4 May 2018

History of a Classic: The Louis Vuitton Speedy

The Louis Vuitton Speedy is probably one of the bags that are most familiar to all of us, given its cult status. Ask anyone what their first designer bag was, and 85% of the time, they’d tell you it was the Speedy. Though it wasn’t my first, it was one of the first few luxury bags I bought, back in the day. In fact, the Speedy dates back to the early 20th century.

But, before the Speedy even came into existence, it was its precursor, the Keepall, which made its debut in 1924. Originally made of cotton canvas, the Keepall was meant to be folded into the bottom of a suitcase; its duffel-esque silhouette made it the perfect travel companion, especially for weekends, overnight trips, or even as an extra bag that you could pack more of your stuff into, if your suitcase/ travel trunk is already stuffed to the brim. It was only later, that Vuitton began to offer the Keepall in Monogram Canvas. The Keepall has since become available in Damier Ebene, Damier Azur, Damier Graphite, and the Monogram Eclipse (see image below).

Louis Vuitton Keepall 45 Monogram Eclipse
Keepall 45 in Monogram Eclipse
Photo courtesy of Max Law

Due to the Keepall’s popularity, Vuitton introduced a smaller version of the bag in 1930 (it was designed by Georges Vuitton in 1896) . Its descendant, which was known as the Express, derived its name from the age of automobiles and American-imported appliances after the First World War. Shortly after its introduction, it was referred to as the Speedy ,thanks to the desire to live the fast-paced lifestyle back then. Like its forebear, it was first introduced in plain canvas, with Toron handles in natural cowhide leather. A year after its debut, Vuitton produced the Speedy in Monogram Canvas.

Pliable and built like the Keepall, the Speedy was, for a long time, a pure travel accessory designed for personal effects that the traveller wanted to keep to hand in their immediate vincinity. It’s also equipped with a padlock, like all the travel items. Then, from an accessory product, it became a handbag in its own right, retaining its Toron handles in natural cowhide leather and its riveted chapes for solidity ~ Xavier Dixsaut, Director of Innovation at Louis Vuitton ~

Louis Vuitton Speedy Evolution Of
Top Row: Speedy Bandoulière in Damier Ebene, Speedy Bandoulière in Epi Denim
Bottom Row: Nano Speedy in Monogram Canvas, Kansai Yamamoto Edition Speedy 25, Speedy Doctor, Speedy 30 seasonal collection

Back then, the Speedy was available in three sizes (30, 35, and 40), but when Audrey Hepburn requested for this Boston bag in a smaller size in 1965, the Speedy 25 was born. Throughout the years, the Speedy became a staple, being the first to become available in Epi leather, then the Damier canvas, Mini Lin (now discontinued), Monogram Empriente, Suhali leather, as well as other Limited Edition versions, including Limited Edition versions by Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Yayoi Kusama, Kansai Yamamoto, as part of the personalisable Mon Monogram range, as well as other seasonal variations. The Sofia Coppola version of the bag, known as the SC Bag, which is a melding of design elements of both the Speedy and the Keepall, joined the family in 2010. In 2011, Vuitton added a variation of the bag, the Speedy Bandoulière; the miniature Nano size in 2015, and most recently launched as part of the Spring/Summer 18 season, the Speedy Doctor.

With such a storied heritage that dates back to the late-19th century, it’s no wonder that Vuitton calls the Speedy one of its icons.