Much like Hollywood, the fashion industry notoriously takes a “family-friendly” approach to operating. From 90s supermodels spawning A-List fashion icons to wealthy CEOs paving the way for their children to become fashion designers and models, the industry is riddled with stories surrounding fashion’s elite and their favoritism. Luxury house Dior’s recent structural shift has yielded even more conversation concerning the buzzing topic of nepotism in fashion.
From Riches to Riches
Christian Dior Couture is a European luxury fashion house worth over $50 billion. The company is controlled by the hundred billion-dollar conglomerate Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, better known as LVMH.
Dior [is believed to] remain one of the fastest growing brands in the LVMH portfolio…
In addition to Christian Dior, LVMH owns five other specialized luxury companies including Tiffany & Co., Sephora, and Fendi. In totality, the assets of LVMH are worth over €430 billion, or $460 billion, earning the parent company’s status as the largest fashion conglomerate in the world.
Recently Dior came under fire for their hiring practices when Bernard Arnault, LVMH head and recent successor to Elon Musk for the title of the world’s richest man, appointed his 47-year-old daughter, Delphine Arnault, to CEO of Dior.
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Delphine, who is Mr. Arnault’s eldest daughter, had previously held the position of Executive Vice President at Louis Vuitton, another LVMH company, since 2013. Coincidentally, she succeeds Pietro Beccari, who will be moving to Louis Vuitton as CEO after heading Dior since 2018.
This managerial swap is especially significant for the multibillion-dollar parent company whose growth projections aren’t expected to slow anytime soon. And despite negative attention resulting from this blatantly nepotistic promotion, Dior’s value is also predicted to increase.
A Penny for the Public’s Thoughts
In a recent interview, RBC Capital Markets analyst Piral Dadhania spoke with Business of Fashion (BOF) stating that, “Dior [is believed to] remain one of the fastest growing brands in the LVMH portfolio in the next four to five years.”
Fashion’s continuing culture of unpaid internships [only] allows those with the financial ability and adequate networks to get ahead.
In a statement to BOF, Mr. Arnault underlines his decision with Delphine’s previous financial success at Louis Vuitton stating that, “Under [her] leadership, the desirability of Louis Vuitton products advanced significantly, enabling the brand to regularly set new sales records,”
Delphine is just one of Mr. Arnault’s five children who have held management roles within his luxury empire. However, her newest position is the most powerful of any delegated to the second generation of Arnaults thus far.
Her responsibilities are most comparable to her brother Antoine’s role as CEO of Christian Dior SE, the holding company through which the family controls LVMH. The remainder of her younger siblings lead specified market sectors or smaller brands with less conglomerate share.
Antoine and Delphine’s back-to-back promotions have occurred during a relentless media discussion of nepotism and its debatable morality. On one hand, how can Mr. Arnault’s decision to pass on the family business to the next generation be criticized when many families are doing the same? On the other hand, the latter families are rarely worth one hundred billion dollars or are as well-known in the exclusively small fashion world.
Shake It Up, But Not Too Much!
The circular tendency of fashion is continually redefined by practices such as those of LVMH. Shuffling seasoned employees into new positions within the industry while ignoring the prospect of fresh talent undoubtedly limits opportunities for revolutionary change. Inadvertently, this is diminishing growth and creativity in fashion.
Meshing varied perspectives and tastes encourages authentic transformation, a necessary principle that upholds the foundations of the entire art industry. Nepotism doesn’t necessarily imply a lack of talent, but it guarantees a shrinkage of diverse thought.
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So, despite the greatest of efforts from emerging brands who leap at the prospect of unique minds and lead the industry in employee inclusivity or eco-conscious production, the world’s largest luxury fashion house perpetuates familial empires. Setting an incredulous example, no?
According to Tolu Coker at The Guardian, it’s recently been “exclusivity that drives fashion, from the VIP culture of the front row to the nepotism and lack of transparency surrounding recruitment for the most elusive roles and opportunities.”
Coker further analyzes the financial stability that success in the industry now requires. Shows, council memberships or masterclasses, and of course, expenses of fashion production have skyrocketed and therefore limit the pool of eligible designers.
All the while, “fashion’s continuing culture of unpaid internships [only] allows those with the financial ability and adequate networks to get ahead.” Thereby, incubating a culture of shady systems of nepotism and exclusivity across the entire industry.
