PARIS — Hedi Slimane has no desire to launch his own brand, but another star designer within the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton luxury conglomerate could soon unveil a label under their own name.
That was among the key takeaways of a speech by Sidney Toledano, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Fashion Group, at the Vogue Fashion Festival, which kicked off its third edition in Paris on Friday.
The executive was responding to a question about whether Hedi Slimane, Clare Waight Keller or Guillaume Henry — respectively creative directors of Celine, Givenchy and Jean Patou, three of the brands under Toledano’s purview — have approached him with requests to launch their own labels.
“None of the ones you just mentioned — others, at other times,” Toledano replied. “Not everyone wants to have their name on a shopping bag.”
Critics of Slimane’s debut collection for Celine, noting his unwavering commitment to a consistent style aesthetic, have questioned in recent weeks why the designer does not launch his own house. In an exclusive written statement to Loïc Prigent’s TV program “52 Minutes de Mode,” aired on Oct. 31, Slimane dismissed the idea.
“It absolutely doesn’t interest me. My name is exclusively for photography. Fashion is all about the big French houses only. As time goes on, I am becoming increasingly chauvinistic,” said the designer.
By contrast, Nicolas Ghesquière, artistic director for women’s wear at Louis Vuitton, LVMH’s largest brand, has hinted several times that he would like to launch his own label. In an appearance on French TV program “Quotidien” on Oct. 4, shortly after his spring 2019 show, the designer said the issue was “more topical than ever.”
When host Yann Barthès suggested that Ghesquière’s recent contract renewal with Vuitton included a provision allowing him to launch his own brand, Ghesquière declined to answer but smiled. Pressed on the subject by Alina Cho during a talk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York last month, the designer would not say exactly when he might start his own label.
Without naming names, Toledano hinted that a launch was on the horizon. “I think that in the near future, it is not impossible that we will allow a designer — I won’t say anything — to launch their own brand also,” he said.
Regarding critical reaction to Slimane’s show, held on Sept. 28, Toledano said it was to be expected that Slimane would break with the style of his predecessor Phoebe Philo.
“There was never any question of Hedi carrying on with Phoebe’s vision — that much was obvious. Some journalists seemed surprised after the show by this lack of continuity. I think that rather than [showing] surprise, they had premeditated their criticism,” he added.
Toledano also shrugged off the notion that Slimane had been given total control over the brand, noting that Celine was not historically a couture house, and therefore more open to interpretation by different designers. “We are perfectly aligned and focused on the same objective,” he said.
“You have to be in total empathy with a designer and give him the means [to accomplish his objectives] because the designer has his vision, the attention to detail, but in order to execute it, he needs everything to be perfect, and it’s the role of a ceo to organize all of that,” he added.
Toledano was one of a cadre of LVMH leaders and creatives speaking at the event, which also featured talks by Givenchy’s Waight Keller, Rimowa ceo Alexandre Arnault and Virgil Abloh, creative director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton.
Nadja Swarovski, whose family-owned firm sponsored the conference, took part in a panel with Miren Arzalluz, director of the Palais Galliera fashion museum, and contemporary artist Xavier Veilhan. Printemps ceo Paolo de Cesare and Grégory Boutté, chief client and digital officer at Kering, were also among the speakers.
Waight Keller, who has worked at brands including Chloé, Calvin Klein and Gucci, confirmed that she has never been tempted to strike out on her own.
“I’ve never really thought about doing my own thing because I love being in a team of people,” she said. “There’s so much gained to be working with people, because the whole dialogue that you have back and forth just keeps things alive and interesting.”
The Givenchy designer said she tries to surround herself with eclectic thinkers.
“I don’t mind if they’re shy, because I can be quite a shy person sometimes, so I can understand that sometimes it takes time to kind of get things out of people, but I like an open-minded person, someone who looks not only at fashion, but lots of different aspects of the world, so who’s interested in furniture design, or architecture, or movies or technology. That’s really important to me, that they’re very well-rounded, and that they also are confident enough to actually give an opinion,” she said.
Waight Keller also revealed an aversion to old-school-style negative feedback. “It’s important to critique, but I believe in positive criticism,” she said. “I really don’t like it when people just criticize and just push you aside. I find that very disruptive and I just don’t think, in this particular moment that we’re in, that’s what it’s about.”
The British designer also gave a glimpse of the painstaking process of designing the gown for Meghan Markle’s wedding to Britain’s Prince Harry.
“It’s so hard to do a pure dress. It’s really, really difficult, because everything matters: just little adjustments, the fact that I just literally lifted the hem at the front two centimeters so it was like floating, so as she walked down you could just see her little shoes coming out,” she recalled. “The way everything sat was just considered to the tiniest detail.”
Since then, Waight Keller — who designs for women and men — has dressed Prince Harry on a number of occasions, including the recent wedding of Princess Eugenie.
“Traditionally, obviously, Savile Row is the place to go, but he was really quite interested to do something, I think because I’ve been working so much on tailoring and it’s a big part of the language of what I’ve been doing,” she said.
Abloh, meanwhile, discussed why he decided to take on the challenge of designing Vuitton in addition to his own label, Off-White, and his myriad collaborations with brands including Nike and Ikea. “To me, it’s only worth it if you’re bringing something new to the table,” he said.
A case in point was the transparent suitcase he designed for Rimowa — the first of its kind. Arnault said the luggage maker had recently produced a second run of the limited edition suitcase, but they were now sold out. “We’re already working on another idea, hopefully, that can come out, but I enjoy the process,” Abloh said.
He also appears in the first global advertising campaign for Rimowa, alongside tennis player Roger Federer, model Adwoa Aboah, jewelry designer Yoon Ahn and chef Nobu Matsuhisa. “It’s also quite natural for us, because Virgil travels more than anyone I know,” said Arnault, underlinining the importance of authenticity.
“One thing that I think we’re against now is the idea of doing advertising where you pick a celebrity, you put the celebrity next to a beautiful landscape, and you put a product, and basically you sell the story of, ‘Oh, if you buy this product, you will look like a celebrity.’ This is advertising 10, 15 years ago. Now I think it’s a lot more into being relevant and being legitimate also,” he said.
Arnault noted that Rimowa does not pay influencers to appear on social media with its luggage. “When they’re paid by brands, or whatever, it feels fake, and I feel like the influence then doesn’t really happen,” he explained. “The Internet is all about being organic now.”
However, he admitted Rimowa is not above promoting paparazzi shots of celebrities using its suitcases. “At the end of the day, if a consumer sees Angelina Jolie in LAX leaving her flight with a lot of Rimowas, it’s something that they’re touched by,” he said. “It’s complicated.”