PARIS — Unraveling the ramifications and potential of “new luxury,” charting opportunities in emerging fashion frontiers like India and continuing to unearth promising design talents, whether in London or New Delhi, are among the projects Concetta Lanciaux looks forward to in her new career post-LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
“The idea of retiring is not an existing possibility for me,” she said with a chuckle. “I find myself full of energy.”
As reported Tuesday, Lanciaux, the longtime pillar of the French group’s human resources department and a key adviser to LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault for more than two decades, is retiring from the firm effective in March. She will set up her own strategic consultancy — with Groupe Arnault as her first client. (At LVMH, Lanciaux will be succeeded by Chantal Gaemperlé, who joins as director of human resources from Nestlé.)
In an exclusive interview at her spare office at LVMH headquarters on Avenue Montaigne here, Lanciaux provided a glimpse of her plans and reflected on her career at LVMH.
With Concetta Lanciaux Advisory, based in Paris, the executive plans to continue working with Arnault, and hopes to work with a range of other companies as well on a worldwide basis, with a particular interest in aiding midsize firms in Italy “whose potential is not yet completely explored.”
A native of the Puglia region of Italy, Lanciaux has deep affection for and expertise about her native country, sensing its fashion industry is emerging from crisis and adopting a more global perspective. “There generally is a more positive feeling in Italy than two years ago,” she said.
Lanciaux said several Italian firms have approached her, but she declined to identify other clients until contracts are signed.
Reflecting on her stint at LVMH, during which she was viewed as one of fashion’s most powerful recruiters, Lanciaux said she cherished the opportunity to work closely with Arnault, whom she described as a “visionary” and a “risk taker.”
For example, in the mid-Nineties, Arnault immediately understood the potential when Lanciaux proposed a trio of American designers — Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and Narciso Rodriguez — to take up the creative reins of Louis Vuitton, Celine and Loewe, respectively. “That was quite revolutionary,” said the executive, who’s clad in a chocolate brown Kenzo suit with touches of ethnic embroidery. “This is the great strength of the group.”
She noted Arnault also gave her the freedom to recruit managers from outside sectors like fast-moving consumer goods, including the likes of Alain Lorenzo, who came from Procter & Gamble to head Parfums Givenchy.
Lanciaux was hired by Arnault, pre-LVMH, in 1985 — “his second employee,” she pointed out — from Intel, where she had been director of organizational development in Europe. As Arnault assembled his vast constellation of luxury brands — from Dom Perignon and Guerlain to Donna Karan — Lanciaux played a vital role not only in integrating the h.r. function into LVMH, but in bringing professionalism to luxury, which was scarcely viewed as an industry in the early days.
She also helped forge LVMH’s unique structure, which values creative autonomy for brands, while at the same time cultivating operating synergies, knowledge-sharing across various labels and business groups and a culture of innovation and creativity.
Lanciaux credits an unwavering, long-term focus on each brand’s DNA for LVMH’s success in the industry, even as it occasionally toys with co-branding, such as Emilio Pucci packaging for Veuve Clicquot Champagne.
Lanciaux described the “new luxury” phenomenon as one of today’s most important trends, in which design and fashion become increasingly democratized thanks to players like H&M, Zara and Topshop. “If [people] cannot afford luxury, they buy things that cost less, but at the same time have a sense of comfort, but stylish,” she explained. “The question is, ‘To what extent can we take from them in luxury without losing DNA?’
“We must not be afraid of this. On the contrary, these will be our future customers.”
Chief among Lanciaux’s missions is keeping European firms at the forefront of luxury in the face of globalization, outsourcing and intense competition from other price segments.
Having recently traveled to India, Lanciaux is also keen to help her clients navigate a market she said offers immediate potential for luxury goods, given the strong value attached to social life and a deep appreciation for beautiful things.
“This is a country that has a real sense of luxury, but it is their own luxury, not ours,” she said. “We’re going to have to work with them.”
Among her immediate projects is penning a book, whose theme will be “recognizing talent.” She bemoaned the fact that Europe lacks such high-profile events as the Oscars and Emmys.
Meanwhile, Lanciaux plans to keep up her accumulation of global “market intelligence” and to continue attending fashion shows around the world in search of tomorrow’s design stars.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy coming up from the design world,” she said. In particular, Lanciaux detects a fresh momentum in London and views India as a future talent pool. “I give them two or three years,” she said, mentioning such promising names as Shahab Durazi and Rohit Bal.
“There are new frontiers. I definitely don’t want to stop,” she said, flashing a big smile. “It’s a new era, just like when I started.”