The Louis Vuitton Speedy is one of the most famous bags in handbag history.
Coveted for a century, as embodied by luxury and jet-set nonchalance as the brand itself, the Louis Vuitton Speedy created its own culture. From its glamorous beginnings 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 made history. of luxury, proving that celebrity influence and pragmatic innovation can synergize enough to produce an icon.
A starry start
Louis Vuitton was created for the fast-paced, travel-centric lifestyle of the mid-19th century. Vuitton itself had its big break as the official box maker for Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife before going on to create its own luggage. This appointment has attracted other high-profile clients among the European elites. The luggage store he founded in 1854 focuses 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 integrated into the design for aesthetic purposes were once very practical for travel, such as the padlock and the Toron handles in durable cowhide leather.
The Speedy, which debuted as the Express in 1930, was introduced as the Speedy 30 – a reference to its width in centimeters. First produced in canvas, the bag was quickly developed into the brand’s Monogram motif the following year. As fashion folklore has it, Audrey Hepburn in 1965 was responsible for today’s prized Speedy 25. His request ? A smaller version of the Keepall bag to accommodate her small size. His featured power in the recent “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) granted him one wish granted.
The bag has since remained one of Louis Vuitton’s bestsellers, and a totem in the legacy of a spirit of collaboration between cultural icons and the brand’s design brilliance.
What makes a Speedy
Hepburn saw something in the Speedy that sparked a cultural obsession with the bag. The details, added to a bag and a durable and chic travel companion, make all the difference. On the reverse, the honey brown cotton canvas lining offers practical protection for the leather. While the original 30cm size remains the most popular, the bag is available in sizes ranging from 25cm to 40cm wide. Rolled leather top handles are used for durability. A single hanging pocket outfits the bag in the ultimate luxury – an accessible place to store important items to keep track of items.
The Speedy has long been heralded as a gateway to the designer bag collection. This is partly due to its relatively affordable 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 rising production costs and inflation, along with other contributing factors, the Speedy 30 sells for $1,550 until these changes take effect.
The Speedy’s endurance is the true testament to its beloved fans, even after constant price increases. Many styles in line with the Speedy were introduced only to be discontinued by the brand a few years later. Bags like the Trouville and the Tivoli, similar in size to the Speedy 30, had huge moments in the early years after their release in 2000.
In 2011, the Speedy Bandoulière was launched by the brand as an antidote to this cycling trend. In French, Bandoulière means “with a strap”. The bag notably featured a long shoulder strap so that the Speedy could be worn over the shoulder or across the body. A two-way zipper and additional leather strips on the side of the bag gave an almost athletic pragmatism to the new version. The style is still available in a variety of options: wider and sportier straps, miniature sizes and the classic Monogram pattern.
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 lettering was painted on an iconic Monogram print background. The pair collaborated again in 2009. A limited edition version of Stephen Sprouse’s take on the Speedy was released to instant consumer obsession.
Over the years, and alongside great artists like Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama and Richard Prince, collaborations have been a way to maintain a commitment to heritage while pushing the artistic envelope. More recent collaborators include Supreme and Jeff Koons.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Louis Vuitton is no stranger to complimenting. In fact, Louis Vuitton’s Damier and Monogram prints were created with the very intention of avoiding copiers. The first LV trunks were scratched and widely copied by other lesser known Parisian trunk makers. Literally translated as “checkerboard,” Damier was the brand’s answer to the blatant counterfeits of 1888. Competitors followed closely behind, matching the design with ease. The iconic Monogram was born in 1896 in response to these attempts at counterfeiting.
Despite its complexities, advances in technology have proven advantageous for those looking to cash in on the cachet of a brand like Louis Vuitton without the price tag. Diehard fans with an eye for detail know where to look to tell a counterfeit Speedy from a genuine bag: the heat pad placement on the bag label is a good giveaway; even with the handles’ signature patina. A supple feel is the hardest to replicate, a key characteristic of the Speedy. Look-alikes are often stiff to the touch.
The Speedy in pop culture
Audrey Hepburn was the first in a series of muses to inspire the brand’s commitment to the classic Speedy. Its dozens of iterations make its appeal obvious to wearers who include Snoop Dogg and Patricia Arquette. The brand evokes an instant feeling of sophistication, while the Speedy silhouette is more relaxed and conservative than some of Vuitton’s other silhouettes.
Renowned director and longtime friend of the brand, Sofia Coppola, loved the Speedy so much that she agreed to design her own version. The SC bag was born, a marriage between the Speedy and the Keepall, which became part of the Louis Vuitton range in 2010. Later, in 2018, the brand launched a bag with notable influences from the SC bag called the Speedy Doctor. Its shape was sleek, more minimalist and architectural than the classic Speedy. Its availability was limited, like the SC Bag. But the relationship between Louis Vuitton and celebrities with a special affinity for the brand has staying power that a limited edition design could never boast.
In the brand’s early days, icons like Coco Chanel and Lauren Becall made a habit of looking for their own LV bags before leaving. More recently, the Kardashians, Hadid and Rihanna all seem to be finding a consistent appeal in the legacy the brand has built.
Cut to 2022, and somehow Louis Vuitton has achieved the eternal intangible of staying relevant while staying cool with the Speedy.
Online discourse around the bag exists primarily in YouTube reviews, street photos and size comparisons. Louis Vuitton’s Speedy represents fashion’s timeless attempt to fulfill a need – a more compact version of a sports bag – while maintaining a respect for form. When it comes to the Speedy, nothing is sacrificed.