France’s richest man Bernard Arnault has confirmed that LVMH is already actively using blockchain for several of its luxury brands, as the French billionaire and high-tech fan presented the latest Innovation Award for digital startups in Paris.
“Blockchain for the moment is about procurement. To certify all the ways of supplying our different brands and houses. That’s why we are interested in this technology. We will see after how will we proceed for each of our houses. But, yes, several of them are testing it at present,” Arnault told a small gathering of reporters shortly before presenting the latest award.
From the some 70 brands controlled by LVMH, Louis Vuitton and Parfums Christian Dior have joined forces with ConsenSys and Microsoft to launch Aura, a distributed ledger technology.
Arnault also revealed that first high-tech handbag to reach consumers from Louis Vuitton won’t be the “Canvas of the Future” bag with a flexible screen shown last week in the house’s women’s cruise 2020 collection, but one designed by its menswear designer Virgil Abloh.
However, in a brief Q&A with journalists, Arnault pointedly demurred when asked directly whether LVMH would participate in the call of François-Henri Pinault – CEO of rival group Kering – on Wednesday at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit for industry leaders to unite on sustainability.
“As well as I understand, it’s what we are doing already. You must understand that the LVMH group is not just a collection of fashion houses. It is many other things. We have many programs throughout our group for the protection of the environment; supporting sustainability and concerning the ensemble of our activities. For example, I believe we were the first to consider the environment and the carbon footprint in terms of fabrication and distribution of champagne and cosmetics and beauty products.”
Speaking about LVMH’s online sales strategy, Arnault said: “We try very hard to avoid our products ending up in what is known as the Gray Market, and sold in an inappropriate setting. If you take the example of Louis Vuitton, it is the only brand that has never had a sale [event]. So we insist that any distribution of Vuitton on the net follows the same criteria as in our own stores.”
Calling his giant luxury conglomerate a family company, Arnault awarded Vadim Rogovskiy, CEO of 3DLook.com the LVMH Innovation Award for 2019, at the CEO Forum space within Viva Technology, the giant annual technology conference in Paris. Founded in 2016, VivaTech as it is commonly known, was launched by ad agency Publicis and financial group Les Echos, the French equivalent of the Financial Times, which was acquired by the greater Arnault group in 2008.
“This year we are exceeding expectation with over 100,000 visitors and between 2,500 and 3,000 start-ups. So my congratulations to everyone in the organization. It’s becoming one of the largest in the world of technology,” said Arnault.
Staged inside the giant Paris Expo space in south Paris, VivaTech also included LVMH’s 500-square-meter space, Luxury Lab, done up like a 19th century pavilion with trellises and hanging moss, and featuring LV’s “Canvas of the Future” bag with built-in flexible OLED displays.
“Today the startups that we are showing in our booth illustrate the values of our group. Creativity; innovation since every startup is full of innovation; and the core value of quality. For a startup, quality means execution; that is the key to their success. Let’s remember the role of the startup is not to be a startup for too long, but to become a big company. So, execution makes a difference. Here in VivaTech you can see many similar ideas, but in three to five years they will arrive somewhere very different and this will depend on the quality of the execution. The third quality, that I believe the most important, is entrepreneurship. Our group has always been built on 70 companies where each is run by an entrepreneur, and I always say that each should act as if they were born into the company,” stressed Arnault, before an audience of young techie entrepreneurs and so many LVMH executives it felt like he had decided to stage a second annual shareholders meeting.
The LVMH chairman noted that Vuitton’s new flexible screen was provided by a company with whom he had worked for many years, while adding that he expected augmented reality and artificial intelligence to be key drivers in luxury’s future.
“As you know, it’s more difficult to evaluate a product on a phone. So it’s about making a link between the screen, the shop and the customer,” said Arnault.
The LVMH Innovation Award does not have a cash prize, but as Arnault noted, all 30 participants will have access to the group’s technology network in Station F, its high-tech hub inside a former railway station in east Paris. While the winner gains access to all LVMH teams worldwide for one year.
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