Louis Vuitton’s Logos

Those Victorians, they loved to travel.

Travelling was the sign of a well-made Victorian man, it encompassed the modern view of one’s self, the ability to boast of where you’d been. In the height of the travel bug boom of the late 1800’s, Louis Vuitton Malletier (“Louis Vuitton Trunk Maker”) opened in Paris in 1854. As the ability to travel grew affordable and dependable, the luggage trade sky rocketed and Louis was there to meet the demand.

The Louis Vuitton reputation grew quickly, sparking imitaters to copy the designs of their rival, and thus beginning the quest to stay one step ahead of the counterfeiters ever since.

 Louis and his son Georges collaborated in 1888 to create the Damier canvas design in Ebony, one that is still in use today, in both men’s and women’s bags.

  It’s also available in Azur, a color many women prefer to carry (especially in warm months when wearing white).

 The next pattern, the Monogram Canvas, released in 1896 and is, arguably, their most popular ever. The design incorporates the Victorian Japonisme/Oriental trend in the flower designs within the pattern and has remained perhaps the most counterfeited logo in the handbag industry to date. The deepest irony here is the fact that the pattern was created over a century ago to handle the counterfeiters of those times as well.

Buyer beware, in any century.

Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 7:15 am  Leave a Comment  

How Gabrielle became ‘Coco’

In 1904, a bit of entertainment for the average working class to indulge in were the cafe-concerts, or caf’concs as they were known, where small orchestras entertained in the evening. There were no cover charges, but were primarily supported “by collection only.” After meeting lieutenants in the alteration shop she worked in, 19-year-old Gabrielle Chanel was invited to La Rotonde to take in a show.

Coco Chanel, age 19Had Gabrielle boasted of her own singing ability? For whatever reason, the director allowed her to take the stage, and even landed her a recurrent spot at the establishment. Her nightly rendition about a young lady who lost her dog at the Trocadero amusement park gained her the nickname she would carry with her for the rest of her life.

I’ve lost my poor Coco / Coco, my lovable dog / Lost him, close to the Trocadero / He’s far away, if he’s still running. / I admit my biggest regret is that the more my man cheated me / the more Coco remained faithful.

But, Chanel delighted in obscuring the facts of her life during a lifetime of interviews, and there is one more song that she sang at the caf’concs which also gets the credit for the famous nickname. “Ko ko ri ko” was a title song of a revue by playwright Robert de Flers that was a smash hit in Paris in 1897.

In any case, the audience named her ‘la petite Coco’ and the legend was born.

Published in: on August 1, 2009 at 6:46 am  Comments (1)  

Chanel’s beginnings

Did you know Coco Chanel began her career as a milliner? C’est vrai, her first business venture which began at the now legendary 21 Rue Cambon location (just behind the Ritz) was to sell hats to the wealthy nobles and elite upper class. Her style became known after she began buying straw boater hats and decorating them in a simpler manner than current fashion dictated. Always the shrewd businesswoman, even from the beginning, she saw the opportunity to gain her highly desired financial independence by capitalizing on her millinery talents.

P4300392   Chanel in one of her boaters at the race track, 1910

What drove her to open this shop? She had to be highly motivated as she called in many favors from the men in her web of lovers to make it happen, borrowing money to lease the commercial space from her current beau, Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel, as well as living in an abandoned apartment that belonged her previous protector, Etienne Balsan, who had kept Chanel as his mistress for over half a dozen years, before Boy Capel became the man Chanel would later call “the love of my life.” Her first move towards independance came when she took up her own residence at 31 Rue Cambon in an apartment she would keep for the rest of her life.

Whether her business acumen hinged on her desire to be self-sufficient, or her burgeoning love of fashion, she had found a niche in the market, and clientele responded eagerly to the young woman’s vision. A century ago, the on-trend fashion for hat wear amongst ladies were huge, overblown hats that appeared to have an entire bird atop the wearer’s head.

             edwardian hats            1901hats

Chanel’s hats scaled back in the use of feathers, but kept them in her designs in smaller number… sometimes just a few and sometimes just one lone plume, as the hat’s primary adornment. Pictured below left, this hat is thought to be one of the earliest Chanel hats on record, pictured in Les Modes in 1912. To the right is actress Gabrielle Dorziat in a Chanel hat of the same period.

chanel hat 1912  P4290380

Published in: on July 26, 2009 at 3:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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Adidas versus Puma, a shoemakers’ family feud

In 1920, Adolph (Adi) Dassler began a footwear business in Germany which specialized in manufacturing slippers. His brother, Rudolph, joined the company in 1924 when it was known as Gebruder Dassler Schufrabrik. After expanding their line to include football boots and track shoes, the brothers received international recognition during the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, when Jesse Owens won four gold medals while wearing their shoes.

Their relationship fundamentally changed over a serious argument sometime in 1948. They split the company up and went on to form their own shoewear companies independently – Rudolph founded Puma, and Adolph formed Adidas, derived from his nickname and surname.

  Adidas shoes dominated the sports shoe industry until Nike surpassed its sales records in the late 1970s. After Adolph’s death in 1978, his son Horst took over the business until his own untimely demise in 1987. His sisters sold the company and it foundered until 1992 when Robert Louis-Dreyfus took over. Since then, Adidas transformed in the 90’s from utilitarian sports gear into fashion statements.

Their fashion presence grew so strong that English fashion designer Stella McCartney launched a joint-venture line with Adidas in 2004, a sports performance collection for women called “Adidas by Stella McCartney.” Adidas eliminated more of their competition in 2006 when a bid to buy out British rival Reebok for $3.8 billion ended in a partnership deal instead. The company’s revenue for 2008 was listed as $15.6 billion.

Published in: on July 25, 2009 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment