Antoine Arnault

Antoine Arnault, head of communications and image at luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said he is “not very optimistic” about the prospect of staging physical fashion shows next September.

In his first official interview since the coronavirus outbreak, Arnault appeared on “Quotidien,” a daily news and entertainment show on France’s TMC channel. In a wide-ranging talk, he predicted the demise of the cruise super-productions that LVMH-owned brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior staged in recent years in exotic locales worldwide.

Asked whether he expected Paris Fashion Week to resume next fall, after announcing that it will switch to an online showcase for the haute couture and men’s collections in July, Arnault was cautious.

“For the September shows, I am not very optimistic. For the seasons after that, it rather depends on our research scientists and our doctors. It’s not really up to us to decide,” he said.

“If we are able to gather, I think it ought to go ahead. It also has a very big economic impact. In terms of economic impact, it’s a shame for us because the buyers are unable to come and place their orders,” Arnault noted.

“And for cities that host fashion weeks like Paris, New York and Tokyo, it generates huge revenues,” he added. “So you mustn’t just dismiss all of that and say, ‘That belongs to the old world, let’s stop that.’ You have to be mindful of that, and finding a balance is a major endeavor that will require precision and care.”

Arnault said brands would likely no longer fly editors to spectacular locations for one-off shows. “We have probably reached the end of a cycle and the end of a system,” he said.

Although he deemed it too early to predict the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on revenues at LVMH, which saw sales drop 15 percent in the first quarter, Arnault was confident the luxury sector would recover.

“Luxury has just gone through a major upheaval, since close to 70 percent of our stores were closed for more than two months. It’s the first time we’ve been faced with a storm of this magnitude,” he said.

“I can’t speak for luxury in general. What I can tell you is that the LVMH group is starting to see signs of recovery, in particular in the Asian countries which came out of lockdown before us, and here in France, the last two-and-a-half weeks have been rather reassuring and encouraging,” he added.

The notoriously private executive also revealed that the coronavirus pandemic has forced him to postpone his planned wedding to Russian model Natalia Vodianova in June. The couple, who have been together for 10 years, had planned to tie the knot in France.

“We had planned a wedding with our friends and to have a beautiful party in a month, but we prefer to wait and postpone it rather than have a masked ball,” he said, in a wry reference to the face masks that are de rigueur in most French stores. “We’re going to get married next year.”

Arnault said Vodianova had fallen ill at the beginning of their confinement in the French countryside, although it turned out she didn’t have the coronavirus. “It was a little scary at first,” he confessed.

Speaking of masks, expect to see some designer versions soon from LVMH, whose brands also include Fendi, Loewe, Kenzo and Marc Jacobs. 

“It’s true that they are becoming fashion items like any other, so yes — we haven’t done it yet, but I think we’re going to do it,” Arnault said.

LVMH converted some of its production facilities to make non-surgical masks and hand sanitizer during France’s lockdown, in addition to procuring millions of medical masks for French health-care workers.

Responding to a pop culture quiz, Arnault also gave some light-hearted insight into how he spent his confinement, revealing that he has been listening to Seventies-era French musical “Starmania” and playing the Nina Simone classic “My Baby Just Cares for Me” on the piano.

Asked to name his favorite movie couple, Arnault chose Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in “Notting Hill,” saying he identified with the British actor’s bumbling librarian character.

“When my partner and I started dating, I felt a bit like a little librarian from London,” quipped Arnault, whose father Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chairman and chief executive officer, is the world’s fourth richest man, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Asked to name a style icon, he opted for Sergio Loro Piana, founder of the Italian luxury cashmere label acquired by LVMH in 2013, and of which he is chairman.

Arnault neatly sidestepped a question about his favorite luxury brand that does not belong to LVMH, naming Italian luxury boat-maker Riva. Pressed by host Yann Barthès, he also cited Off-White, the luxury streetwear label founded by Virgil Abloh, the creative director of men’s wear at LMVH’s star brand Louis Vuitton, as well as Italian hat-maker Borsalino, which was acquired by private equity group Haeres Equita in 2018.