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Stories Stories Business $30B fortune from luggage: Bernard Arnault explains success of Louis Vuitton

$30B fortune from luggage: Bernard Arnault explains success of Louis Vuitton

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Written by Quin     March 12, 2014    
 
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(CNN) -- On a breezy spring day in 1835, a 13-year-old boy from the Jura region of eastern France set out for the glittering metropolis of Paris to seek his fortune.

Louis Vuitton has become synonymous with luxury travel through their now iconic monogrammed trunks. Forbes estimates the brand is worth just a little shy of $30 billion.

He traveled the 292 mile road on foot, sleeping wherever he could find shelter and taking odd jobs to survive. It took him two years to reach the city, where he promptly became an apprentice to a box maker, and ultimately opened his own chest-making workshop.

His name was Louis Vuitton.

LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault tells CNN's Isa Soares what's the secret of Louis Vuitton's longevity.

A century and a half later, the eponymous company he founded is among the most recognizable luxury brands in the world and, according to Forbes, is worth nearly $30 billion.

It's part of the LVMH consortium whose CEO (and France's richest man), Bernard Arnault, spoke exclusively to CNN about the firm's heritage, and the spirit of adventure which, he says, defined it from the start: "The history of Louis Vuitton is linked to travel. We created luggage for explorers, and during the 20th century our products gradually evolved to reflect the lifestyle of the customer."

Louis Vuitton was one of the first luxury retailers to open boutiques in China and Mongolia and now the label is seeking new frontiers -- looking towards unexplored markets in Indonesia and South America.

"When I went to China in 1991 for the opening of the first Louis Vuitton shop, you hardly saw any cars on the streets of Beijing, only bicycles. In spite of that we opened a luxury boutique, and now we have more than 20 across the country" says Arnault.

The company is ever keen to trumpet its craftsmanship ethos. Indeed, many items are still hand-made in its French factories - with some workers being trained between 18 months and two years. Mr Arnault credits this attention to detail with Louis Vuitton's longevity on the luxury market.

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Location

Epicentre
CNN
190 Marietta St NW, Atlanta, GA ‎

Details

Author
Isa Soares and Milena Veselinovic
Contributor's Comment
Louis Vuitton started as a trunk maker for the French elite, including Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III
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