Living in a Material World.
Updated: Mar 16, 2021
a vinyl-like coating applied to the interiors of Louis Vuitton bags, from sometime in the mid-1980s and still used today. This material was originally touted as being wonderfully durable; it was water and stain resistant and offered a textured finish that would hide wear. Its light colour allowed you to easily see dark cosmetics cases, and you could just wipe away any blemishes or spills with a damp cloth. The most common colour for the finish was a textured tan, although a similar material in brown and black was used in wallets and pocket interiors.
When you invent proprietary textiles and materials, as Louis Vuitton has done many times, there are risks. Unless you wait around for 50 years, it's almost impossible to predict every possible outcome. In the case of Vuittonite, I'm sure execs at the company wish that they'd named this coated material something else instead. With exposure to heat or humidity, seemingly combined with the breakdown of the coating with age, Vuittonite transforms into one of the worst materials ever used for a handbag interior. The tan, plasticy coating peels and flakes away from the fabric it's adhered to, and with additional warmth or humidity, will stick to anything in it's path. This includes any leather or coated canvas SLGs [small leather goods] that might be in contact with. If it hasn't yet peeled, it has a sticky feel to it that is fairly unpleasant to the touch. Not exacty the rich tactile experience one expects with a luxury item. It also has a musty smell, somewhere between dusty library and peeling wallpaper. I won't say that you can't use an item that has a degrading Vuittonite interior, but it's definitely not ideal.
It's quite the cluster for a company that prides itself on craftsmanship and timeless heritage; honestly a full-scale PR nightmare. So, what does Louis Vuitton have to say on the matter? While they acknowledge that deterioration of the Vuittonite can occur, they do not view it as a defect. As in, they're not going to be reimbursing you for brand new lining. You'll be paying for that out of pocket. While there are some flawed LV products which are eligible for repair or replacement, Vuittonite related issues do not fall under a recall. They consider it to have a 'lifespan', and take no responsibility for what happens after that timeframe.
While I view most LV repair prices as pretty fair for the quality of work they complete, sometimes new linings can cost much more than a vintage item is worth. LV also won't work on items where the coated canvas [monogram, damier patterns] is cracked, because it's a liability to work on an older, obviously fragile bag. I've also heard varying reports about whether or not they will repair bags without transaction records [most bags on the secondary market]. The official policy is that they will work on any authentic bag in decent condition, but this rumour about not accepting bags purchsed from the resale market runs deep and wide.
How many items are we really talking about? This number is difficult to asses due to the the lack of formal and statistical evidence, likely orchestrated by a well-paid PR firm. But I would guess millions of vintage pieces have this problem, and are either currently sticky or have been repaired to varying degrees of sucess. Once an LV piece has been altered by someone other than a representative of the company, the piece is now deemed 'inauthentic' by Louis Vuitton, and is not eligable for any repairs in the future. It creates a huge grey area of DIY + weird solutions, some of which are decent and many are detrimental and will ultimately ruin the item. It means buyer beware when it comes to 'restored' or 'as is' vintage pieces.
In the next post about 'Vuittonite', I'll give you a run down of which styles are most likely to have this issue, how to spot this in sales photos, as well as what can be done to improve the condition of these pieces. _______ *This time frame is unconfirmed. A reformulated 'Vuittonite' material was created around the year 2000, however information is scarce on this topic. 'New + Improved' Vuittonite is still used for bag interiors and doesn't appear to encounter the same types of issues as the vintage styles (yet).