Updated on April 29, 2023
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 world-renowned LV monogram we recognize today was also a feature on Louis Vuitton’s travel trunks when they were created in 1896. The monogram and other subtle features were put in place because counterfeiters had already started trying to produce replicas of 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 desirable are still present in today’s range of LV handbags. In fact, the treated canvas used on those vintage trunks is the very same used on LV’s signature handbags today such as the Speedy or Neverfull.
The incredible quality and durability are what makes Louis Vuitton handbags so sought-after and expensive. With this demand and exclusivity comes the temptation to counterfeiters to sell their cheaply made fakes for quick illegal profit.
Louis Vuitton has made so many different types of handbags and travel accessories 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 remained consistent with over the past 150 years, it’s the quality of the materials, hardware and craftsmanship that goes into making each and every 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 in recent years.
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 an LV product , because you should immediately know that slouching (when the item is resting), creasing, strange proportions and an otherwise imperfect appearance is a huge red flag.
The treated fabric that the items are made from should not appear to be extremely soft and pliable.
Brand new Louis Vuittons should be perfect: the handles should be sturdy and symmetrical. The bag shouldn’t slouch, meaning it is flopping over and sagging because there is no internal structure to support the leather sides to keep it upright.
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 that can occur after several decades of use.)
In other words, Louis Vuitton is unique from other designer labels in that their handbags are extremely durable and will retain their shape and rigid posture. You should also note that the bag’s posture and shape has a lot to do with the unique material it’s made from.
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 other signs of cheap thread having been used
Authentic Louis Vuitton bags are hand-stitched. To be more specific; there should be a slight angle to each stitch – be wary of any bag that has perfectly straight stitches! This is a sign it was machine-made and an imitation.
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. Like the Vachetta leather trim often found on LV monogram canvas handbags, the resin on authentic LV handbags will also develop a patina with age, but this will only act to darken the hue.
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. You can use the official LV website or photos of authenticated bags to match them to yours.
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. These are perhaps the most widespread and popular style of Louis Vuitton, however there are multiple options available.
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. Below are the most common materials Louis Vuitton makes its handbags from:
'LV' Monogram Canvas:
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 exclusive 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 limited edition bags are increasingly rare and can only be bought through the resale designer handbag market or auction houses, with their price increasing over time, making this an excellent collector’s item and asset!
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, and a popular forgery.
Next is another signature Louis Vuitton style: the Damier or “checkerboard” canvas. You will likely come across this style in Damier Ebene (brown/black canvas) or Damier Azur (white/blue canvas). You can also find it in other colors such as 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. This is why knowing how to properly maintain this handbag is very important.
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, and should never smell of any harsh chemicals like many counterfeits often do. The calf leather material is relatively durable, but it will not stand up to the elements as well as the LV monogram canvas.
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 if you find more and more Monogram Empreinte bags everywhere you go: it is one of the 20's most popular LV styles!
4. Inspect the Stamping, Shape and Size of the Font:
Another feature that Louis Vuitton keeps consistent among all of its handbags is the stamping, or embossing. 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 “Os” are big and round (not oval!), the two “Ts” 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.
Caution: The two fonts that Louis Vuitton regularly use are called Futura and Austin Roman, but it is not that simple. They use a specific style within the font family, and the LV logo is completely bespoke, which means the font used for that should not match any generic font.
The stitching around the stamp should also be clean and consistent: loose threads, uneven stitches or an asymmetrical stamp are all warning signs of a fake handbag.
For a quick and easy authenticity check on an LV stamp, examine the relationship between the L and O in Louis, as well as the ® symbol. If there is an obvious, noticeable gap between the L and O, this is a red flag.
The L and O are very close together on authentic LV stamps. Also, you can check the ® symbol for its placement. It should be symmetrical right in between the V and U in “Vuitton”. If it appears shifted too far from the center line between the V and U, this is likely a fake.
Caution: Style of letters are an easy give away when it comes to counterfeiting. Distant “Ts” and oval-shaped “Os” 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 authentic LV stamps, should look like this.
5. Make Sure the Date Code is Correct:
From the 1980s till the early 2021 Louis Vuitton used 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 which can be used in the authentication process. Hermes uses a letter within a shape to determine the year the bag was made.
Until early 2021 Louis Vuitton used a combination of letters and numbers to determine the location and the week of the year when the bag was manufactured. Verifying the LV bag’s date code is real and matches the “made in” stamp is a major authentication checkbox.
However, if your bag is more recent, be mindful that from March 2021 Louis Vuitton stopped using date codes and instead began embedding NFC tags or chips within each new bag.
A tiny NFC chip is hidden within each new bag during the production process and is too small to locate it or feel it by hand. NFC technology stands for near field communication and is a type of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that is used in every modern iPhone, for example to use Apple Pay.
The NFC chip contains a unique identifier, which corresponds to specific information about each bag stored on LVMH servers which are only accessible to Louis Vuitton personnel. So, anyone can scan the chip with an NFC reader, but only LV personnel can scan the chip and access the LVMH database to reveal information pertaining to each specific bag.
If an item is scanned by LV personnel, the database reveals where and when the bag was manufactured, model code and description as well as where and when the bag was sold.
You should always be mindful that some counterfeiters – especially the crafty ones behind the very convincing replicas known as "super fakes" - know of Louis Vuitton’s date code system and know of the absence of a date code in new handbags. Never rely solely on the date code as proof of authenticity – take everything into account and examine the bag as a whole to determine if it’s the real deal.
* 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 2021: i.e. DU0211 would be an example of an LV date code for a bag made in France in the 1st week (first and third digits 0 & 1) in the year 2021 (second and fourth digits 2 & 1).
Bags made from 1990-2006 work in a similar way, except the first and third numbers represent the month of the year 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 our CODOGIRL®️ 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 whenever possible. If you want to skip the guesswork when it comes to buying an authentic LV bag, feel free to browse our Louis Vuitton collection, all of which has been expertly authenticated and each item comes with a money-back authenticity guarantee! Happy browsing...
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