Antoine Arnault

PARIS — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton does not plan on getting involved in the secondhand market, according to Antoine Arnault, head of image and environment for the French luxury group, who spoke to WWD international editor Miles Socha at Fairchild Media Group’s Sustainability Summit on a range of topics, including live fashion shows, sustainability rankings and cooperating with competitors.

“It’s definitely a business that’s been thriving, as we see and read, but as I was just mentioning, we have such long-lasting products and we repair them, we for the moment will stick to that and proposing as beautiful new products, as creative and thrilling new collections as we can,” he said.

“For the moment we will stay away from that secondhand market,” added Arnault.

Read more stories from the sustainability summit by clicking here.

The secondhand market has been heating up lately and Kering earlier this month revealed an investment in luxury resale platform Vestiaire Collective, a company that has embraced data and digital means for global expansion.

Arnault instead emphasized his company’s focus on repairing products, and characterized his group’s focus on fashion that lasts as opposed to fast-fashion.

“Our products are very long-lasting,” he asserted, suggesting that the company produces things “in very small quantities” and offers products that one should “never throw away.”

“I don’t think we have anything to do with this fast-cycle industry, we have long-lasting very ‘durable products,’” he said, drawing on an argument often employed in the high-end industry in response to questions about the environmental impact of activities.

LVMH is expanding repair services as a way to improve the lifespan of products, noted Arnault, who is also chief executive officer of Berluti, a brand that reshines shoes with a fresh patina after use.

When it comes to the issue of fashion shows, the executive said that the group had convened experts in the sector, including Marine Serre and Alexandre de Betak, to discuss issues around the future of luxury, including the necessity of fashion shows.

“As always, with these topics that seem simple, they are not,” he said. While bringing people across the planet for a cruise show was probably “a bit too much,” fashion weeks mean brisk business for hotels and restaurants, noted the executive.

“But even probably more importantly so, countless designers, young designers who have their only opportunity of the year or of the season to show what they do to buyers, to press, to opinion makers, to celebrities that will maybe pick on that one look that they have and suddenly become a success,” he said.

Still, the pandemic has brought lasting change to the sector’s approach, noted Arnault.

“We probably have reached the end of a cycle at the beginning of this pandemic and the end of a system in a way,” he remarked.

“We recognize that there was some sort of frenzy in the past few years and maybe we ourselves in a way have been swept into a whirlwind to always want to offer something extravagant and novel,” said Arnault.

Before, physical events came first, while their translation into the digital realm were thought up after, he noted.

“Now it’s the other way around — it completely shifted that paradigm.”

“However I do think that physical shows will absolutely continue,” he continued, suggesting that a lack of physical shows would benefit the biggest fashion houses.

“But that’s not the way we see it — we need also young designers to thrive and through fashion weeks do they thrive,” he said.

“Keeping these fashion shows alive, I think, is also a priority,” said Arnault.

Asked about the role of Stella McCartney since she joined the group in 2019, the executive described her as “our internal activist.”

“But she’s very open-minded and she doesn’t impose her views on everyone else, she works very intelligently with the rest of the designers and the rest of the teams, she is not selfish about her findings or her technology — she gives them away, it’s a sort of open source with her,” he said, citing her focus to upcycling and supply chains as an influence. Louis Vuitton offered upcycled sneakers this spring and Fendi is monitoring suppliers.

When it comes to policies on fur and exotic leathers, the group leaves it up to individual brands to make their own decisions, he said.

“When you address the issue seriously and when you talk to experts, it’s the sad truth that through commerce of these animal skins or animal furs, you manage to help to preserve the species,” he noted.

“It’s a sad fact, I’m not saying it’s something great, but it’s the scientific and the absolute truth,” he said.

“So we took the decision as a group — and I’m not saying it’s courageous and I’m not saying it’s any kind of bravery — but we took the decision to continue to help these economies, to help these people who often live only through the commerce of these animals and skin and to continue to propose them to our clients,” said Arnault.

Reflecting on the group’s efforts related to biodiversity, through Unesco’s ‘Man and the Biosphere’ program, the executive noted the group relies on materials from nature.

“Biodiversity and protection of nature’s ecosystems has always been at the heart of what we do,” he said. “We are are very reliant on nature and raw materials, probably more than any other group — I mean flowers with perfumes, vines for our wines and spirits, cotton, leather, stones, you name it, we depend — our future depends on the fact that nature continues to offer us its wonders,” he said.

When it comes to sustainability rankings, he said the group is not “obsessed” about them.

“There are more and more of these rankings, and while we take the matter very seriously as you can imagine and hold ourselves accountable for progress — the methodology of these rankings is sometimes not very transparent, and we strive to do our best efforts of transparency and publish the most relevant information,” he said.

“We feel very confident that we are taking the right track. I think in the long run we’re taking the right decision not to be obsessed by this or that ranking,” added Arnault.

Asked about cooperating with others in the industry — LVMH raised eyebrows for not signing up to the Fashion Pact, set up by Kering last year — the executive said there was “healthy emulation” in the sector on sustainability issues even as there is competition in other areas.

“On very important topics we see groups that unite sometimes and if it leads to good decisions, you saw we partnered up with the rest of the industry for the model charter for instance,” he said.

“We tend to cooperate more than people think with our competitors for the simple reason that we often have the same suppliers and we speak more often than people think with them, so trying to enhance best practices, create new standards, I think it’s important that we keep a good relationship.”

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