A genuine vintage Louis Vuitton handbag is a pledge. It is a promise that assures the buyer that they have acquired a piece of quality: Thousands of hours and hard labor have gone into the development, design and manufacturing of each piece. This means that with the right care and attention; an item may last through generations.
But the promise is more than a question of quality; through buying authentic, you are even contributing to a safer and greener planet! Counterfeit producers are often part of organised crime networks or terrorist networks, whose profits are used to support their activities. Counterfeiters also produce in illegal sweat-shops, employing child-labour and using chemicals that are harmful to nature and humans. Because there is no control, they often implement toxic materials such as lead and arsenic in productions.
By choosing to purchase an authentic vintage piece, you are making a statement. Vintage collectors are connoisseurs of the brands they collect, and just like fine vintage automobiles, furniture and wine; a vintage bag from THEBROWNPAPERBAG is guaranteed to have stood the test of time, and acquired a superior patina in the process.
Using this guide, you will be able to educate yourself on what constitutes an authentic Louis Vuitton.
Sizes & Stamps
The question “has it ever been manufactured by Louis Vuitton” seems obvious, but we assure you – it isn’t. Very often we are contacted by people whom are looking to sell their handbags. Many times it’s a piece bought through an auction or in a vintage shop somewhere and so the seller doesn’t have the original receipt. The complication is obvious when we point out to the seller that his/her particular bag was never produced in that specific pattern or that the Date Code (Louis Vuitton’s equivalent to a serial number) doesn’t match the model in question. This is very common with LV’s secondary materials like Multicolore, Cherry, Cherry Blossom, Damier Azure etc.
Leathers & Materials
Louis Vuitton’s most popular material, by far, is canvas (Monogram and Damier). Both are offered in several styles. LV’s Canvas is a coated material which is made water repellant (not resistant) and very durable. Vachetta leather is a natural hide used in combination with coated canvas on many of Louis Vuitton pieces. Vachetta leather darkens over time (oxidizes) giving it that beautiful and very sought after honey-colored patina. Vachetta is sensitive to water, and will obtain watermarks if left wet for extended periods of time. Counterfeiters frequently use treated leathers which don’t obtain the same kind of patina an authentic LV will. These pieces will often have an unnatural, plasticky shine to their surface.
- Monogram Canvas
- Damier Ebene Canvas
- Damier Azure & Damier Couleurs
- Monogram Vernis
- Monogram Empreinte
- Monogram Multicolore
- Monogram Idylle
- Epi & Taiga
- Nomade & Mahina
- Exotic leathers (Ostrich, Python, Crocodile, Monogram Exotique
No matter which outer material is used to cover a handbag, wallet or travel piece; the stitching, stamping and hardware are the three cornerstones of authentication. Knowing which year the material was introduced is also a must – you don’t want to end up with an Epi Speedy where the Date Code states it was produced in 1983*.
Years of introduction:
- Damier Canvas was introduced in 1888
- Monogram Canvas was introduced in 1896
- *Epi Leather line was introduced in 1985
- Taiga Leather line was introduced in 1993
- Vernis Leather line was introduced in 1997
- Multicolore Monogram Canvas was introduced in 2003
- Damier Graphite Canvas was introduced in 2008
Stamps & Logos
Louis Vuitton uses a specific font for debossing. Though it can be very hard to make the distinction; the correct font will have very circular, almost perfectly round “O”s and tall “L”s. Recently, counterfeiters have started getting much better at imitating fonts too, so beware.
Louis Vuitton is famous for its french origins, which is why some people are surprised to see a bag stating it was made “somewhere else”. Though it is true that most pieces are produced in France, Louis Vuitton does have productions in the US, Germany, Italy, Spain and more. Therefore the idea that an authentic Louis Vuitton bag or accessory must read “Made in France” is a myth. Always check where the model you’re interested in was manufactured. Though many models have been manufactured in different locations at different times, there are those that have only been made in one place.
Expect perfection. A sloppy construction is a sign of counterfeit. This includes all details and the interior too. Since their introduction in 1854, Louis Vuitton has been offering classic style and remarkable quality. The ever-popular traditional Monogram Toile canvas had its beginnings in 1896. It too will offer clues about authenticity; Louis Vuitton is very careful about the way their monogram is placed on any product. Most of their styles are the same today as they were when they first came out. The LV monogram itself is usually (with the exception of some vintage pieces) symetrical from side to side in all styles (traditional, Multicolore, Vernis, Kusama etc.) This is visible on the Speedy and Keepall (notice where the LVs are in relation to the handles, sides, quatrefoils etc.).
