cult of personality

Bernard Arnault Makes John Galliano Nervous

The new issue of The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ. magazine has a cover story on the richest man in France, LVMH chief Bernard Arnault. We are severely envious of the reporter who wrote the story, and accompanied Bernard on a meeting with John Galliano in Dior’s Paris headquarters where buyers were scoping out the pre-fall collection. His wife, classical concert pianist Hélène Mercier, describes Bernard as “obsessive.” At the meeting with John he picks up a red-rimmed cotton-canvas bag and states, “I just don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.” He asks his daughter Delphine for her opinion. She says it would look good with jeans. John says ladies in St. Tropez will buy it, but Bernard’s not convinced. “I don’t like it,” he says. “I don’t want to see it in stores.” And with that, he just shut down John Galliano.

Galliano, his ponytail creeping out of a black cap, reads nervously in English from a prepared speech to explain the source of his inspiration: Dior seen through the erotic lens of photographer Helmut Newton. “Ça, c’est beau—how much is it?” Arnault asks as a tall blond model stands before him in a $1,500 red double-face wool dress. “Will that sell?” he asks of an embroidered $15,000 cream-colored gown. (The answer was yes, in Monaco, Hong Kong and Moscow.) “Why not use those black masks for the ad campaign?” “If you tell me so, sir,” Galliano answers.

Arnault often brings home prototype bags or perfumes to get a more “feminine view” from Hélène. “Sometimes it’s about his opinion and sometimes it’s about the opinion of his wife,” Louis Vuitton designer Marc Jacobs says. Other than that, Bernard pretty much lets designers who work for him— Karl Lagerfeld, Marc, and John among them — do their thing.

“Designers are closer to artists than to engineers,” Arnault says. “They’re not like normal managers, and you have to balance their creativity and rationality. John, Karl, Marc, they’re genius. You can’t put them into a rational environment. They’re sometimes late, and you have to accept that if you work with them, you have to be understanding with them.”

And that article almost completely made up for the somewhat atrocious animal-balloon-saturated fashion spread from the last issue.

Being Bernard Arnault [WSJ.]

Bernard Arnault Makes John Galliano Nervous