Founded in 1854, Louis Vuitton is one of the oldest luxury fashion retailers in the world. The French fashion house gained immense popularity from its luxury trunks, which featured the brand’s signature treated canvas. The now world-renowned LV monogram was also a feature on Louis Vuitton’s travel trunks starting in 1896, as counterfeiters already started trying to knock off the iconic trunks. But this is a handbag guide; why are we talking about Louis Vuitton trunks, you may ask?
The answer is simple: the qualities that made LV’s travel trunks so amazing are still present in today’s LV handbags. In fact, the treated canvas used on those vintage trunks is the same as is used on LV’s signature handbags, like the Speedy or Neverfull. This incredible quality and durability is what makes Louis Vuitton handbags so desirable and expensive; however, with this demand and exclusivity comes the desire of counterfeiters to sell cheaply made fakes.
Louis Vuitton has made so many different types of handbags over the years that it would require a book to detail authentication steps for each bag. However, if there is one thing that Louis Vuitton has done consistently for the past 150 years, it’s the quality of the materials, hardware and craftsmanship that goes into making each bag. Getting to know the qualities that most, if not all LV handbags share is a great way to weed out the fakes that you are likely to come across when shopping for your next Louis. The following authentication steps apply to LV handbags ranging from 20-30 years vintage to LV bags made for the 2020 collection.
1. Examine the Shape, Proportions and Posture
When you purchase a luxury bag like a Louis Vuitton, you are paying for top-notch quality. How the bag looks is an incredibly important first step when authenticating a Louis Vuitton, because you should immediately know that slouching, creasing, strange proportions and an otherwise imperfect appearance is a huge red flag. Brand new Louis Vuittons should be perfect: the handles should be sturdy and symmetrical and the bag shouldn’t slouch. Pre-owned Louis Vuitton handbags should still retain the same qualities as they had when brand new, albeit they may have some patina depending on the age (many Louis Vuitton lovers actually prefer the golden honey patina color.) You should also note that the bag’s posture and shape has a lot to do with the material it’s made from. More on this in later sections...
Caution: If a brand new or a pre-owned Louis Vuitton bag slouches, chances are it's not real.
2. Look Closely at the Stitching Quality and Pattern:
Just like everything else on a Louis Vuitton bag, the stitching should be flawless. Ensure that the stitching looks even and symmetrical, and that there is no fraying or otherwise any unsightliness. There should be a slight angle to each stitch - be wary of any bag that has perfectly straight stitches, as this is a sign it was machine-made and counterfeit.
Caution: Perfectly straight stitches on a Louis Vuitton bag were likely machine-made, which means it may be a counterfeit.
Another important characteristic of authentic Louis Vuitton handbags is the color of the stitching. Louis Vuitton coats its threads in a special type of resin to add extra durability and weather-resistance; this resin also gives authentic LV stitching a distinct mustard-yellow color. Counterfeits will frequently use brighter, synthetic yellow or orange thread for their stitching and this is an easy red-flag to spot. Finally, stitch count is important when conducting a Louis Vuitton authenticity check. Certain areas, like the point where the handles attach to the handbag, should have 3 or 5 stitches going along the top of the tab attaching the handles to the handbag, depending on the model.
Pictured: A beautiful example of an authentic Alma bag made in 2004. Note the golden patina color that the leather took on over time, as well as the honey mustard color of the stitching. The Alma has exactly 5 stitches on top of each tab (pictured) where the handles attach to the body of the bag.
3. Check the Material, Hardware and Build Quality:
When you think of a Louis Vuitton, what probably comes to mind is either a Speedy, Alma or Neverfull in the trademark LV monogram brown canvas. This is perhaps the most widespread and popular style of Louis Vuitton, however there are several other options out there. Across Louis Vuitton’s wide array of handbags, the materials, hardware and build quality are very similar. Knowing your materials is a great way of telling authentic LV from the counterfeits.
The most recognizable Louis Vuitton aesthetic, the LV monogram canvas, has been a classic for over 100 years. This material was revolutionary for its time because of the treatment process and the resulting unmatched durability. Do not confuse it for leather: while the monogram canvas is incredibly luxurious to the touch, it should not have any leather grains. Often, counterfeiters will use some kind of faux leather and print the monogram on that, as they cannot replicate LV’s treatment process.
Caution: If the material of Monogram Canvas feels like leather, it’s a fake. Monogram canvas is supposed to feel rigid and durable, not soft and supple.
Limited edition and now discontinued, the multicolor monogram was originally offered in 2003. It was a special collaboration between Louis Vuitton and artist Takashi Murakami, inspired by bright summer tropical colors. The bags are increasingly rare and can only be bought through the resale designer handbag market.
Pictured: The multicolor monogram LV Speedy designed by Takashi Murakami. It is easily one of Louis Vuitton's most eye-catching designs of all time.
