Signaling the first rift between the luxury rivals since they signed a joint charter in 2017 setting out industry standards to protect models, Antoine Arnault said on Friday that LVMH disagrees with Kering’s decision to stop hiring models between the ages of 16 and 18 to represent adults.
“We will not be following suit. We are sticking to our position,” said Arnault, head of communication and image of LVMH.
“Two years ago, we signed this charter, which in my opinion is very balanced and which contained significant advances for models aged 16 to 18,” he said, noting the new rules required models under 18 to be accompanied by a chaperone at all times, and brands to provide return transport for any model working after 8 p.m.
The charter also placed an outright ban on working with size-zero and under-16 models. Arnault said LVMH had consulted child psychologists and felt it was safe to employ models between the ages of 16 and 18, noting that they represent only a handful of models in a typical catwalk show.
Kaia Gerber, for instance, began her career at 16 walking for brands including LVMH-owned Marc Jacobs. Now 17, the daughter of veteran supermodel Cindy Crawford appears in spring ads for Fendi, which is also part of the French luxury conglomerate, alongside labels such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy.
“Let’s not kid ourselves: It’s not because one group bans these models that they will stop working. On the contrary, we provide them with a protected environment, so I am totally against this ban on models aged under 18,” Arnault told reporters on the sidelines of the Viva Technology conference in Paris.
“We consider it almost a responsibility to continue working with them,” added the executive, who attended the event with his partner, model Natalia Vodianova.
Kering announced the ban on Wednesday to coincide with the opening of the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, where Kering chairman and chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault was a keynote speaker.
“As a global luxury group, we are conscious of the influence exerted on younger generations in particular by the images produced by our houses. We believe that we have a responsibility to put forward the best possible practices in the luxury sector and we hope to create a movement that will encourage others to follow suit,” Pinault said.
The Kering boss also called for fashion firms to band together on sustainability issues. Pinault was formally mandated by French President Emmanuel Macron in April to create a coalition of companies to make concrete commitments to protect biodiversity, fight climate change and preserve oceans ahead of the G7 summit in Biarritz in August.
Asked on Friday whether LVMH would join the initiative, the group’s chairman and ceo Bernard Arnault skirted the question.
“From what I understood, it’s an initiative that concerns fashion, and you know that LVMH is a little bit a fashion group, but it’s also a lot of other things, so we are more globally concerned with protecting the environment and sustainability with respect to all of our activities,” he said.
“We were the first — more than 25 years ago — to create an environmental division that is in charge of all these issues, for example, in the manufacturing and distribution of our Champagnes, and of perfumes and cosmetics, so we have had a much more global approach to all of these problems for a very long time,” the luxury boss added.