PARIS — Chanel executive Bruno Pavlovsky was elected president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s governing body, at a meeting of its general assembly on Friday, succeeding Ralph Toledano in a carefully prepared handover signaling broad continuity at the helm of Paris Fashion Week.
In his first interview in his new role, Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS, praised his predecessor for helping to make Paris the capital of fashion. He plans to forge ahead with those efforts — but said members and sponsors of the federation will need to put more money on the table if they want to maintain the French capital’s leadership.
“The federation functions with a budget of around 5 million euros,” Pavlovsky told WWD. “That’s the amount we’ve been living on for the last three years. Today, the federation is sufficiently mature and professionally competent to progressively evolve to another level.”
The organization’s official partners are industry body DEFI, L’Oréal Paris and DS Automobiles, and it has a host of broadcasting, professional and events partners as well. Pavlovsky said any decision about increasing the budget would have to be taken collectively, but he flagged it as key to remaining competitive.
“Because the general context is rapidly changing, this evolution is crucial if we want Paris to remain the leader among fashion weeks,” he said.
Pavlovsky has been a member of the federation’s executive committee for 10 years, and was president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode Féminine, the governing body of women’s fashion in France, from 2014 to 2019. He takes on the presidency of the federation for a four-year term.
Toledano, who held the post since 2014, was no longer eligible for reelection and was named honorary president in Friday’s vote, which also designated a new executive committee and board of directors for a two-year term.
In addition to Pavlovsky, the executive committee consists of Saint Laurent’s Francesca Bellettini, Anouck Duranteau-Loper from Isabel Marant, Elsa Lanzo from Rick Owens, Guillaume de Seynes from Hermès, LVMH Fashion Group’s Sidney Toledano and Pascal Morand, executive president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode.
“My intention is not to revolutionize this governance, but on the contrary, to enrich it. It works very well today. The brands truly have a common vision,” said Pavlovsky. “Pascal is the director and operational manager of the federation. He’s there to implement the recommendations of the executive committee. My role is to steer the executive committee and make sure it tackles the right topics.”
Top of the agenda is boosting support for emerging designers; helping brands become more sustainable; evolving the federation’s digital platform, launched during the coronavirus pandemic when physical shows were canceled, and defending members’ interests both in Paris and in Brussels.
“The role of the federation is to create the right platform — not just a digital platform, but the best platform for brands to express themselves. But the federation is not going to tell brands what to do. I think that’s very important and very clear,” he said.
“Today the federation has to help brands navigate new topics such as sustainability and circularity, and to understand what is mandatory and what is not mandatory,” he said, referring to the French law against waste and for a circular economy introduced in 2020, which prohibits the destruction of unsold goods, among other measures.
“There will be future restrictions on the carbon footprint of fashion shows and products. It’s not easy to grapple with these issues, and obviously huge brands with ample revenues have an advantage compared to smaller brands with tighter budgets. The federation is a way to rally everyone around these issues, because the law is the same for all,” he said.
The launch last year of new digital tools to help brands at Paris Fashion Week measure the environmental impact of their shows and collections has helped to sensitize houses to the issues, but Pavlovsky reiterated that the federation was not there to impose any rules. “That’s why we won’t be reporting any data,” he said.
“It’s up to the brands to do the work. I think new brands and new generations are naturally sensitive to these issues, so I’m quite optimistic that it will be relatively fast, but you can’t expect overnight change. It will take three to five years for this to become common practice for fashion shows,” Pavlovsky added.
Chanel has championed Paris as the capital of creativity and capital of fashion, lobbying for its competitors to once again rally behind Paris Fashion Week after a period that saw a number of major labels, including Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Celine, break away to show on their own schedule.
The French luxury brand recently opened a hub for specialty workshops on the outskirts of the city, is sponsoring the renovation of the Grand Palais, and financed a new space for permanent exhibitions at the Palais Galliera, the fashion museum of Paris.
Pavlovsky reiterated that it was important that the top players rally around the city’s key events, which are the women’s and men’s ready-to-wear shows and haute couture weeks.
“These fashion weeks have an impact because there’s a strength and an organization, and we must not lose that. That’s really up to the federation. Having said that, there are also times when brands want to make a statement on their own, and I don’t have an issue with that. It’s not either one or the other. You can do both,” he said.
Pavlovsky also noted the importance of working hand-in-hand with the Institut Français de la Mode, the fashion school born from the 2019 merger of the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and France’s IFM management school in a bid to rival the likes of Central Saint Martins in London.
He remarked that Paris had been less present internationally during the pandemic than its main three competitors, New York City, Milan and London, adding that better funding would enable it to be more visible abroad.
Pavlovsky welcomed the creation of the European Fashion Alliance, which groups 21 national and regional fashion councils from 18 countries, including France. “It’s crucial. We can’t be isolated. In order to be heard in Brussels, we need to coordinate our actions on key topics,” he said.