Just as with their Monogram canvas, Louis Vuitton is also very careful with stitching. Stitching many of their bags together, Louis Vuitton use white linen thread – colored yellow and strengthened with beeswax. Crafted with special care, the bags will have regular, even stitches throughout. The same number of stitches should be found in similar locations on similar bags. All Louis Vuitton Alma bags, for example, have exactly 5 stitches going across the handle tab (as shown in the image). The magic numbers, when counting the stitches on the tabs are; 5, 4, 5, 5, 4.
Upside down LVs
We often come across myths about how a real Louis Vuitton piece will look in comparison to a counterfeit. One of these postulations is that the “LV’s” of the Monogram Canvas will never be upside down – this is wrong. While it may initially seem plausible that Louis Vuitton wouldn’t produce something that would not be 100% legible, the fact is that both Speedys and Keepalls are made from a single piece of canvas which wraps around from the front to the back, without any seams at the bottom. Thus the LV’s to the back will inevitably turn out… (you guessed it) upside down. This is true on 99% of pieces, though again with the exception of some pieces produced by The French Luggage Company (read more further below).
Pockets & Detailing
What does the bottom look like? Does it have base studs? Should there be a d-ring on the inside? If yes – where? Does this model have a date code? Should it?
We recommend readers check the Louis Vuitton website, their local boutique or a trusted source like THEBROWNPAPERBAG.NET for this information. One very important note is that if the model is supposed to have a seam at the bottom, as a rule of thumb, it should always have a seam in that place. Louis Vuitton is know for sticking to their original designs, and most models have maintained their look since introduction. A few exceptions like the lining of Sac Plat and d-rings inside Noe and Petit Noe bags do however exist.
Many old counterfeit bags had patches sewn onto them that weren’t on the original versions. Strangely enough, the purpose of this was to make them appear more authentic. Modern Louis Vuitton handbags generally do not have exterior patches on them but you may still find some versions with a leather patch on the front. These were often meant for personalization, such as initials or monograms. Interior patches do exist, as the Babylone model will have an interior leather patch stating: “LOUIS VUITTON PARIS made in France”.
Exceptions to the rule: The French Luggage Company (Read more below)
Counterfeiters rarely have a good view of the inside of a bag. Typically they are working from photographs, which tend to distort color. Make sure that you are familiar with both the color and texture of the interior before you decide on purchasing LV from anywhere else than Louis Vuitton or www.thebrownpaperbag.net.
Monogram Canvas bags usually come with a brown cotton lining, Damier Ebene Canvas bags usually have a red microfiber lining, Epi and Mahina bags also have microfiber linings while Vernis and Empreinte usually sport a textile lining. Some older versions in Monogram Canvas (example Sac Plat, Bucket and Petit Bucket) will have a cross-grained washable lining.
A commonly found lining in counterfeit bags is suede – there has never been such a thing as suede lining in Louis Vuitton bags – not even in in vintage pieces. Rather, Louis Vuitton uses either microfiber lining in a limited variety of colours or cotton canvas. Classic models like the Speedy in Monogram Canvas for example, should always sport a brown cotton canvas lining. So if you see any other lining, you know it’s either fake or has been refurbished by a third party.
How does the hardware feel? It should be heavy – not hollow. If it’s imprinted with the Louis Vuitton name or logo, make sure it’s supposed to be. There are different types of original hardware, so make sure the bag you are looking at has the correct hardware by using www.louisvuitton.com or us as a reference. Typically hardware is crafted in brass, shiny golden brass and shiny silvery metal.
Buying a preowned bag with a receipt may seem like a sure thing, but the truth is that more and more often, even receipts are counterfeited. In some cases we have even come across real receipts being sold with counterfeit bags! In fact the market value for a bona fide Louis Vuitton receipt will often supersede the manufacturing cost of the counterfeit bag which it is intended for. Our advice is to use the information provided in this guide; educate yourself and buy only from well established resellers.
Plastic wrapped around handles, plastic tags, poorly printed text and/or spelling mistakes are all signs of counterfeits – stay far, far away.
Rules of Exception
Vintage bags generally follow the rules outlined above, however, as with everything else, there is always the exception to the rule. For example; pieces produced by The French Luggage Company* will often vary slightly. A Speedy 30 in Monogram canvas won’t necessarily show the otherwise standard 5 stitches across the top, won’t have the words “Louis Vuitton” embossed on its hardware and will not have upside down LV’s on the back.
*Edt. between 1976-1992 and Louis Vuitton licensed out their US production to The French Luggage Company.
Many believe that the stamp inside a Louis Vuitton bag is a serial number. Actually the embossed numbers and letters make up a production code known as a “Date Code”. The Date Code reveals where and when an item was produced. Date Codes are usually stamped or marked on the interior, although some bags like the Noé hides the code on the exterior leather trimmings.
