VERSAILLES, France — Designers, executives, perfumers, chefs and hoteliers were among the representatives of the French luxury industry who gathered at the Château de Versailles on Monday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Comité Colbert.
This story first appeared in the November 4, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The French luxury goods association marked the occasion with a daylong event that included an awards ceremony, guided tours and a lunch buffet catered by the likes of Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy and Pierre Hermé — all of whom were in attendance.
“This is the only country in the world capable of gathering brands symbolizing excellence in so many different fields of activity,” Élisabeth Ponsolle des Portes, president and chief executive officer of the Comité Colbert, told WWD.
The 70 industry leaders present included Sidney Toledano, ceo of Christian Dior; Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel, and Guillaume de Seynes, managing director at Hermès, all of whom sit on the executive committee of the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode.
They were joined by Pierre Hardy, Lorenz Bäumer, Hervé Van der Straeten, Berluti ceo Antoine Arnault, Chloé chairman and ceo Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, Longchamp ceo Jean Cassegrain, Parfums Givenchy global president Thierry Maman, Leonard founder and president Daniel Tribouillard and Rochas perfumer Jean-Michel Duriez, among others.
Historians took guests on tours of lesser-known areas like the upper-floor apartment of Madame du Barry. Hardy had the opulent Hall of Mirrors all to himself. “I arrived just when there was nobody there. I was all alone,” he marveled. “It’s like being inside a jewel — it’s both huge and extremely precious.”
Ponsolle des Portes said the location was chosen in honor of the committee’s namesake, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, controller general of finance under Louis XIV, the Sun King.
“When Louis XIV and Colbert built Versailles, they called on the most contemporary artists of the time. They didn’t build a medieval castle, they built a modern castle. In the same way, we are launching into the 21st century with the power of these historic roots,” she explained.
The executive began the festivities by unveiling a Web site, dreaming2074.com, specially created for the occasion.
Members of the organization sketched out their vision of French luxury 60 years from now and entrusted their ideas to six French science-fiction writers and a composer, who wrote six short stories and a musical composition available for free on the site.
Samantha Bailly’s story “Facets,” for instance, focuses on a neuroscientist-turned-fashion designer who develops a fabric that mirrors our emotions. “It explores the question of transparency and opacity toward others in a society where increasingly we are moving toward a sort of staging of the private sphere,” the author said.
After lunch in the gilded surroundings of the castle’s ground floor, France’s Ministry of Culture awarded the insignia of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres to eight artisans. They included Josefa Maria Pedralva-Signes, pattern designer at Lanvin; Eric Leroux, leather goods and trunk maker at Louis Vuitton; Vincent Garnichey, head of the leather goods workshop at S.T. Dupont; Jeffrey Brett Leatham, floral designer and artistic director of the George V hotel, and Christophe Michalak, pastry chef at the Plaza Athénée hotel.
Toledano said the gathering was significant because it brought all the leading French luxury houses together for a common purpose.
“What is important is the spirit of collaboration in this committee, beyond the issues we tackle together, such as the defense of French luxury and know-how or intellectual property rights,” he said. “In living memory, there has never been the slightest problem of competitive tensions. We leave that outside.”