Next is another signature Louis Vuitton style: the Damier or “checkerboard” canvas. You will likely come across this style in Damier Ebene (brown-on-black canvas) or Damier Azur (white-on-blue canvas). You can also find it in other colors like graphite. Many women choose to carry the Damier print bags because they make a more subtle statement than the logo-covered monogram, but the material itself is the same. The Damier bags make for great everyday-carry bags, however it is important to note that the Damier Azur will show scuffs and scratches more easily due to its white overlay.
Pictured: From left to right: LV Beaubourg tote in Damier Ebene, LV Speedy in Damier Azur, and the LV Tadao tote in Damier Graphite.
Monogram Vernis Leather:
One of Louis Vuitton’s more youthful and fun offerings, monogram vernis or “varnish” is made from calfskin leather coated in a shiny patent layer. It’s totally unique among other LV bags not only in appearance but also in its durability. While Louis Vuitton monogram canvas is known to be near-indestructible, the vernis is much more fragile and susceptible to scratches and scuffs.
Pictured: Monogram patent vernis Keepall 45. Vernis allows for exciting colors, such as this example in Blue Lagoon.
Louis Vuitton’s Empreinte Monogram is very similar to Gucci’s Guccissima leather, whereby soft, supple and luxurious calf leather is imprinted with the brand’s logo. LV leather has a distinctive scent as well, and should never smell of any chemicals like many counterfeits often do.
Pictured: Monogram Empreinte is a classy way to make a statement. You should be able to see and smell the luxury and quality exuded by this lovely material. Don’t be surprised to see more and more Monogram Empreinte bags everywhere you go: it is one of 2020’s most popular LV styles!
4. Inspect the Stamping, Shape and Size of the Font:
Another feature Louis Vuitton keeps consistent among all of its handbags is the stamping on the handbag. Inside the handbag you will find a leather label with a “Louis Vuitton Paris” stamp. Be sure to take a very close look at the font shape, spacing and the quality of the stamp itself, because this is one thing counterfeiters very often get wrong.
The first thing you should notice is the style of the letters. On authentic Louis Vuitton stamps, the font is as follows: the “L” has a short base, the “O’s” are big and round (not oval!), the two “T’s” are very close together - almost to the point where they appear to touch (TT) but not quite, and the font style is thin and sharp. The stitching around the stamp should also be clean and consistent: loose threads, uneven stitches or an asymmetrical stamp are all red flags of a fake handbag.
Caution: Style of letters are an easy give away when it comes to counterfeiting. Distant “T’s” and oval-shaped “O’s” are an instant red flag of a fake.
Pictured: Two examples of authentic Louis Vuitton interior stamping. On the left is a vintage example, so some patina and wear on the stamped leather label is normal. Note the mustard yellow color of the stitching, as well as the slight angle of each stitch. On the right you will see a modern example, but what stands out the most is that even on the vintage example, the stamped letters are just as clear and crisp as on the modern one - a testament to authentic Louis Vuitton stamp quality. Use these pictures as a reference point: all LV stamps, if authentic, should look like this.
5. Make Sure the Date Code is Correct:
Since the 1980s Louis Vuitton began using a proprietary date code system to detail where and when its handbags were made. Chanel uses a sequence of numbers for date code, and this works as a serial number and can be used in the authentication process. Hermes uses a letter within a shape to determine the year the bag was made. Louis Vuitton uses a combination of letters and numbers to determine the precise time the bag was made - down to the week of the year! While the Louis Vuitton date code cannot be used like Chanel serial numbers for authentication, verifying the LV bag’s date code is real and matches the “made in” stamp is a major authentication checkbox.
* Please note: codes FL and SD are used in bags made in both USA and France, and code SA is used in bags made in both Italy and France.
On most Louis Vuitton bags, you will find the two letter code either followed or preceded by four numbers. The exception to this general rule are specially made-to-order bags, which use code AAS, and some vintage Louis Vuitton handbags. The four numbers are also very important, because they encode the date your handbag was made - Louis Vuitton gets it down to the exact week of any given year on newer bags and down to the month on older ones. On Louis Vuitton handbags made from 2007 to present, the first and third numbers represent the week, while the second and fourth numbers represent the year the bag was made. This is the same for Louis Vuittons made in 2020: i.e. DU1200 would be an example of an LV date code for a bag made in France in the 10th week (first and third digits 1 & 0) in the year 2020 (second and fourth digits 2 & 0) . Bags made from 1990-2006 work in a similar way, except the first and third numbers represent the month the bag was made, not the week.
DU2037 = Made in France, year 07, week 23. This bag was made in the 23rd week of 2007.
MI3087 = Made in France, year 07, week 38. This bag was made in the 38th week of 2007.
VI0998 = Made in France, year 98, month 09. This bag was made in September 1998.
SP0053 = Made in France, year 03, month 05. This bag was made in March 2005.
While this guide is a great way to educate yourself on many key factors in authenticating Louis Vuitton, there is no replacement for a trained authenticator who can literally determine an authentic bag from a fake one while blindfolded based on the smell of the bag. That is why we always recommend enlisting the help of a professional authenticator when possible. However, if you want to skip the guesswork, feel free to browse our Louis Vuitton collection, all of which has been expertly authenticated and come with a money-back authenticity guarantee.