The eldest son of LVMH’s founder looks back to the luxury conglomerate’s fashion show held in Rio de Janeiro four years ago and recognises that those days are probably gone for good.
In the post-Covid world, the idea of flying guests from around the world to South America is starting to strike even those in the industry as over the top.
“Bringing half the fashion world to Rio for 48 hours for a cruise show was beautiful, but it was probably a bit too much,” Antoine Arnault, who oversees image, communications and environmental issues at LVMH, said in an interview this week from Paris. “We recognise there was probably a frenzy in the past few years, and maybe we ourselves have been swept into this whirlwind, to always want to offer something novel, extravagant.”
LVMH, owner of brands including Louis Vuitton and Dior, joins rivals in signalling changes to the fashion calendar. Alessandro Michele, creative director at Gucci, announced in May that the Kering SA-owned brand was reducing its number of annual shows to two from five. He cited the “worn-out” nature of the industry, a sentiment echoed by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the British Fashion Council.
Even before Covid-19 upended the industry, luxury companies faced pressure from consumers and regulators to reduce their environmental impact. Fierce competition had pushed brands to produce ever-flashier events in recent years, and surging demand from China for clothing and footwear led manufacturers to use up more of the planet’s resources.
The fashion world has adapted during the pandemic by offering things like virtual events to showcase designer pieces. Arnault, whose father is LVMH Chairman and founder Bernard Arnault, acknowledged that “not everything is perfect” with that medium.
“These famous spectacular shows will still take place, but at a slower pace,” said Arnault, who spoke via Zoom during LVMH Climate Week, when the company was holding expert panels on sustainability issues for its 160,000 employees. “This will evolve.”
There have been other changes. Starting in 2022, fashion companies will no longer be allowed to destroy unsold merchandise in France, a widespread practice to avoid diluting brands with discount sales. Lost sales from pandemic lockdowns have led to larger-than-usual volumes of leftover stock. LVMH has responded by moving some of those goods to Asia, where stores reopened earlier in the year, Arnault said.
“We destroy very little,” he said.
LVMH has set up a commission to assess the sustainability of the industry and will release its findings early next year, said Helene Valade, the company’s director of environmental development. The conglomerate has already set a goal for all operations to run on renewable energy by 2030 and to ban fossil-based virgin plastic in packaging by 2026. It has also pledged to ensure that all animal materials used in its products can be traced to their place of origin.
LVMH has faced criticism from animal rights group PETA for using exotic skins in products and for issues related to animal treatment. Arnault said LVMH’s policy is to let each brand decide which animal-sourced material it uses.
LVMH owns a stake in Stella McCartney’s fashion label, known for working with sustainable materials. Another brand, Fendi, offers mink jackets for as much as 14,000 euros ($17,000).
“Fendi will continue to offer fur when Stella McCartney won’t,” Arnault said, adding that LVMH owns most of the farms that produce the exotic skins. “We have no desire to make these animals suffer.”
By Angelina Rascouet.