How to make LEGACY A PATH TO THE FUTURE: A CONVERSATION WITH DELPHINE ARNAULT, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF LOUIS VUITTON
We discussed with Delphine Arnault, Executive Vice President of Louis Vuitton and EDHEC graduate on the LVMH Prize, about her family’s legacy, how to navigate leadership in an ever-changing environment and asked her what makes her confident about the future.
The Jean Arnault Campus has officially opened. How do you feel about passing on to EDHEC students a part of your family history and heritage?
Delphine Arnault: I have very fond memories of my student years at EDHEC: it’s great to see the bond between my family and alma mater grow stronger. The Campus – named after my grandfather and located in his construction company’s former offices – is a testament to my family’s deep roots in the Nord. My great-grandfather, grandfather and father all started their entrepreneurial careers right here. Their entrepreneurial spirit was passed down from generation to generation, like a family heirloom. Today, I’m very proud to see this legacy alive and bustling, on the front of a building ready to welcome young entrepreneurs and host their dreams.
Entrepreneurship isn’t just a family heirloom, it’s a founding pillar of your Group, LVMH.
D.A.: Absolutely, this defining spirit has become ingrained in our Group’s DNA and it is one of the core values of LVMH, along with excellence, creativity and innovation. That’s what led me to create the LVMH Prize back in 2013, a celebration of creativity and entrepreneurship in fashion, open to up-and-coming designers from all over the world. Marine Serre and Simon Porte Jacquemus are among our past laureates; Virgil Abloh was a finalist. This year we received a record number of applications for the Prize from more than 1,900 talents from 110 countries. Legacy is a driving force when we do things that make sense for us and look in others for shared traits and values.
"Legacy is a driving force when we do things that make sense for us and look in others for shared traits and values."
How does LVMH find, attract and develop new talents?
D.A.: As a leader, we see this as an utmost responsibility. The Group has developed many initiatives to inspire, nurture and empower young talents.
"As a leader, we see this as an utmost responsibility. The Group has developed many initiatives to inspire, nurture and empower young talents."
Aside from the LVMH Prize, one of these is L’Institut des Métiers d’Excellence (IME), a vocational training programme, launched in 2014, designed to pass on our exceptional savoir-faire to young generations. The IME enhances the apprentices’ employability while preserving the craftsmanship and creative skills that lie at the heart of our appeal. 1,400 talents have already completed the programme. Another key initiative is INSIDE LVMH. Since 2016, thanks to this programme, many students have deep dived into our ecosystem of 75 Maisons and got to know us from the inside. In March 2021, we launched the INSIDE LVMH Platform, an educational online platform with a wealth of information on LVMH and the luxury sector, so that students can better understand the reality of our business, its opportunities and challenges. We believe that sharing who we are and what makes us special is our best argument to attract like-minded talents. 75 Maisons, that’s 75 incredibly rich legacies carried on by incredible artisans. This is a treasure worth sharing if we want those legacies to thrive and continue to inspire.
You are committed to improving the representation of women in key positions. How do you support this ambition?
D.A.: Back in 2007, we launched EllesVMH, a comprehensive set of initiatives to encourage the professional development of women in all positions and at every level of the organisation. Since its inception, the proportion of women in key positions has risen from 23% to 44% in 2021. Our ambition is to reach gender parity in top management positions by 2025 at the latest. 16 of our Maisons are already led by women.
"Our ambition is to reach gender parity in top management positions by 2025 at the latest. 16 of our Maisons are already led by women."
We also set up the online community Shero, of which I am a sponsor, where the Group’s women can share their stories and experiences. It’s a place for discussion, collaboration and guidance, a place where new opportunities are invented. Our Shero community is already 46,000 members strong and growing. Of course, men can also join Shero and participate: we’re all actors of change. Inspiring and empowering women is essential to our success: women make up 71% of our employees and 80% of our customers, they are the driving force of LVMH.
How would you define female leadership?
