Handbags & Accessories

Louis Vuitton Speedy: A Century’s Most Coveted Handbag

By Erica Kagan
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Louis Vuitton Monogram Speedy
Louis Vuitton Monogram Speedy

Louis Vuitton's First Handbag

When considering the purveyors of luxury travel and timeless trunks, there is no fashion house more iconic than Louis Vuitton. In 1854, luggage maker Louis Vuitton opened his first shop on Rue Neuve des Capucine in Paris, and the rest was history. Sadly, 1892 was a year of loss for the Vuitton family, as Louis passed away at the age of 70. That same year, his son Georges became the new head of the burgeoning French luxury house, and with that transition of power came even more innovation. It was under the helm of Georges Vuitton that the signature LV monogram was introduced, capturing the eye of none other than Gabrielle Chanel. At her request, Vuitton designed a dome-shaped handbag for Chanel’s personal collection in 1925. Unlike the Louis Vuitton designs that preceded this one, Coco Chanel's unique handbag (dubbed the Squire) was intended for day-to-day use, not travel. In 1934, Gabrielle Chanel agreed to let the Squire be mass produced for the general public. By 1955, the Squire was renamed the Alma, and it is cemented as one of Louis Vuitton’s most quintessential designs.

Louis Vuitton Speedy Multicolor Monogram Canvas 30

A Speedy Takeoff

Following the resounding success of the Alma, Louis Vuitton decided to expand its product line to include smaller luxury goods, and thus came the inception of the Speedy. Designed as an homage to the era’s travel revolution and fast-paced lifestyle, the Speedy was launched in 1930, and initially dubbed the “Express.” The introduction of the Speedy promptly followed that of the larger, more duffle-esque Keepall. Hence, while the Keepall was still designed with luxury travel in mind, the Speedy was the ultimate everyday bag. In 1930, the Speedy was only available in a 30cm size, which was still lighter and more efficient than the majority of Louis Vuitton designs at the time. Expanding its carrying capabilities, sizes 35 and 40 quickly followed suit.

Louis Vuitton Speedy Multicolor Monogram Roses 30

Modern Speedy Bags

Yet, just like Coco Chanel with the Alma, it would take the support of another fashion icon to bring this novel handbag to center stage. In 1965, at the height of her illustrious career, Audrey Hepburn pleaded with the fashion house to make one adjustment to the striking Speedy: the launch of a smaller version that would better suit her petite frame. And, with that, Louis Vuitton’s signature 25cm Speedy was born. With a handbag silhouette so popular, the Speedy has become available in a diverse range of limited run and special editions versions over the last century. From the ‘90s Mini HL Speedy and recently revived Nano Speedy, to the geometric Speedy Cube from 2013, the sizing breakdown of this classic handbag is never stagnant.

Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandoulière Black Giant Monogram Empreinte 20

Yet, in 2011, the Speedy’s anatomy would be altered most significantly. Easily distinguishable, the Speedy Bandoulière has its own unique feature: a detachable shoulder strap. The sides panels of the Bandoulière are also adorned with additional leather strips and D-rings, setting it farther apart from other Speedy variations.

Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandoulière Blue Tie-Dye Giant Monogram 30

An Artist’s Luxury Canvas

As one of Louis Vuitton’s most historically rich and prized handbag models, the Speedy has been released in every Louis Vuitton material imaginable. In 1930, the Speedy was introduced in a plain canvas. Just a year later, it was being produced in the iconic LV monogram canvas; a unique characteristic of the Speedy is that it is constructed from a single continuous piece of canvas, so the monogram detailing appears upside down on one side. Beyond the timeless monogram canvas, the Speedy can also be found in Damier Ebene, Damier Azur, Monogram Empreinte, and Epi Leather. Just like the Neverfull, the Speedy serves as the perfect blank canvas for artist collaborations and special edition prints. The world’s most prolific creators – from the likes of Stephen Sprouse, Urs Fischer, Richard Prince, Yayoi Kusama and Sofia Coppola – have reimagined this coveted handbag. A modern luxury staple, the Speedy is the ultimate ‘it-girl’ bag that will truly never go out of style.

Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandoulière LVxUF Tufted Monogram 25

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