PARIS — Embarking on a charitable project to match its global scale — and the speed and reach of today’s social networks — Louis Vuitton is partnering with the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, to help children in urgent need.
The luxury brand is mobilizing its 10,000 sales associates as advocates of a new designated fund that is to dispatch aid immediately following conflicts, humanitarian crises, natural disasters or diseases that threaten youngsters.
An inaugural fund-raising effort — the sixth biennial UNICEF Ball in Los Angeles on Jan. 12 — is to launch the effort, with Vuitton as the presenting sponsor. The event will be held in tandem with a digital campaign entitled #makeapromise involving the French brand’s ambassadors and other celebrities and influencers.
In addition, a special jewelry item, the Silver Lockit, is to go on sale Jan. 13 at all of Vuitton’s 460 stores and online, with $200 from each sale of the $500 item donated to UNICEF.
According to UNICEF, $200 is enough money to provide 45 mosquito nets to protect children from malaria; 25 fleece blankets to keep children warm in an emergency situation, or six first-aid kits sufficient to treat cuts, minor burns and offer immunizations against infection.
Disclosing the initiative exclusively to WWD, Vuitton chairman and chief executive officer Michael Burke said the fund leverages Vuitton’s global recognition and credibility, while giving its 20,000 employees a cause they can rally behind.
“It’s much more than corporate feel-good; it’s much more than writing a check or wiring some money. It’s a grassroots effort,” he said. “That’s the real force of the program: Getting 10,000 sales associates behind it, supporting it and pitching it.”
Burke said the brand’s design teams came up with the lock — used to secure the belongings in Vuitton clients’ trunks since 1890 – to symbolize protection.
The initial three-year partnership is expected to raise a minimum target of 2 million euros a year, or $2.2 million at current exchange rates.
According to Gérard Bocquenet, director of private fund-raising and partnerships at UNICEF, the partnership at Vuitton will help “shed light on silent emergencies that might not be in the public eye but affect children in a devastating and long-lasting way.”
Burke said crises require an immediate release of funds, and tend to spark an urgent wish to help, as was the case after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, during which several children lost parents and became orphans overnight, or last September when the image of a drowned Syrian boy washed ashore off the coast of Turkey called global attention to the mounting refugee crisis in Europe.
The UNICEF fund comes with an infrastructure allowing Vuitton to seize on surges in the propensity to donate, thereby maximizing the amount of aid that can be offered and dispersing it quickly, Burke said.
At the UNICEF ball, celebrities in attendance are to wear the Silver Lockit and introduce the “pinky promise” as a symbol of the new fund. Photographer Patrick Demarchelier is to capture the gesture on the red carpet. Among celebrities expected to attend are Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Connelly, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Xavier Dolan, Tao Okamoto, Carina Lau, Miranda Kerr and Vuitton’s newest celebrity ambassador, Léa Seydoux.
Vuitton staff can invite clients to make direct donations online throughout the year, with the impact multiplied on social media. Meanwhile, a viral campaign is to corral local celebrities, digital influencers, cultural figures and sport heroes to spread the word on social media.