D.A.: I wouldn’t. Good leadership is genderless. Great leaders share a lot of the same traits: they have a strong strategic vision, great optimism, they are open-minded, forward-thinking, empathetic to their collaborators’ and customers’ needs. Gendering leadership is sterile. A better conversation is the push for gender equality in top management. And more broadly, for better diversity and representation in our teams. Not only is diversity a tremendous source of complementary skills and wealth, it’s also a strong driver of creativity, innovation and performance. Year after year, LVMH reaffirms its commitment to inclusion and diversity in all its forms. We are constantly working on fostering a corporate culture that sees and values the uniqueness of our talents, a culture where every person – regardless of their gender, origins, beliefs or sexual orientation – has equal opportunities to thrive. Fashion has always been about empowerment and celebrating individuality. It’s high time our corporate structure reflected this commitment.
"We are constantly working on fostering a corporate culture that sees and values the uniqueness of our talents, a culture where every person – regardless of their gender, origins, beliefs or sexual orientation – has equal opportunities to thrive."
What are some of the Group’s major CSR challenges?
D.A.: At the heart of our corporate social responsibility lies the will to make a positive impact on society and on the environment, while perpetuating our ancestral heritage and savoir-faire. As a global leader, we have a responsibility to drive environmental and social progress wherever we operate. Our clients, our collaborators, and the public expect us to take a stand, to do what’s right. On a more personal level, I believe this is what being an entrepreneur means: looking for means to impact positively, to leave a trace. That’s what’s been passed on to me.
"As a global leader, we have a responsibility to drive environmental and social progress wherever we operate."
These past two years have been particularly challenging. From the start of the pandemic, we’ve wanted to play our part. That’s why LVMH quickly converted several perfume manufacturing facilities to produce hand sanitizer, given free of charge to French authorities and hospitals. Moreover, the Group donated five million euros to L’Institut Pasteur de Lille to support the research for a cure for Covid-19. LVMH also helped bring L’Institut des vocations pour l’emploi (LIVE) to life, financing the creation of three LIVE facilities in Clichy-sous-Bois, Valence and now in Roubaix, on the Jean Arnault Campus. The purpose of LIVE is to help adults in difficulty to build a professional project that meets their aspirations. Furthermore, we recently launched the LVMH Heart Fund, a fund intended to support all of our employees throughout the world. It helps employees facing a serious and sudden personal situation by providing them with emergency financial assistance and dedicated social and psychological support.
How do you tackle environmental issues?
D.A.: Businesses are at the frontline of the most critical challenge of our time. There, too, LVMH strives for excellence. The Group and its 75 Maisons are all committed to sustainable luxury: sustainable sourcing of raw resources, eco-design, use of recycled material, reduced packaging, switching to greener sources of energy and modes of transportation. Nothing is off the table when it comes to reducing the footprint of our activities. LVMH is home to a lot of creative people. We tap into their collective intelligence to identify disruptive solutions and boost sustainability through the entire life cycle of our products. At Louis Vuitton, we call this process “circular creativity”. Not only are Louis Vuitton products built to last for a very long time, they go through an extensive eco-design phase. Every step of the way, we ask ourselves how we can be more efficient, how we can do better.
"We tap into their collective intelligence to identify disruptive solutions and boost sustainability through the entire life cycle of our products."
This is the legacy we want to push forward: that of a Group capable of transforming without ever compromising on what makes us unique. Legacy is not the past, it is an engine to shape our future.
- 1998 • Graduated from EDHEC Business School
- 1998 • Graduated from the London School of Economics
- 1998 • Joined McKinsey
- 2001 • Joined Christian Dior Couture
- 2003 • Joined the Board of Directors of LVMH
- 2008 • Appointed Deputy Managing Director of Christian Dior Couture
- 2013 • Appointed Vice President of Louis Vuitton, in charge of all product- related activities
- 2014 • Initiated the launch of the LVMH Prize
- 2016 • Joined the Board of Directors of Ferrari
- 2019 • Joined the LVMH Executive Committee
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