There’s nothing better than the ultimate grab-and-go handbag. When it comes to squeezing in every last essential, an oversized tote like the Louis Vuitton Neverfull has no problem taking you from brunch to the beach and beyond. But when you’re traversing city streets or need to be hands-free while on-the-go, a backpack can be a more practical way to travel in style. And when form and function marry, it’s a beautiful, investment-worthy thing.
Whether you’re a die-hard heritage fanatic or have been a fan since Kanye West defined his signature look with the monogram backpack, Louis Vuitton’s Montsouris is an effortless piece that can elevate even the most casual of outfits. (Just take a cue from Kendall Jenner — the TV personality-cum-model has been seen recently accessorizing her activewear with the Mini Montsouris). Available in three sizes — the Mini, the GM and the PM — the Montsouris offers the heritage brand’s classic elegance in the form of a youthful backpack. And the Bosphore — its more substantial counterpart — can also do the trick, as it was designed to be a more streamlined, modernized version of the Montsouris.
Backpacks have recently been heralded as the next It-bag, with searches on The RealReal skyrocketing this past year. But of course, when you’re ready to snag one for yourself, the age-old question abounds: how can spot a realLouis Vuitton backpack in a sea of fakes? Graham Wetzbarger, our Senior Director of Authentication, is here to help. Read on for his expert authentication tips.
Louis Vuitton Backpack Materials
With its signature coated canvas and classic untreated vachetta calf hide, many of Louis Vuitton’s backpacks are instantly recognizable. The canvas monogram was initially designed to combat counterfeiters, but unfortunately for many designers, this hasn’t stopped the production of fakes.
The vachetta leather that Louis Vuitton uses will usually be found adorning the base, yoke, straps, drawstring and buckle of a backpack — though different bags will have varying placements of the trim. “The vachetta leather is susceptible to stains and discoloration from use, so if you ever see a bag that has no discoloration at all, it could be a sign that it’s fake vachetta, or treated leather,” explains Wetzbarger. “A bag from the nineties with untreated calf hide is not going to escape unmarred, so that’s a tell that the bag could be inauthentic.” Additionally, the vachetta drawstring will be finished on the front, with a raw, unfinished back and two stripes running down the edge of each side.
When examining a Louis Vuitton backpack’s straps, you’ll find them composed of either vachetta leather or a textured web fabric. “Counterfeit web straps are often lighter weight, and they’ll start to fray at one of the ends,” says Wetzbarger. “The web straps have had a couple of different iterations over the years, so while you do want to inspect them for authenticity as counterfeits will often use inferior materials, compare them against other models to ensure it’s the correct version.”
Louis Vuitton’s earlier, pre-1996 version of web straps comprise contrasting dots, whereas the newer version is more of a ribbed pattern. “The older straps will be a bit slick, but newer, ribbed straps use shorter staple fibers and have a fuzzier overall texture,” adds Wetzbarger. Styles like the Montsouris Mini and PM always have vachetta leather straps, while the Montsouris GM and Bosphore feature web straps.
In terms of the backpack’s brown canvas lining, you can begin to assess the type of material used through touch. “If you feel the canvas in your hands, counterfeit linings will often be very slick and slippery, whereas a genuine lining is not coated on the back,” notes Wetzbarger. “It will feel textured. It grips.”
Louis Vuitton Backpack Construction
On certain Louis Vuitton backpack styles, the bag’s construction will interfere with the alignment of the monogram. A common misconception is that if the monogram does not cross over seams, it is inauthentic, but this is not always the case. “On the Montsouris, there is a separate back panel from the singular piece of canvas that makes up the remainder of the body,” says Wetzbarger. “The monogram is centered on this back panel, so the seams will not necessarily match up with the monogram of the main piece. Because of the proportions of the monogram and the dimensions of the bag, it doesn’t allow it to align completely.”
As with the majority of Louis Vuitton bags, the leather will be stitched with the brand’s signature yellow cotton thread. “Look for perfectly even stitches that are only doubled when needed for reinforcement,” advises Wetzbarger.
Louis Vuitton Backpack Hardware
From its buckles and D-rings to its zippers and grommets, a Louis Vuitton backpack’s hardware should be plated brass throughout. “The backpack’s drawstring is woven through grommets, which will be engraved with ‘Louis Vuitton’ on the front, but the back will be plain,” says Wetzbarger. “These grommets should be evenly spaced throughout the bag.” Plated brass should feel slightly weighty in your hand, so be wary of any hardware that feels inferior in quality.
The bag’s interior hardware is also an important place to check for anomalies. “Sewn into the backpack’s interior side seam will be a leather placard with a brass D-ring, affixed with a rivet,” notes Wetzbarger. “The rivet should have an LV marking, and on the leather tab you’ll find the date code.”
Louis Vuitton Backpack Brand Identifiers
Louis Vuitton’s signature date code is a tried-and-true way of discerning whether or not your backpack is the real deal. Depending on the bag’s style and production date, the date code can be located in a number of places. “On the Montsouris GM, the date code can be found on the interior pocket or on the underside of the strap buckle,” says Wetzbarger. “On the Mini and PM sizes, it will be located exclusively on the interior D-ring.” The Bosphore will also have its date code located on an interior leather tab.
On every Louis Vuitton bag, backpack or otherwise, the date code will consist of two letters and four numbers. “The second number and the fourth numbers represent the year — 0 and 3 would be 2003, 9 and 8 would be 1998 — and the combined first and third digits will correspond to the month it was made,” explains Wetzbarger.
At center back of the backpack, you should also find a vachetta placard. “Some placards will say Louis Vuitton / Paris, and others will also include the country of origin,” asserts Wetzbarger. “Newer styles may be produced in other countries, but the majority will have ‘Made in France’ debossed on the placard.”
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