PARIS — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton kicked off its five-city “You and Me” recruitment roadshow to attract young people into the luxury professions, with an opening exposition at Paris’ Palais Brongniart.
For good measure, there was a “rock star” of sorts, with Tony Parker on hand to sign autographs and take selfies with young fans. The basketball star spoke from the main stage and emphasized that the métiers d’art are “not reserved for the elite.”
Parker’s Lyon-based Adequat Academy has long partnered with LVMH to offer alternate career paths to student athletes who excel in their sport but might not make it to the big leagues. Parker frames it as helping kids “create another passion” and have additional opportunities.
“A lot of kids have no idea they can work with Dior, think it’s too high or you have to have a great degree. Knowing that and seeing the kids with stars in their eyes, like, ‘Wow, can I really work at a place like that?’ So that’s our job, to expose them to possibilities and knowledge,” he told WWD.
Students excitedly buzzed around, watching demonstrations from artisans and couturiers representing brands including Celine, Dior, and Louis Vuitton.
The morning recruitment session was focused on students from 13 to 18 years old, and welcomed more than 2,100 people throughout the day-long event.
“It’s a difficult age when you have to face difficult questions about what you want to do in life,” said Chantal Gaemperle, LVMH Group executive vice president of human resources and synergies. “So we believe in bringing concrete solutions, and bringing in people that those young people can relate to, identify with, that can open up their minds and give them a perspective they didn’t have before.”
Inside the fair the company gamified the floor plan to better appeal to the young crowd. QR codes led guests through the different displays, while a quiz could be completed at the end for a spot on the scoreboard. They also used VR headsets in an interactive display to walk potential recruits through a factory floor.
Gaemperle said the biggest challenges of recruitment are that many young people who are growing up with screens haven’t heard of handicrafts and don’t have an understanding of what an artisan is. Another challenge is that students often come in saying they want to be a fashion designer, but don’t understand all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating couture or a bag. The program aims to expand their understanding of luxury brands, what Gaemperle calls “awakening vocation.” Students leave with new ideas of what might be possible for them, she added.
More than just a display of luxury brands, there were booths from the French government employment department and a particularly popular section for seminars on how to prepare job applications, as well as one-on-one coaching from counselors on how to prepare a résumé.
This year the company also developed an app so that interested parties can fill out questionnaires, do online tests and help them establish their job profiles.
Gaemperle emphasized that the company recruits from all ages, including older workers looking to retrain in long-term handicraft careers.
“We are looking at a diverse, broad base because what we need is skilled people,” she said. “Basically the success of our group, we often say, is built on the talents first of all and the craftsmanship that we have.”
As luxury continues its unabated growth, LVMH and other houses have plenty of positions to fill. The program has more than doubled its capacity from 1,200 last year to 3,500 positions to recruit in France, particularly in serving those high-end clients. More than 2,000 client-experience slots need to be filled, more than 460 artisans are needed as well as 85 in creative positions. Nine hundred internships are available, including 190 artisans and 150 in creatives.
Filling those client-facing positions is of utmost importance right now, added Gaemperle. These jobs are typically undervalued, she said, and they are working to give a greater focus on these positions, particularly as retail must add customer service in a competitive, omnichannel world.
“In this context, the client-facing jobs become only more and more important,” she said, noting that pandemic changes created a “disaffection” for careers in retail. However, human interaction and brand story are the core of the company.
“If you are a client you want to find the right reason to physically go to a store, you want to live an exceptional experience. We have developed luxury retail [as] the art of welcoming clients and the art of being able to tell a story, to understand the products, origins, how it has been made. So we put a lot of emphasis on these careers.”
For his part, Parker encourages kids to dream big. “If you tell your dream to somebody and they’re not laughing at you, you aren’t dreaming big enough,” he joked. Parker relayed the story of a student who recently said he hopes to be the chief executive officer of Dior one day. “Everyone in the room — like 800 people — was laughing but I was like, great. I hope I can inspire a whole generation of kids who want to be in those positions and dream big.”
The appointment of music artist Pharrell Williams as the new creative director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s division is a great example of dreaming big, Parker said. “It just shows how creative this house is and they’re not afraid to take a risk. You never know what will happen,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy to go after Virgil Abloh, so it’s a pretty big deal.”
Parker is set to open a second academy outside of Paris in 2025. The new school will repurpose facilities built for the 2024 Olympic Games, a situation that will be a win-win for the region as well as the academy. He will be partnering with LVMH again on the project, which will have a complementary curriculum to his school in Lyon. Parker added that he is carefully considering expanding his educational facilities.
“We have propositions in Africa and in China, who want to use our concept and everything that we have created with this academy. We have offers on the table,” he said. “But for me it is about choosing the right partners that can grow and make it last for a lot of years.”
The “You and Me” tour will hit Reims on March 3; Orleans March 7; Clichy-Sous-Bois March 15, and finish in Lyon on March 29.
While not strictly part of the “You and Me” program, LVMH has started similar recruitment in other regions. Gaemperle noted that in the U.S., they integrated the first apprentice classes for Tiffany & Co., which tripled registration in one year. That initiative, as well as others in six countries, are being implemented to support the overall global need to fill 15,200 positions in 2023.