NEW YORK, United States — LVMH is facing a boycott threat after the French luxury house invited President Donald Trump to the opening of a new Louis Vuitton factory in Texas earlier this week.
Grab Your Wallet, a group that calls on shoppers to boycott businesses associated with the Trump family and administration has added LVMH brands to its list of corporations to avoid, Shannon Coulter, one of the movement’s founders told BoF.
The group organised shortly before the 2016 election after recordings emerged of Trump disparaging women on the set of Access Hollywood. Grab Your Wallet had an early win when its call for consumers to boycott Ivanka Trump’s fashion line and stores that carried it appeared to contribute to a decline in sales. Trump closed her brand last year.
Most brands on Grab Your Wallet’s list were targeted for financial ties to Trump, including SoulCycle and the Hudson Yards mall in Manhattan. Stephen Ross, the developer of Hudson Yards and chairman of Equinox-owned SoulCycle, held a fundraiser for Trump in August. LVMH is the first owner of consumer brands to make the list that is not financially involved with the Trump family or administration, Coulter said.
It’s unlikely that the boycott will have a massive effect on the luxury behemoth; LVMH owns companies like Sephora, Céline, Givenchy, and Dior just to name a few, and saw record profits of €6.4 billion in 2018. Louis Vuitton is expected to net €12 billion in sales this year.
But Coulter said plenty of Louis Vuitton customers were angered by Trump’s factory visit.
“Creating jobs is not an excuse to ignore morally repugnant behavior,” Coulter said. “Businesses are willing to look the other way in order to work with the Trump administration, but it’s a worrisome trend.”
LVMH did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump attended the opening ceremony of the Louis Vuitton handbag factory in Johnson County, Texas alongside LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault, Rimowa CEO Alexandre Arnault, Ivanka Trump, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others.
The French luxury house opened the factory as part of a commitment it made to the Trump Administration to create more manufacturing jobs in the US. In 2018, Louis Vuitton signed the Pledge to America’s Workers, a Trump initiative that was also signed by Google, Amazon, and Ford.
Hours after photos of Trump cutting the ribbon were posted online, social media users wrote they would boycott Louis Vuitton for its involvement with Trump.
“Shame on you standing next to the most corrupt President in American history to open your plant. I will never purchase anything with your name on it again #boycottlouisvuitton,” one Twitter user wrote.
“There goes Vuitton’s reputation,” another tweeted.
Brands have faced a backlash for appearing to side with the administration from the start. In 2016, New Balance faced mass social media backlash after its vice president of public affairs told the Wall Street Journal the company believed Trump would help “things are going to move in the right direction.” Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plank similarly faced criticism for calling Trump “a real asset for this country” on CNBC.
Other brands have distanced themselves from the Trump administration. In November 2018, Patagonia said it would donate the $10 million it had saved from Trump’s tax cuts to environmental causes. Designers including Phillip Lim, Sophie Theallet, Naeem Khan, and Marc Jacobs have said they wouldn’t dress First Lady Melania Trump.
Bernard Arnault previously met the president at Trump Tower in 2017 to discuss job opportunities in the US; he also attended a state dinner in honor of French President Emmanuel Macron in April 2018.
Louis Vuitton opened the factory in part to move elementals of its supply chain closer to American consumers. It also could help protect the French luxury house from future rounds of tariffs. Trump has ordered some taxes on imports from the European Union, but so far handbags and other luxury goods have been spared.
The Grab Your Wallet boycott has targeted businesses associated with the Trump family and administration. Brands placed on the boycott list include L.L. Bean, since board member Linda Bean raised money for Trump during the 2016 election. Department stores like Bloomingdale’s, Hudson Bay, and Lord & Taylor were on it too, for carrying the Ivanka Trump line. The stores were taken off the list after the Ivanka Trump brand shut down.
Coulter said the relationship between Arnault and Trump would not go unnoticed.
"The people in this country who voted against Trump have major economic power and they want to be aware of who is engaging in formal relationships with Trump,” Coulter said. “And it’s pretty easy to boycott Louis Vuitton because there’s plenty of other luxury brands shoppers can choose from that don’t cozy up to Trump.”
Disclosure: LVMH is part of a group of investors who, together, hold a minority interest in The Business of Fashion. All investors have signed shareholders’ documentation guaranteeing BoF’s complete editorial independence.