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NEW YORK — Renaud Dutreil, chairman of the North American arm of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, cycles to work at the LVMH Tower daily and chains his bike to the red, shoe-shaped rack facing Louis Vuitton’s 57th Street flagship here.
Since arriving Stateside to take his post in September, Dutreil has made it one of his missions to further LVMH’s commitment to green initiatives, and to support Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC sustainability agenda and bicycling initiatives. So the former French politician created the “Bike in Style Challenge,” asking students at the Fashion Institute of Technology to come up with a stylish poncho, jacket and travel bag to cycle in.
“There is one big dilemma for bike commuters,” Dutreil said Tuesday at a press conference in the LVMH Tower’s Magic Room. “It is style. There is simply very little bikewear out there that allows you to go fashionably from the street to the office.”
DKNY, which is part of LVMH-owned Donna Karan International, worked with FIT students on the initiative. The brand will develop prototypes of the winner’s designs, but there are currently no plans to manufacture a collection.
At the press conference, LVMH announced the winners of the challenge: Jessica Velasquez took the top prize of $5,000; Jane Carlton was second, with a $3,000 award, and Stephanie Murphy won $2,000 for third place.
The winners were judged by a group that included Dutreil, Donna Karan, Hilary Duff, First Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris, city Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Andy Darrell of the Environmental Defense Fund and FIT’s Valerie Steele.
Karan was at the press conference alongside Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, an environmental activist, and Duff, who designs a line for DKNY Jeans.
“It’s really important [to cycle], especially in New York,” Duff said. “It’s so much better for the environment, plus you can get to places quicker. You are also done with your exercise by the end of the day. You don’t need to go to the gym.”
LVMH made an undisclosed grant to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. LVMH is also a main sponsor of the city’s “Summer Streets” program, which will create a car-free, 6.9-mile route on three Saturday mornings in August.
“Our goal is to bring together fashion and environmental sustainability for a new eco-friendly lifestyle,” Dutreil said.
He pointed to the recent series of Louis Vuitton ads that benefit Al Gore’s climate project, and the investment in Edun, the eco-friendly apparel line founded by Bono and his wife Ali Hewson, as part of the company’s commitment.
Cotillard said of all cities, she cycles most in New York. “I was a bit scared of the traffic at first, but it was actually very easy because it is [in a straight line],” she said. “You know where the cars come from, and I really enjoyed it.”
Cotillard, who is also the face of the Lady Dior campaign and wore Dior at the press conference, hasn’t asked her friend John Galliano to design cycling clothes for her outings. “But it’s an idea,” she said.