From its modest beginnings in the construction industry, Antoine Arnault’s father Bernard Arnault has built LVMH into the world’s largest luxury empire. However, the group that owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and dozens of other prestigious brands can be perceived as a distant giant. As a representative of the giant’s younger generation, Antoine, recently appointed to lead global communication for LVMH, feels responsible to change that dated perception. Sitting down with Jing Daily at a recent interview in Paris, he noted: “When I visit workshops, I am always touched by the genuine passion, vibrant energy and a strong sense of belonging and pride of our artisans. They are truly the soul of LVMH.”
So why not open the doors of Maisons and let these “backstage heroes” share their stories? In 2011, Antoine initiated Les Journées Particulières, a now-famous event that invited the public to step inside the design houses for the first time and interact with the artisans. Over 100,000 visitors turned up over two days. “I was happy to see people who are not our usual customers,” he says. “Some students came very early in the morning and waited for three hours to get in.”
This year, the fourth edition of Les Journées Particulières will take place from October 12 to 14. It’s going global, with 76 venues across four continents—and this time around features a particular marketing push towards Chinese consumers, who are making up an expanding slice of LVMH’s business. In the first quarter of 2018, LVMH reported a 13 percent rise in sales over the year-earlier quarter and specifically cited Chinese demand as the reason for the faster-than-expected growth.
At the recent launch event in Paris, we caught up with Antoine, who continues his roles as Chairman of Italian knitwear brand Loro Piana and CEO of menswear house Berluti, to understand why the event is special and in particular how it is targeting Chinese who are keen to savor luxury and culture.
1. What can Chinese visitors expect from Les Journées Particulières 2018?
For our Chinese guests, it will be a perfect opportunity to see who, where and how our products are made. “Event in event” surprises await them too, such as live performances, film screenings, and even unexpected encounters. Imagine when they are at the perfume workshop of Maison Francis Kurkdjian and suddenly the master perfumer comes in. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear him talk about his inspirations and approach to perfume making? And how about having a drink with our artisans?
2. How are you reaching out to, or accommodating, your Chinese guests in particular?
We will facilitate Chinese visitors to enjoy Les Journées Particulières, with the event app in Chinese and Chinese-speaking guides at some key sites. A series of podcasts including candid conversations and sound tours with our artisans will also be released, to enrich the experience.
3. How can they participate?
Everyone is welcome and there is absolutely no barrier to entry. I want to emphasize again that it is not for clients or VIPs.
Interested visitors can create an online profile from September 13 on and register between September 24 and 30 to reserve a fast pass. Last time, tickets for Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior visits got snapped up in less than one minute. Of course, they could also come spontaneously but maybe queue for a few hours. We expect over 150,000 visitors this year.
4. There are many visit options, ranging from iconic sites like Christian Dior’s Parisian maison to hidden gems like a floating palace in Venice and vineyards in the Andes of Argentina. Which one would you recommend?
Whichever brands they enjoy, they can go visit and experience luxury and culture on a whole new level. For example, on Friday morning they can go to Givenchy’s Haute Couture salon in Paris and then take the train to visit the Champagne vineyards in the afternoon. Since many Chinese will travel abroad near the Golden Week, they should not miss this golden opportunity!
Speaking from my heart, I would suggest Berluti. At Berluti’s bespoke shoes workshop, Chinese guests could explore the art of patina (coloring and bleaching leather techniques that give each Berluti shoe a distinctive identity) and meet our master shoemakers. I know them personally and some have been working there for over 30 years. Once they even created “Shanghai night” style Berluti.
If someone orders a pair of Berluti shoes today, he has to wait over a year to receive it. But people don’t mind and our bookings are always full. I am against this “see now, buy now” shopping model. For me, it kills luxury. At Berluti, we let the craftsmen take the time and patience to craft each pair to the finest quality. I hope through this visit, people will appreciate that true craftsmanship takes time.
5. Do you plan to open up venues in China?
Many people think we only sell in China and there is nothing to see, but we do have some intriguing places such as a Chandon winery in Ningxia, northwestern China. Long daylight hours, well-irrigated soil and a protected environment make it ideal for growing grapes. Since 2013, we have been blending age-old French savoir-faire with Chinese modernity to make sparkling wine that is slightly sweet and a good partner with Chinese cuisine. However, there are some concerns such as the long travel distance from major cities to Ningxia. So we are still assessing the best possibilities.
6. What is LVMH’s specific approach to marketing in China?
We don’t do marketing the way people think. There are no market or trends studies. We don’t think “okay, Chinese like red. Let’s do something red.” We trust our designers to create products that connect with our customers and we give them that creative freedom. What we do is to place products beautifully in the stores and plan some campaigns around what they create.
In mid-June, we chose Shanghai to host our first “DARE” initiative outside Europe. The internal call for ideas went to nearly 6000 employees in the Asia-Pacific region and eventually, 60 were selected to turn the ideas into business plans. Three winning ideas are going to be implemented, including customizing luxury goods in a sustainable way.