Louis Vuitton Alma and Coco Chanel

shinymagpie

vintage bag lady
Mar 29, 2008
2,991
29
Hi all

I was reading one of my Japanese Louis Vuitton Collection magazines, when I spotted the name Chanel.

It said that "CoCo Chanel ordered a bag from Louis Vuitton in 1925, and this was the Alma". I have found other snippets on the web suggesting the Alma started around the 1930s.

I read that the Hermes Bolide was the first bag to have a zipper and this was in 1923. The Keepall came out in 1924, so it would not be surprising to think that the Alma could have come from this time, as an elegant largish bag for women.

I have noticed that some of the pre-1980s and early 80s bags, by Louis Vuitton and Chanel, share some hardware features (snaps and zippers).

Does anyone else have more information or history that they could share on the history of the Alma?
 

ecmf

O.G.
Dec 22, 2008
13,713
5
~out and about~
I don't have any more info but I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I hope someone has more info about Chanel and her Alma I would love to find out more.
 

Serva1

Dreaming H
O.G.
Dec 31, 2009
9,965
11,164
Scandinavia
I was told by a LV Store Manager that Alma was originally designed for Coco Chanel and that she was later asked if LV could also manufacture it for the general public...I love my Alma bags and it has always been my favourite design among all LVs.
 

missaudrie

Collector
O.G.
Nov 21, 2006
2,279
54
California
Found this through google:
One of the most iconic Vuitton bags, the Alma has a unique story. A piece with the shape of the Alma was found in the private collection of Coco Chanel. It turned out that Vuitton had made this bag as a custom order for her. Years later, the bag was made a permanent in the Louis Vuitton collection.
 

Sharmeen

Member
Sep 15, 2012
361
1
united kingdom
the alma was originally a luggage bag, and then coco Chanel loved this bag and requested louis Vuitton to make this bag but smaller for her. so louis Vuitton remade the luggage/ alma voyage bag into a handbag sized bag. so yes LV made this bag for coco. its a short story but a cool and interesting one. i think this why the alma is a classic.
 
Jun 23, 2007
5,269
101
If I may, a little Hermes history. I read that (Emile ?) Hermes visited Canada in the very early 1920s and found the zipper mechanism. Unknown in Europe, he took the little zipper back to Europe and was able to patent it. I will search for source and post it later. The Bolide was supposedly designed to reflect the front of a Buggati automobile, which it does, and still does. The Web Bolide is slightly different and has one zipper pull. The first Bolide/Web Bolide may have been designed in 1923, as 1923 appears in the name of one of my Bolides. Legend has it that Madame Hermes needed a handbag to carry her things while driving her Bugatti. I have just heard, however, and cannot remember where I read this, that the Plume, a square bag, was designed to carry a blanket and may have been designed first. It sounds to me that they were probably done around the same time.
Beeble.

Oh, I have a photo somewhere of Chanel carrying an Alma. Will find and scan.
 
Jun 23, 2007
5,269
101
An update. I cannot remember from where I read the zipper story. I know I did read it, but scanned through my books, and couldn't place it. However, the Web Bolide was first designed with the zipper in 1923 (Hermes.) The Alma came out later, in the early 30s. The photo (a rogue's gallery, if you will, of charactertures (I know this word is misspelled, but for the life I me, I cannot figure out how to spell it anymore,) over the years carrying, standing upon, whatever on LV bags. Chanel had her foot on a small trunk, which appears to be a jewelery case. I also just read, in a book called simply, Handbags, that women considered zippers very sexy (remember this was the 20s and zippers were just becoming commonplace.)

Beeble
 

img

O.G.
Jan 3, 2008
7,432
1,488
Chicago, IL
Balto Bag Lady said:
If I may, a little Hermes history. I read that (Emile ?) Hermes visited Canada in the very early 1920s and found the zipper mechanism. Unknown in Europe, he took the little zipper back to Europe and was able to patent it. I will search for source and post it later. The Bolide was supposedly designed to reflect the front of a Buggati automobile, which it does, and still does. The Web Bolide is slightly different and has one zipper pull. The first Bolide/Web Bolide may have been designed in 1923, as 1923 appears in the name of one of my Bolides. Legend has it that Madame Hermes needed a handbag to carry her things while driving her Bugatti. I have just heard, however, and cannot remember where I read this, that the Plume, a square bag, was designed to carry a blanket and may have been designed first. It sounds to me that they were probably done around the same time.
Beeble.

Oh, I have a photo somewhere of Chanel carrying an Alma. Will find and scan.
Can't wait to see this photo!!
 

shinymagpie

vintage bag lady
Mar 29, 2008
2,991
29
Thanks to everyone for the fascinating stories emerging here.

In the relatively recent Chanel movie ( with Audrey Tatou), there is a scene with her sitting on a carriage early on, and her handbag is a small barrel shaped bag. The bag is similar to a Louis Vuitton Papillon, but a lighter canvas color. Chanel sold that design of bag, some time in the late 80's or early 90's, with a canvas-type finish to the leather ( or maybe it was a coated canvas & leather - haven't held it in real life).

I was wondering if Hermes also created a barrel shape back in history? However, the scene suggested it was before she became an independent designer. Maybe the barrel was just a popular design then, but it was interesting that she was holding that shape. I'd love to see photos of her with that shape of bag if anyone has seen them.
 
Apr 28, 2008
1,578
2
Michigan
Although all these stories are very interesting I would love to have a source to refer to for these facts. I can't seem to find any reputable source online that states Chanel carried or designed the Alma.
 

MidnightSky

Member
Mar 10, 2013
89
0
United Kingdom
The Alma began life as Gaston-Louis Vuitton’s “Squire Bag” in 1934. The subtlest of shifts saw it reborn, first as the Champs- Elysées, then as the Alma, named after the elegant square where the Avenue Montaigne meets the Seine. Its bold, architectural lines, inspired by the Art Deco movement, are as modern now as they were almost a century ago, and offer the perfect framework for the Alma’s many interpretations, from Monogram canvas to eye-popping Cuir Epi.
This bag has an illustrious history, and it is second only to the LV Speedy in terms of popularity. The truth is that many elegant women have been proud to own a Louis Vuitton Alma, and one of the most stylish women ever born ¨C indeed, one who was considered fashion royalty and the embodiment of the chic modern woman ¨C is said to have been instrumental in the Alma’s creation.

If legend is to be believed, then Coco Chanel is to the Alma what Audrey Hepburn is to the Speedy. Chanel was a great artist and a fashion designer in her own right, but it is said that the only bag that she carried besides her own designs was a Louis Vuitton Alma. Some versions of the story say that Chanel had LV customize a bag for her, with the design eventually being made available to the public. Regardless of the details, most sources agree that a bag in the shape of the LV Alma was found among Chanel’s personal effects.

It’s actually not very surprising that the legend who popularized bobbed hair, strings of pearls, little black dresses and tweed suits should have loved the Alma bag. After all, the Alma’s appearance is one of its strongest points, being made according to a structural yet graceful Art Deco aesthetic and fashioned in materials like the Monogram Canvas as well as colourful leather. It is also a great bag for a busy career woman like Chanel ¨C after all, it’s spacious enough to contain books, papers, and cosmetics. It is also quite secure and stable, with double zippers, a padlock, and four protective studs on the underside.


I very much doubt that LV would officially confirm this, but I've heard it mentioned a few times in-store that the original bag was indeed designed for Coco Chanel.