How the hell did I miss this Jan. 9, 2017, photo of LVMH Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault gazing adoringly at the usurper Donald Trump?
I would have cancelled LVMH’s Louis Vuitton brand at that moment, rather than waiting till last week, when Arnault and Trump again made eyes at each other at Louis Vuitton’s new factory in Texas.
It was at the January 2017 get-together that France’s Arnault first floated the idea of a Louis Vuitton factory in either the Carolinas or Texas, according to a June 22, 2017, story on the Business of Fashion. Considering Trump’s rise to power was assisted by his song-and-dance about increasing manufacturing jobs in the U.S., this was blatant currying of favor as well as a prime example of TOO MUCH being NEVER ENOUGH for the ultra-rich and greedy. You see, according to Forbes, Arnault is the second-richest man in the world, so prior to November 2016, he could have bought and sold the perpetually debt-ridden Trump until the Texas cows came home. But Trump stumbled into great power, and the very rich fetishize power while the very powerful fetishize wealth. Voilà! A leather workshop appears in Keene, Texas. The favor-granting didn’t end there, of course: In exchange for 1,000 jobs over five years, Johnson County gave Louis Vuitton a 10-year, 75% tax abatement. Are you wondering why a multi-billionaire feels the need to pinch pennies by hustling for tax breaks? Well, how do you think he got so rich in the first place? It probably wasn’t by paying his fair share. It never is — ask some rich people. They’ll tell you! They’re proud of it.
I always hope that the artistically inclined will do better than the financially obsessed, so it was good to see that Nicolas Ghesquière, the artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s women’s collections, called out Arnault’s Trump relationship.
That said, if Ghesquière keeps getting his paycheck from LVMH, his Instagram post is just … an Instagram post. As for me, the #slowfashion maven, I hardly ever get rid of anything, so I guess I’m keeping all the Vuitton I already own. A lot of it is artist collaborations, so I will hopefully still find enjoyment in my Grace Coddington bag, my Takashi Murakami bag, and Stephen Sprouse bags. But MrB will have to come up with a new idea for birthdays, because I can’t imagine feeling anything like my past joy for new Vuitton. It’s not that I think depriving Monsieur Arnault of a once-a-year purchase will cause him any pain, but if luxury goods come with bad vibes, what’s the point? It makes me think of this line that people always toss around about fine jewelry: “No one NEEDS jewelry.” Well, I’m probably as far away from NEEDING anything from Vuitton as Arnault is from paying his pledge to rebuild Notre Dame.
Oh yeah, Trump lovin’ and tax-break scouting aren’t the only things I dislike about Arnault. I was originally impressed and relieved when the Arnault family pledged €200 million to rebuild the Notre Dame cathedral after it was ravaged by fire in April. However, by the end of June, only €10 million — 5% — had been released. According to the Observer, the issue was control:
“LVMH and other big donors contributing to the Notre Dame reconstruction effort were reluctant to release their committed funds because they wanted to see their money spent on actual restoration projects, not preparatory work, such as debris cleanup.”
What kind of nonsense is that? This fire spread dangerous lead all over Paris, but Louis Vuitton doesn’t want any clean-up work done with its money? That work isn’t fancy enough or something? Dang! Maybe Arnault figures it doesn’t matter — what with the camel not fitting through the eye of the needle — but in case he does hope to buy his way into the Good Place, failing to come through on a promise to a cathedral is a major demerit.
UPDATED TO ADD: This weekend, The New York Times had a good story about the acquisitive compulsions of the ultra-wealthy.