Antoine Arnault

The public health crisis that the world is currently experiencing is absolutely staggering in its brutality and scope. What’s more, the coronavirus has triggered an economic crisis whose consequences are very difficult to foresee. Confronted with this two-tiered crisis, the thing we need most is to quickly acquire tremendous resilience. Adaptation is a notion that climatologists and sustainable development specialists have strived to embed in the public conversation for the past decade in order to spur a response to the challenges of global warming. Today, adaptation is something that has become imperative for all of us. But what exactly does “adapt” mean?

To start with, adapting means contributing to the collective effort to address this health emergency. A good many businesses around the world quickly took action to help address critical shortages of materials and equipment. LVMH was among the first groups to step up, retooling production lines to make large quantities of hydroalcoholic gel, as well as masks, all distributed free. The manufacturing facilities of our perfumes and cosmetics brands — Parfums Christian Dior, Guerlain and Parfums Givenchy — have made very significant volumes of hand sanitizer gel for donation to public authorities, and Bulgari has done the same in Italy. Louis Vuitton has repurposed several of its workshops in France and the United States to make protective face masks. Volunteer employees, fabric suppliers and seamstresses swiftly applied sound principles of functional design to put their machines to a different use, imparting an inspiring dimension of solidarity to their work, in which they take legitimate pride. At the same time, Louis Vuitton began making hospital gowns for the greater Paris hospital network, AP-HP. And Baby Dior has transformed its workshop to make protective face masks.  Outside Europe, at the outset of the crisis, LVMH aided the French government with the shipping of 17 tons of medical supplies to China, and made a donation of two million euros to the Chinese Red Cross.

While the scope of this contribution to the collective effort is unprecedented, LVMH’s commitment is certainly not new and has long been a pillar of our corporate social responsibility ethos, which challenges the very purpose of a business. Indeed, this crisis reinforces the participative dimension of the company’s raison d’être. A company is not simply a financial entity listed on the stock market: as part of the fiber of society, businesses play an essential role in meeting the challenges faced by society. The reason LVMH was so quick to take action to help find solutions to this health crisis is because our group and its brands have for many years been creating value for society as a whole. This value springs from our initiatives to protect biodiversity, to preserve and pass on inestimable savoir faire in traditional crafts, to help fight global warming by reducing CO2 emissions and to devise production solutions that better preserve natural resources, all in order to ultimately trace out paths to responsible capitalism. 

Adapting also means preparing for the future — preparing to live, to create and to be productive in a “post-coronavirus” world, ready to envision a world that will be very different than before. The lockdown will have lasted long enough to transform certain habits, starting with our work habits. This crisis has clearly revealed how effective teleworking can be, resulting not only to greater punctuality, but also a more human touch since, for the space of a Zoom meeting, we have a glimpse of the environment in which the people to whom we are speaking live, while stimulating creativity. Our designers are preparing their upcoming collections for the 2020-2021 season with the help of 3-D images. All of this will definitely impact the way we work tomorrow. Organizations will be transformed and there will probably be less business travel, leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and information technologies will play an increasingly essential role.  

This crisis should also accelerate changes in consumer behavior, especially among younger generations. People will pay greater attention to the environmental footprint of products, to the contribution brands make to society, and there will be increased demand for transparency and traceability. We will also very likely see more emphasis on personal care and staying healthy, making beauty goods not simply a secondary product, but something essential for achieving what could be called “quality wellness.” And one easily imagines emerging expectations for fashion that is less disposable and more lasting, fashion that centers on artisanal craftsmanship, creativity and natural materials, concentrating on high quality rather than abundance.  

Sustainability has long figured at the very heart of the products crafted by the LVMH group and the creative efforts of its designers. The seventh edition of the LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers is a perfect example, spotlighting young talents who share an innovative vision of fashion that is resolutely focused on the future, evidenced by their quest for new materials, the use of bio-textiles and recycled fibers, their championing of new craft techniques and a commitment to conscientious, local production. Using upcycled materials and sustainable fabrics is definitely a means to reduce waste. This is an area where Stella McCartney, who has partnered with us since last year, has long been a trailblazer, and we are confident that she will help us further heighten awareness of these important issues. 

Our Fashion & Leather Goods business group continually seeks out innovative materials with a positive environmental impact and has created a vast reference library of green materials where designers can seek ideas and inspiration. Maisons such as Louis Vuitton, Berluti and Loewe propose a host of repair services to ensure long lifetimes for their products. LVMH perfumes and cosmetics brands share this same approach and in recent years have made remarkable advances in areas such as lighter packaging and refillable products. Over 80 percent of the creams and serums made by Parfums Christian Dior are now available in a refillable format, and Guerlain has created a refillable jar for its Orchidée Impériale cream. Our efforts to preserve biodiversity also resonate with this philosophy. This is not simply a question of corporate reputation, but rather a fundamental business priority. Because without protecting rare and noble species and essential raw materials it would be impossible to continue to offer exceptional products, whether they are wines and spirits, cosmetics, or fashion and leather goods. 

Lastly, adapting means being sufficiently bold, despite everything, to pursue changes, to invent a model that better respects natural resources, and to reaffirm one of LVMH’s most cherished values: creativity. At the end of a past major crisis, the Second World War, Dior invented a new look for women, and Bulgari chose the snake, which sheds its skin, as the symbol of constant reinvention for its first jewelry collections. The creativity that will define luxury when this crisis has been surmounted is already thriving in the minds of our design teams, fueled by a unique and inspiring spirit of inventiveness.

Antoine Arnault is head of image, communications and environment at the LVMH Group.

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