Everything to Know About Louis Vuitton’s Speedy Bag – WWD

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The Louis Vuitton Speedy is one of the most storied bags in handbag history.

Coveted for a century, as epitomized with luxury and the nonchalantly jet-set as the brand itself, the Louis Vuitton’s Speedy has created a culture all its own. From its glamorous start in the mind of Audrey Hepburn to its modern interpretations through the eyes of Virgil Abloh and Yayoi Kusama, to name a few, the bag has cemented itself as a part of the history of luxury, proving celebrity influence and pragmatic innovation can create synergy enough to produce an icon.

A Star-studded Start

Louis Vuitton was created for the fast-paced, travel-centric lifestyle of the mid-19th-century. Vuitton himself got his big break as the official box-maker of Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife before going to create luggage of his own. This attracted other high-profile clients among European elites. The luggage company he started in 1854 focused on trunks for this wealthy clientele. Almost a century later, in 1930, the Speedy was born, but not before its original inspiration: the Keepall.

Introduced in 1924, the Keepall was created for the traveler on the go. Details now integral to the design for aesthetic purposes were once highly practical for travel, like the padlock and Toron handles in durable cowhide leather.

The Speedy, which originally debuted as the Express in 1930, was introduced under the name Speedy 30 — a reference to its width in centimeters. First produced in canvas, the bag was quickly developed in the brand’s Monogram pattern the year after. As fashion folklore would have it, Audrey Hepburn, responsible in the year 1965, was for the Speedy 25 treasured today. Her request? A smaller version of the Keepall bag to fit her petite frame. Her star power in the recently released “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) afforded her a wish granted.

The bag has since remained one of Louis Vuitton’s bestsellers, and a totem in the legacy of a collaborative spirit between cultural icons and the design brilliance of the brand.

What Makes a Speedy

Hepburn saw something in the Speedy that sparked a cultural obsession with the bag. The details, which add up to a lasting — and chic — bag and travel companion, make all the difference. Inside out, the honey-brown cotton canvas lining provides practical protection for the leather. While the original 30 cm size remains the most popular, the bag is available in sizes ranging from 25 cm to 40 cm in width. The rolled leather of the top handles is employed with durability in mind. A single hanging pocket outfits the bag in the ultimate luxury —an accessible place to stash important to-keep-track-of-items.

The Speedy has long been heralded as a gateway to designer bag collection. Part of this is due to its relatively approachable price. In 2002, the bag cost just under $500 new. In 2018, due to inflation, among other factors, the bag cost $1,000. After recent news that Louis Vuitton will join brands like Chanel and Hermès in price increases, citing increased production costs and inflation, as well as other contributing factors, the Speedy 30 sells for $1,550 until these changes take effect.

The power of the Speedy is the true testament to its beloved fans, even after consistent price increases staying. Many styles along the lines of the Speedy were introduced only to be sunset by the brand a few years later. Bags like the Trouville and Tivoli, similar in size to the Speedy 30, had massive moments in the early Aughts after their releases in 2000.

In 2011, the Speedy Bandoulière was debuted by the brand as an antidote to this trend-based cycling. In French, Bandoulière means “with a strap.” The bag featured, most notably, a long shoulder strap so the Speedy could be worn on the shoulder or crossbody. A two-way zipper and additional leather stripes running along the side of the bag gave an almost athletic pragmatism to the new release. The style is still available in a variety of options: wider, sportier straps, miniature sizes and the classic Monogram pattern.

Louis Vuitton's Speedy Bandoulière handbag

Louis Vuitton’s Speedy Bandoulière handbag
Courtesy Photo

Collaborations

The Speedy has captured the hearts of artists and friends of the brand since its inception. Louis Vuitton’s first collaboration was under the creative direction of Marc Jacobs, featuring Stephen Sprouse for the spring 2001 collection. Graffiti-style letters were painted against the backdrop of the iconic Monogram print. The pair cooperated again in 2009. A limited-edition version of Stephen Sprouse’s take on the Speedy was released to instant consumer obsession.

Through the years, and alongside great artists like Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama and Richard Prince, collaborations have been a way of maintaining a commitment to heritage while pushing the artistic envelope. More recent collaborators include Supreme and Jeff Koons.

A customized Speedy from Louis Vuitton's 'My LV World Tour' collection.

A customized Speedy from Louis Vuitton’s “My LV World Tour” collection.
Courtesy

Knockoffs

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Louis Vuitton is no stranger to the compliment. In fact, both Louis Vuitton’s Damier and Monogram prints were created with the very intent of avoiding copycats. The first LV trunks were striped, and widely copied by other less-notable trunk-makers in Paris. Translated literally as “checkerboard,” Damier was the brand’s response to the flagrant knockoffs in 1888. Competitors were close behind, matching the design with ease. The iconic Monogram was born in 1896 in response to those counterfeit attempts.

Despite its intricacies, technological advances proved advantageous for those looking to cash in on the caché of a brand like Louis Vuitton without the price tag. Diehard fans with eyes for details know where to look to differentiate a counterfeit Speedy from an authentic bag: the placement of the heat stamp on the tag of the bag is a good giveaway; same with the signature patina of the handles. A supple feel is the hardest to replicate, a key characteristic of the Speedy. Lookalikes often feel stiff to the touch.

The Speedy in Pop Culture

Audrey Hepburn was the first in a lineup of muses to inspire the brand’s commitment to the classic Speedy. Its dozens of iterations make its appeal apparent to wearers that include Snoop Dog and Patricia Arquette. The brand conjures an instant feeling of sophistication, while the Speedy silhouette feels more relaxed and careful than some of Vuitton’s other silhouettes.

Sofia Coppola, renowned director and longtime friend of the brand, loved the Speedy so much that she agreed to design her very own version. The SC Bag was born, a marriage between the Speedy and the Keepall, which became a part of the Louis Vuitton lineup in 2010. influence, in 2018, the brand debuted a bag with notables from the SC Bag called the Speedy Doctor. Its shape was streamlined, more minimalist and architectural than the classic Speedy. Its availability was limited, similarly to the SC Bag. But the relationship between Louis Vuitton and celebrities with a special affinity for the brand has the staying power a limited-edition design could never boast.

In the brand’s earlier days, icons like Coco Chanel and Lauren Becall made a habit of reaching for their own LV bags before leaving. More recently, the Kardashians, Hadids and Rihanna all seem to find a consistent draw to the legacy the brand has built.

Present-day Impact

Cut to 2022, and somehow, Louis Vuitton has achieved the eternal intangible of remaining relevant while still staying cool with the Speedy.

Online discourse around the bag exists mostly in YouTube reviews, street-style shots and size comparisons. Louis Vuitton’s Speedy represents the ageless attempt of fashion to meet a need — a more compact version of a duffel — while maintaining a reverence for form. When it comes to the Speedy, nothing is sacrificed.

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