MILAN — “Italy has a special place in my heart,” said Antoine Arnault in Milan on Friday. Blessed by a sunny summer day in the garden of the Bulgari Hotel, the president of Loro Piana and chief executive officer of Berluti was in town for a lunch event to present the fourth edition of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Les Journées Particulières, taking place Oct. 12 to 24. Offering a taste of the “open days” event, artisans at a few banquettes peppering the garden showed how an Acqua di Parma flaçon was engraved or a Berluti shoe stitched.
“We have very strong roots in Italy and we are committed to deepen these roots even more,” said Arnault, the son of business titan and LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault. “To give you a ratio, there are almost 10,000 LVMH employees in Italy and 30,000 in France, and there 200 stores, 20 industrial sites and ateliers here — and not only working for Italian brands. Many French brands come here to get the best know-how,” he explained, while ticking of the six Italian brands under the LVMH umbrella, which include Acqua di Parma, Bulgari, Cova, Emilio Pucci, Fendi and Loro Piana, as well as Berluti, whose founder was Italian. In addition, LVMH last year inked a joint venture with Marcolin, setting up a state-of-the-art eyewear manufacturing plant in Longarone, a one-hour drive outside Venice. “We are Franco-Italian,” Arnault said with a smile.
Addressing Pier Luigi Loro Piana, flanked by Loro Piana ceo Fabio d’Angelantonio, Arnault said that the acquisition of Loro Piana in 2013 had “been an incredible adventure. It’s also “the right symbol” of how a family-owned company realized it needed a structure to sustain and help continue its growth “while keeping profound roots and values, adding a feel of a slight modernity, in the store for example, investing in retail and the product. We are very proud to have been chosen” by the Loro Piana family.
Arnault, who founded Les Journées Particulières in 2011, was clearly proud of the event, which allows the firm to show the group’s know how to the public, beyond its financial results. “The first time, when I saw the lines in the early morning, with families, older people who took the train from far away, little boys, little girls, it was a very moving moment,” he reminisced, noting that LVMH expected 30,000 people at the most, but it was attended by 100,000. “I witnessed the interaction between the people and the pride in the eyes of the craftspeople, who tell a story but nobody witnesses it, how passionate they are, and this could inspire people who might think they have a vocation. This is not very Millennial, not social network — you see it yourself, not through a screen,” he said, mimicking touching a smartphone.
While focused on Les Journées Particulières, asked about the performance of the group, Arnault said that it was “very positive,” and emphasized how a differentiated pool of brands and balanced geographic markets were factors that could help overcome any potential crisis. “The results of the first two quarters were very good and the trend continues,” Arnault said. “Online sales grow more than the rest, but we continue to invest in retail because nothing can replace the store and the experience, touching and feeling the products, and online is a service to the client.”
He did not comment on any other potential acquisitions for the group and, asked about the position of the Ferragamo family, who has reiterated there are no plans to sell the Salvatore Ferragamo firm, following ongoing rumors about a potential divestiture, Arnault said he agreed with the Ferragamos. “They are right about this,” he said.
In Italy, there will be 11 Maisons and 14 locations participating at Les Journées Particulières, of which six are appearing for the first time, such as the storied Cova pastry shop; the Milan Sephora flagship; the DFS T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, and Thélios. Laudomia Pucci, vice president and image director of Emilio Pucci; Gabriella Scarpa, president of LVMH Italia,Thélios chairman and ceo Giovanni Zoppas, and Paola Faccioli, ceo of Cova, were among the executives present at the event, together with Fendi chairman and ceo Serge Brunschwig, who said the company for the event will stage an exhibition at its Palazzo della Civiltà headquarters that will extend to Nov. 4.
For the first time, eight street artists from Rome will interpret the word “graffiti” with their own style by writing the word inside eight world maps. A wall will be dedicated to graffiti art where the master artisans of the Fur Atelier will create a one-of-a-kind fur graffiti-inspired inlayed tablet using discarded material. Visitors will have the possibility to actively participate by drawing their own graffiti on the wall, and will be invited to take selfies and go viral. There will be a night performance showing artists painting with fluorescent spray and giving life to unique colorful works of art contrasting with the stately and linear architecture and statues of Fendi’s Palazzo. The intention is to draw schools and young students to the exhibition. “It’s very important to offer this to young people who are facing unemployment, who sometimes feel their [life and work] options are curbed and to help them desire and aspire to become artisans,” said Brunschwig.