Anatomy of the Louis Vuitton Speedy: an essential guide
Updated: Feb 5
Ask anyone what their first designer bag was, and 80% of the time they’d tell you it was the Louis Vuitton Speedy. One of the most renowned bags of all time, the Speedy was the first handbag ever designed by the Louis Vuitton brand.
The Speedy was officially put on the market in the 1930s as a smaller interpretation of the hugely popular Keepall bag with the name "the Express". Its name recalled the passion for fast-paced living that dominated the era. First created in plain canvas, the following year it was released in Monogram canvas, giving it a more urban look without losing sight of its practical purpose.
In the words of Xavier Dixsaut, the director of Innovation at Louis Vuitton, "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 vicinity. [...] 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."
Throughout the years, the Speedy became a staple and it was the first to adopt the epi leather and then the Damier pattern canvas before being customized by Stephen Sprouse, Takashi Murakami, Sophia Coppola and Richard Prince.
From a travel accessory to fashion staple: history of the Speedy
As previously mentioned, roots to the iconic look of the Speedy can be traced back to the the classic Louis Vuitton Keepall. Like we have explained in our article on the Keepall bag, the LV duffle bag was first introduced in the 1892 catalogue and designed with modularity, portability and practicality in mind.
This model was soon adjusted to become a hold-all city bag under the name "the Express" as an homage to the era’s travel revolution, with its streamlined cars and newly established airlines. With the era of the weekend "countryside rush", the Speedy adapted once again to meet the needs of the ever-busy women of the time, whose new lives were divided between the home and the office.
Initially only in one size, it became available in three different sizes: 40, 35 and 30. But it wasn't only bored housewives and busy women who found it hard to resist: the smaller Speedy 25 was added in 1959 at the request of actress Audrey Hepburn to use for her movie "Roman Holidays". The Speedy wasn't the iconic bag it is total until Audrey Hepburn's Speedy 25 of was introduced. It was then turned into a regular production piece that has since become a signature style for the brand.
While the Keepall was intended for the globetrotting elite, the Speedy was designed for everyday use. The classic version of the bag consists mostly of sturdy canvas with vachetta leather handles and piping. The leather is untreated premium cowhide leather, which over the years and due to usage darkens to a dark brown leather but it can easily be damaged by water so extra care is required in humid environments. On the other hand, the canvas is waterproof and it does not tear: the perfect material for a ‘travel bag.
The Speedy still holds its original minimal design: it consists of one piece of canvas around the body. Purchased new in store, a Speedy bag comes with its own lock and key like its predecessor.
Like the Keepall, the Speedy would also enjoy the same privileges of reinterpretation as the seasons and fashions progressed. A best-seller in all categories, it was one of the first items to be released in epi and damier canvas.
The design of Speedy bags can change quite a bit depending on what material they’re made of and what year they were released: over the years the Louis Vuitton Speedy has been reimagined by many international designers and artists: from Takashi Murakami, to Richard Prince, from Yayoi Kusama to Kansai Yamamoto, the list is ever-growing.
With such a fascinating and long story dating back to the late 19th century, it is no surprise the Speedy with its iconic look keeps being one of Louis Vuitton's bestsellers to this day.
From the countryside to the city: the versatility of the Speedy
While the appearance of the bag has been reimagined multiple times over the decades since its first release in the 30s, the classic shape of this bag has virtually stayed untouched. The classic version of the bag consists of sturdy monogram canvas and with cowhide vachetta leather handles, which will darken to a dull patina with time.
The canvas is made of waterproof, scuff proof and tear proof material, ideal for travelling, and combined with the Speedy's simple design, makes the bag and exceptionally durable item both for adventurous trips and the everyday life in the city.
On the inside, every Speedy has one large main compartment, without dividers, making the bag extremely versatile for different uses: you don't have to care for its iconic status to appreciate how functional, yet effortlessly elegant this handbag is.
Over the years, the LV Speedy has been released in almost every type of material used by Louis Vuitton. From classic Monogram to Epi leather, to inspired new takes on Monogram Vernis.
Next to the different materials, Speedy comes and goes in different sizes. Originally a 30cm bag, so far it has been available in six different sizes: Nano (15), 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40. These numbers indicate the width of the Speedy in centimeters. The Speedy nano and the Speedy 20 have been only available in a handful of materials and colors.
Besides the different sizes, the Speedy might come with or without a Bandoulière: hardware and a shoulder strap. The easiest way to tell the difference between a Speedy and a Speedy Bandouliere is an additional strip of leather on the sides of the bag. A Speedy purchased in a Louis Vuitton store also comes with a lock and a key, while vintage Speedy might not necessarily include them: so make sure to check before buying a preloved item. The Louis Vuitton Speedy is considered a "starter" bag and it's by the cheapest bag you can get at Louis Vuitton (in its default version). Retail prices range from as little as $1,160 to over $3,000 for limited edition bags.
A bag with a multifaceted soul: the many styles of the LV Speedy
Throughout the years, the iconic Louis Vuitton Speedy has been released in a multitude of different colors and material. Let's take a look at some of its most inspired looks!
1) Stephen Sprouse Graffiti Speedy
Released in spring 2001
Original retail price $1180
2) Watercolor Aquarelle Speedy in white
Released in spring 2008
Original retail price $1280
3) Jeff Koons Mona Lisa Speedy
Released in spring 2017
Original retail price $2800
4) Teddy Speedy Bandouliere in red
Released in fall/winter 2019
Original retail price $3600
5) Green Damier Cubic Speedy
Released in spring/summer 2013
Original retail price $2860
6) Speedy Escale Bandouliere
Released in summer 2020
Original retail price $2220
7) Brown Monogram Sunshine Express Speedy
Released in fall/winter 2012
Original retail price $4440
8) Silver Monogram Miroir Speedy
Released in fall/winter 2006
Original retail price $1330
9) Speedy Fringe in white
Released in summer 2006
Original retail price $3150
10) Game on Monogram Speedy Bandouliere
Released in summer 2020
Original retail price $2310
How to tell if your Speedy bag is authentic
1) Louis Vuitton stamping details
The main Louis Vuitton stamp is very important for authentication, just by looking at it often times it is possible to determine if a bag is authentic or a fake. The lettering should be very crisp and the letters should be perfectly aligned. The Os should be very round and look bigger than the L, and the Ts should be placed very closed, almost touching.
2) Louis Vuitton hardware
In general, most fake Louis Vuitton bags will have very poor-quality hardware, often times it’s just metal coated plastic. Authentic hardware should be constructed in high quality metals and have clean and crisp lettering.
3) Louis Vuitton date code
All Louis Vuitton bags before the early 1980s did not come with a date code. But most Louis Vuitton bags still in circulation will have a date code either on interior tags or directly on the interior linings.
With its long and fascinating history it's easy to tell why the Speedy is still one of the most recognizable handbags on the planet.
Being one of the most sought-after designer bags on the market, there are many high quality preloved and vintage Speedy bags waiting to find a new home. Either if you are looking to start collecting high-end luxury bags or if you are looking for that one special item to elevate your day to day outfits, we cannot recommend enough the Louis Vuitton Speedy!
Unfortunately, when you look for popular Louis Vuitton bags there is always the risk of running into counterfeits or “fakes”. It is therefore important that you shop your vintage Speedy from a trusted supplier with a substantial history of dealing with vintage luxury.