In 2022, Remake released our 2022 Fashion Accountability Report where we scored various notable brands in categories like labor practices, environmental ethicality, and dedication to transparency. Here’s what we found: “While LVMH states that most of its manufacturing occurs in-house, the blatant absence of even the most bare-minimum supply chain disclosures has left the company with zero points across both the criteria’s Traceability and Wages & Well-being categories. On the environment side, there is little to suggest LVMH is on track to achieve its science-based targets for emissions, as only a minimal decrease has been reported for those resulting from owned and operated facilities. Though the group mentions introducing regenerative agricultural practices to some producers’ cotton fields and grasslands for livestock grazing, it is unclear how much material is actually derived from such practices and used in the making of its fashion products. LVMH also uses recycled polyester, Econyl regenerated nylon, and Evrnu’s NuCycl; however, these materials are not yet being prioritized over virgin materials.”
“When it comes to textile waste, some of the company’s houses have taken steps to progress textile disassembly, recycling and upcycling. LVMH has also launched an online platform to resell materials from its Fashion & Leather Goods Maisons to both internal and external buyers. Additionally, the company seems to be focused on expanding repair programs; however, these efforts are peripheral, rather than core pieces of an overall business model transition, as the company clearly intends to expand its reach as the world’s leading luxury products group. As for diversity, equity and inclusion, LVMH’s efforts are limited to donations, scholarships, mentorships and relief programs that broadly seek to support underrepresented communities.”
While exclusivity and mystery are the name of the game in luxury fashion, LVMH will need pull back the curtain on its supply chain and reveal concrete data indicating the actual impact of its sustainability efforts if it wants to raise its accountability score. Similarly, Remake wonders that with the lack of any changing of the guard, will there really be any reshaping at Dior if the same people, or family members, remain at the head of the table?
One for All
LVMH rules the market in luxury fashion while other sectors of the industry follow suit. And yes, this also includes their propensity to implement nepotistic practices.
Nepotism is rampant, particularly across the modeling industry which is otherwise toxically competitive. If you’ve ever watched America’s Next Top Model, you’re aware that aspiring models will claw their way to the top, battling internal and external hardships that prey on performance ability. For 24 seasons, Tyra Banks trained women and men to thrive in high-intense, high-pressure environments and instilled in them to never quit or back down from “once in a lifetime” opportunities.
Especially in fashion modeling where exposure is key to success, nepo babies are given coveted…attention
But even so, reality competition TV can only depict the real world so well. The actual modeling industry is unbelievably more cutthroat for aspiring models – that is of course when you’re not escorted down the runway by your famous mother.
Sure, knowing someone can merely get your foot in the door but most of the time, that is the only thing a striving person needs. Especially in fashion modeling where exposure is key to success, nepo babies are given coveted industry, media, and public attention since birth.
Take Kendall Jenner, the Hadid sisters, or Hailey Bieber for example. All women waltzed into New York Fashion Week riding the custom trim of their powerful family’s coattails. Their hard work after getting there is not what should be questioned, it’s more so the unobstructed swiftness of their rising, high-fashion modeling career.
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Dodging very few hurdles on their way to the top, nepo babies can financially flourish from unwavering media attention and public support. This is appealing to brands because more eyes mean more money, perpetuating a viscous, nepotistic cycle.
Is All Press Actually Good Press?
Mr. Arnault’s decision to appoint his daughter to CEO of the largest fashion brand within his luxury conglomerate comes at a time of glaring media and public attention to the concept of nepotism. Is this a coincidentally inconvenient structural shift that couldn’t be put off any longer? Or did the widespread attention to nepotism across social media drive his decision?
— Reuters Business (@ReutersBiz) January 11, 2023
It’s not plausible to believe a structural shuffle as significant as this was not heavily premeditated. And as market analysts and even Mr. Arnault himself endorsed, the Dior house and the rest of LVMH are expected to continue to grow in profit.
These projections consider the element of press and its ability to influence consumer minds. Fashion will persist in celebrating nepotism so long as the practice persists to be lucrative — but will doing so halt the progressive changes we ache to see in brand behavior? In this case, having the apple not fall far from the tree may be a major roadblock in seeing true change come to pass in one of the world’s most toxic industries.. for models, the environment, and the women sewing its clothes.