Handbags & Accessories

Louis Vuitton Alma: A Quintessential Piece Of Handbag History

By Erica Kagan
Louis Vuitton Alma
Louis Vuitton Alma

A Historical Legacy That Lives On

As the ultimate purveyor of luxury travel and timeless trunks, Louis Vuitton is widely considered the most iconic fashion house in the world. Louis Vuitton’s historic roots are a defining feature of the brand’s identity, with the earliest designs remaining among the most coveted. There is no bag more emblematic of Louis Vuitton than the Alma. With an ancestry that can be traced back to the turn of the 19th century, the tale of the Alma is among the most interesting in handbag history.

Louis Vuitton Alma PM Brown Monogram

In 1901, Louis Vuitton developed the Steamer bag, “the essential companion of transatlantic passengers.” The novel Steamer was set apart by its “elegant trapezoidal design,” which included concealed compartments designed to separate clean linens from those already worn during travel. According to fashion lore, in 1925, it was Coco Chanel’s personal request for a dome-shaped handbag that refined the travel-centric Steamer into the quintessential Squire. Unlike the Louis Vuitton designs that preceded this one, the more compact Squire was intended for day-to-day use. In 1934, Gabrielle Chanel agreed to let the Squire – as designed by Gaston-Louis Vuitton – be officially produced for the general public. In 1955, the Squire was adapted to make an even slimmer, city-chic model named the Champs-Élysées. While the Champs-Élysées would eventually be discontinued, the Squire (turned Alma) lived on. The official birth date of the Alma – named after the Place de l’Alma in Paris – was in 1992, with the shape revived in Louis Vuitton’s signature Monogram canvas.

Louis Vuitton Alma BB Pomme d'Amore

Louis Vuitton's Most Reimagined Silhouette

Beloved for its elegance and charisma, the Art Deco-inspired Alma has been experimented with from the start. From every rainbow shade of Épi leather to the irresistibly glossy Vernis, the Alma has turned up in Louis Vuitton’s most iconic material offerings. Format is also no exception for the Alma, having appeared in every size from BB to XXL.

Louis Vuitton Alma MM Stephen Sprouse Graffiti

As Louis Vuitton’s most frequently revisited bag, the Alma has been subjected to artistic inspiration time and time again. From the graffiti of Stephen Sprouse to Takashi Murakami’s coveted cherry blossom design, collaborations with the Alma are cult-followed favorites. Most recently, creative director Nicolas Ghesquière reimagined the silhouette with a red on black Monogram version. Perfectly encapsulated by Louis Vuitton’s creative team, “through all these different guises, however, the Alma remains the perfect bag, gliding through every age and every season with the same serene and timeless style.”

Louis VUitton Alma BB Blue Vernis Lisse

All About The Alma BB

The mini-bag trend has been on fire in recent years, as luxury silhouettes continue to shrink. So, in 2010, Louis Vuitton launched the miniature Alma BB which measures 23.5 cm wide and 17.5 cm high. For the first time, the Alma BB was sold with a removable leather strap, making it the most versatile iteration to date. The Alma comes and goes in different sizes, with the BB, PM and GM currently in production. But, Sotheby’s has a range of Alma offerings, including rare, limited-edition favorites.

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