The ultimate guide to Louis Vuitton’s iconic Alma purse
Updated: Jan 19, 2021
Even if you are new to designer bags and accessories, you are probably familiar with the classic look of the Louis Vuitton Alma, one of the most recognizable handbags in the world.
Officially introduced in 1992, this bag was designed with functionality in mind: spacious as it opens wide due to the double zip and features two inside compartments, coming in a sleek silhouette that can be worn to any occasion. But it is not only about aesthetics: as far as the material goes Louis Vuitton Alma bags are of exceptionally high quality and, if well cared for, they can last for decades.
But have you ever wondered why Alma’s design feels so timeless and why is still so beloved among Hollywood celebrities such as Rihanna, Paris Hilton and Kendall Jenner?
The unexpectedly long history of LV’s Alma handbag
The roots to the Alma’s elegant and structured shape can be traced back to the French Art Deco movement in the early 20th century. The first version of the Alma bag, called the “Squire bag”, was actually created by Louis Vuitton’s grandson, Gaston-Louis Vuitton in 1925 as a custom design for Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, who requested they make her a day-sized travel bag.
This first design of the Alma came from the same tradition of travel bags that gave birth to the Hermès Bolide and the Steamer bag. It was neither in Monogram nor Damier canvas, and looked quite different from the modern version of the Alma: it was a practical and compact trapezoidal shape with a 45 cm long with a base similar to the Steamer, on which the interlaced CC was visible. This model didn’t become publicly available until well into the mid 1930s when it began to be mass-produced.
But it took several years to this model to evolve into what is now one of the most recognizable bags in the world. It was first redesigned in 1950 under the name of "Sac Marceau", and then again five years later renamed the city-chic “Sac Champs-Élysées”, after the fashionable avenue in Paris and with a slimmer-looking profile. This is the bag that reappeared in 1992 with an updated design and the new name “Alma”, a tribute to Place d’Alma – a landmark spot in Paris’ high-fashion district.
This time, it was decked out in the brand’s signature Monogram Canvas and it went to become the modern-day Alma that we all know and love was born. The "Marceau" model made also a comeback recently under the name “Dora” in the first collection by N. Ghesquiere for Vuitton (2014).
Since then the Alma was released out in every color of the rainbow Épi leather, has been re-imagined in Damier, and shimmered in glossy Monogram Vernis. It has appeared in every format, from BB to XXL. It has even lent itself to artistic inspiration: from the graffiti of Stephen Sprouse to the playful colors of Takashi Murakami. Already Louis Vuitton’s most frequently revisited bag, the Alma has recently been reimagined in vibrant pop colors by creative director Nicolas Ghesquière for the 2021 Cruise collection.
Elegance in a bag: introducing the Alma
The Louis Vuitton Alma comes in with dual top handles made from cowhide vachetta leather and gold tone hardware that is complimented with a double zip, top closure. The leather is very durable and can easily protect your important essentials and documents from rain water, thanks to the solid material that is water repellent. On the inside of the Alma you'll find a soft microfiber lining. Sturdy studs on the bottom of the bag protect the material from scratches and dirt. Large enough for everything you need for your day, yet sleek and chic enough to elevate any outfit.
Alma comes in almost every type of material used by Louis Vuitton. From classic Monogram to Epi leather, from Monogram Vernis to a myriad of limited editions. Next to the different materials, the Alma comes and goes in different sizes. So far it has been released in Nano, BB, PM, MM and GM sizes, but currently only the BB, PM and GM are still in production.
The Alma BB, a miniature size which measures 23.5 cm wide and 17.5cm high (9.3 x 6.9 inches) launched in 2010, was extremely well received. It is the first Alma bag to be sold together with a removable leather strap, which means ladies now have a bag with even more utility and versatility. The most recent Alma PM models also come with strap mounts that allow you to attach a strap. Finally, new Alma bags come with a leather key clochette and a padlock; Vintage Alma bags don't often come with these items so make sure to check before buying. Louis Vuitton Alma bag retail prices range from as little as $250 to over $3,000 for exotic leathers and limited editions bags.
The many faces of Alma
Louis Vuitton Alma bags have been released in a myriad of colors and materials through the years. Here is a list of some of the most interesting and rare pieces, you’ll definitely find one you’ll like!
1) Stephen Sprouse Roses Monogram Vernis Alma
Released in spring 2001
Original retail price $2610
2) Takashi Murakami Multicolor Monogram Alma
Released in spring 2003
Original retail price $1690
3) Blue Denim Azteque Epi Alma
Released in fall 2015
Original retail price $3150
4) Epi Signature Alma
Released in fall 2015
Original retail price $2530
5) Limited Edition Gold Monogram Miroir Alma
Released in fall 2007-2008
Original retail price $2100
6) Pink Vernis Lisse Alma
Released in fall 2017
Original retail price $1820
7) Limited Edition Time Trunk Alma
Released in fall 2018
Original retail price $2260
8) Limited Edition Monogram Vernis Rayures Alma
Released in winter 2011-2012
Original retail price $1890
9) Cruise collection 2017 Race print Alma
Released in winter 2016-2017
Original retail price $2140
10) Blooming Flowers Epi black Alma
Released in winter 2016-2017
Original retail price $2000
How to tell if your Alma handbag 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 such a rich heritage that dates back to the late-19th century, it’s no wonder that Vuitton calls the Alma one of its icons.
Louis Vuitton Alma bags are of exceptionally high quality and if well cared for, you can rely on your Alma for decades. The thick full vachetta base, sleek and sturdy cotton interior, bottom to bottom zippered closure, and smooth and sturdy rounded leather handles; the Alma is a recognized classic and a great candidate for investing in a vintage luxury piece.
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 Alma from a trusted supplier with a substantial history of dealing with vintage luxury.