N.B. It is important to remember that a Date Code does not by default guarantee an items authenticity. It should instead be seen as an instrument in establishing authenticity of a Louis Vuitton item.
FACTS ABOUT LOUIS VUITTON PRODUCTIONS
Typically, Louis Vuitton will assign serial numbers to items that have been manufactured in their Special-Order workshop in Asniéres-Sur-Seine, France. Rather than being offered for sale in their boutiques, these items are often made to order by dedicated craftsmen in this small workshop.
The French Company
From 1970’s through 1991 Louis Vuitton and The French Luggage Company in United Stated had a collaboration/licensed relationship. Goods therefrom have other markings and no date codes.
Louis Vuitton goods manufactured prior to 1980 have no date codes and can only be authenticated by meticulously inspecting the construction: brass pieces, hardware, lining, leather quality and condition, stitching etc.
Louis Vuitton starts marking their goods with three to four digit Date Codes, representing the month and year when the particular item was manufactured. The first two numbers represent the year and the last number(s) the month i.e. “836” would indicate that the item was manufactured in the sixth month (June) of 1983.
Mid to Late 1980s
Louis Vuitton ads two letters to the previous three to four digit date code. The letters represent the factory location. “VI8610” would thus indicate that the item was manufactured in France, October 1986. On some pieces the date code may be split up, showing the letters in one place and the numbers in an adjacent area. In the late 1980’s, standards were set in place that ensured letters to always be placed before the numbers.
1990 to 2006
By 1990 some date codes were given a new format; having the year and month digits staggered. The first two letters represent the country, the first and third number represent the month, and the second and fourth number representing the year i.e. “SD0070” would indicate that the item was manufactured in USA in the 7th month (July) of 2000.
2007 and Later
In 2007 Louis Vuitton made further changes – date codes are now in week format. The first two letters represent the country, the first and third numbers represent the week of the year, and the second and fourth number representing the year i.e. “VI3058” would indicate that the item was manufactured in France in the 35th week (late August) of 2008.
France: A0, A1, A2, AA, AAS (special order), AH, AN, AR, AS, AX, BA, BJ, BU, CO, CT, CV, DR, DU, ET, FL (also USA), GR, IT, LW, MB, MI, MS, NO, RA, RE (also Italy), RI, SA (also Italy), SD (also USA), SF, SL, SN, SP, SR, TA, TH, TJ, TN, TR, TS, VI, VX
Italy: BC, BO, CE, FA, FO, MA, NQ, PL, RC, RE (also France), RO, SA (also France), ST, TD
Spain: CA, CR, GI, LB, LM, LO, LW
Switzerland: DI, FA (also Italy)
USA: FC, FH, FL (also France), LA, OS, SD (also France)
Sometimes we come across bags that have contradicting date codes. This may be because the bag is not an authentic Louis Vuitton item, but it could also indicate that the item was repaired abroad. Example: A Speedy was manufactured in France in 1998. After several years the interior had become very damaged from use, but the exterior still looked great. While being on vacation in the US, the owner decided to have the bag repaired by Louis Vuitton. When picking up the bag from repair at Louis Vuitton, the owner was surprised to see that the bag suddenly had a new date code. Explanation: Louis Vuitton never repeats date codes when repairing an item. Rather, they will add a new date code. The result is a bag that has “made in France” stamped on the exterior, but a date code that indicates the bag was manufactured in the US. By knowing that the bag was in fact repaired in the US it all makes perfect sense and we can verify the bags authenticity.
Keep In Mind
Outlet, surplus stock and sale don’t exist in the Louis Vuitton vocabulary. New Louis Vuitton is only sold in official Louis Vuitton boutiques and in high-end department stores whom rent space to Louis Vuitton (such as Bloomingdales and Harrods). Because Louis Vuitton discards any item that doesn’t pass inspection, there simply isn’t a secondary market for these items as you find for Gucci, Prada, Burberry and the like.
Louis Vuitton is expensive. Their bags, accessories and jewelry are all coveted across the globe and because of this, you’ll see more counterfeit examples out on the streets than you will the real deal. Though it is tempting to believe in that once-in-a-lifetime bargain right in front of you – odds are that you’ll be sorry you went through with it. There are few things worse than feeling cheated and helpless! That’s why we encourage customers to consider spending slightly more on their dream piece. So instead of risking buying fake, consider purchasing from our guaranteed offerings. By spending just a bit more, not only will you get the bag or accessory you’ve been dreaming about; you’ll be purchasing ease of mind and even a piece of fashion history. At THEBROWNPAPERBAG.NET we offer lifetime guarantee on authenticity for every product we sell. We assume the responsibility so that you can relax and enjoy the piece you’ve been craving for so long.