterfeiters from copying Louis Vuitton’s designs. The Monogram canvas’ appeal stems from its elegant four-motif design, which was a nod to Oriental artistry that was widely popular back in the Victorian era. Each motif carries a symbolic significance: Interlocking LV initials is the brand identity, the four-point star symbolizes guidance, the sun symbol stands for new life and renewal, while the diamond with four-pointed star represents the idea of love. In 1959, Louis Vuitton introduced a pliable version of the Monogram canvas, which made it more suited for today’s modern-day handbags. Along with this innovation, the luxury house brand also experimented with new designs that reflected the times, including a famous collaboration with designer Stephen Sprouse who introduced Louis Vuitton bags in vivid graffiti-style fonts printed over Monogram canvas.
Inspired by Louis Vuitton’s custom travel pieces made with grained leather in the 1920s, the release of the Epi leather signals Louis Vuitton’s launch of its first-ever all-leather collection. Rigid and highly durable, it is a favorite among fans of the brand as this classic Louis Vuitton leather material is water- and scratch-resistant, meaning it is designed to withstand the rigors of time and heavy use. When it was first released, there were only six Epi leather colors, each named after an exotic location: Kouril black, Kenyan fawn, Borneo green, Toledo blue, Winnepeg sable and Castillian red.
In French, vernismeans "varnish" which sums up the high-shine, patent effect of the Monogram Vernis material. Through the genius of Marc Jacobs who served as Louis Vuitton’s creative director between 1997 to 2012, Monogram Vernis was born. The glossy material with embossed Monogram pattern has, no doubt, infused a more modern vibe to Louis Vuitton. Originally introduced in a feminine pastel palette, Monogram Vernis is seen today in a range of colors, from bold Amarante (purple) to sultry Indian Rose (red). Although the patent coating makes this material waterproof, Monogram Vernis, however, requires a little bit more “tender loving care” as the coating is susceptible to surface scratches and color transfer.
By all artistic standards, the Monogram Multicolore canvas is not only a creative marriage between Louis Vuitton (under the direction of Marc Jacobs) and Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami. Quite simply, it is the union of art and luxury. Rendered in "Kauai palette" using 32 tropical-inspired and delightfully fun colors, the Monogram Multicolore is an instant hit. Louis Vuitton lovers stylishly devoured the overly feminine and pop art appeal of the material. The explosion of colors is unexpected, to a degree, given Louis Vuitton’s penchant for more neutral and solid colors. But it served as the perfect artwork (like how a Campbell soup serves as the perfect inspiration for an Andy Warhol art piece) on a timeless material and an iconic brand. Multicolore has since been discontinued, but Louis Vuitton collectors may find this couture treasure in luxury resale shops.
Made of supple embossed calf leather, the Monogram Empreinte is one of the newer Louis Vuitton leather materials introduced in the market. Launched in 2010, Monogram Empreinte is popular due to its classic appeal and luxurious texture. It is less rigid in construction so that it can take on a more relaxed silhouette. The Speedy, Montaigne and Pont Neuf are some of the styles that employ the use of Empreinte Monogram leather. Its durable and high-quality leather likewise makes this material easy to care for, which makes the idea very appealing to busy, young professionals who want low-maintenance sophistication. While these are among the most popular Louis Vuitton leather and canvas materials used, the designer brand has experimented with many other materials throughout the years, including denim and exotic leather. Which Louis Vuitton leather or canvas do you love the most? Are you a classic beauty who favors the timelessness of a Monogram canvas? Or does the whimsical colors of Louis Vuitton’s Multicolore tickles your fancy?