When Louis Vuitton (the man, not the monogram) set off for Paris on foot from Anchay, France, at age 14, he could never have imagined the fashion frenzy he would one day create. Now, 150 years later, his handbags are coveted by everyone from Beyonce to Renee Zellweger. The Murakami alone generated more than $300 million in sales.
The young Vuitton, who apprenticed with a Parisian trunkmaker before getting a job as Empress Eugenie's packer, struck gold when the arrival of steam engines and ocean liners created a craze for fashionable trunks. Vuitton's idea--to make them stackable and waterproof and, later, to cover them in logo-stamped canvas--was a hit. Soon a Who's Who of well-heeled world leaders was buying up Vuitton bed trunks and wardrobe cases. Even Coco Chanel couldn't resist, ordering one of the first Vuitton handbags. Today it's hard to walk through an airport or down an avenue without spotting an LV logo.