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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The victory of Emmanuel Macron was also a victory for Louis Vuitton

Although Emmanuel Macron’s success in the French presidential election on Sunday was a triumph for the young president’s vision of France and its place in the world, as well as against the far-right, Macron’s victory was also a victory for centrism in the face of the far-right.

The win was also a triumph for the fashion industry, particularly high fashion, and the role it plays in presenting French culture and legacy to the rest of the world.

Simply look at Brigitte Macron’s election night ensemble: a custom-made cropped Louis Vuitton blue jacket with silver military trim and matching slacks, which were flawlessly paired with her husband’s navy suit on the night of the presidential election (which also coordinated with at least one-third of the French flag). It was a decision that underlined both the couple’s determination to remain together and the ideological battlefield that the election had become. It also served as a subtly sent message from an administration that has a strong affinity for big business and the free market that such relationships would continue to grow during its second term in office.

Because luxury has been warming up to Mr. Macron since his first presidential campaign in 2017, and Louis Vuitton has been the first lady’s go-to designer since she became first lady.

Other French brands, like as Balmain (whose designer Olivier Rousteing wrote a comment on Instagram praising Mr. Macron’s re-election) and Alexandre Vauthier, have appeared in her public wardrobe on a more consistent basis than Louis Vuitton. She has worn Vuitton at many of her most performative moments – those moments that are likely to be captured on film and archived for future generations, when she acts as a spokesperson of not just herself or her husband, but of the whole country.

In 2017, she donned a Louis Vuitton gown at her husband’s first inauguration (a baby blue miniskirt suit with another military-inspired jacket). In 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, Louis Vuitton will participate in Bastille Day events. President Donald Trump threw a state dinner in honour of the Macrons in 2018, which included a Vuitton presentation. You can keep track of how many times Mrs. Macron has opted for Vuitton by following the @thebrigittestyle Instagram account, which is dedicated to her style.

Although previous first ladies of France have also favoured classic French brands, such as Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who wore Dior and Hermès frequently, and Bernadette Chirac, who wore Chanel, and though the Macrons have supported French fashion broadly, hosting designers at two dinners in the Élysée Palace during Paris Fashion Week, Mrs. Macron is the first to establish a close relationship with Louis Vuitton.

Fashion, after all, is a fundamental component of the French economy and national heritage, with Louis Vuitton playing a particularly prominent role in both. According to the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, the business supports one million employment in France, contributes 2.7 percent to the country’s gross domestic product, and generates 150 billion euros (about $160 billion) in direct sales.

And within French fashion, Louis Vuitton — which is presently commemorating the bicentennial of its eponymous creator — is a tentpole brand that serves as the engine of LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury conglomerate, which is headquartered in Paris. Unfortunately for Macron’s supporters, LVMH is owned and operated by Bernard Arnault, the world’s third-richest man and a strong backer of his presidential campaign.

Louis Vuitton is also the name of one of the more recent museums in Paris, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, which opened in 2014. The museum, which was built by Mr. Arnault and designed by Frank Gehry, was designated as a “gift” to the city of Paris and will be transferred to municipal ownership around 2070 when it is no longer under private ownership.

Mr. Macron participated at the opening of the Morozov Collection exhibition at the Fondation in Paris, which was the first time that a significant Russian collection had been shown in Europe. (Even though President Vladimir V. Putin’s approval was necessary for the loan, LVMH has expressed its solidarity for all those who have been impacted by “the awful situation in Ukraine.”) Earlier in the year, Mr. Macron posed with Mr. Arnault at the reopening of the Samaritaine department store, which is also controlled by LVMH, claiming that the property’s renovation was a metaphor for the restoration of Paris after its seclusion during the Covid-19 nuclear test.

Given the connections with elitism, money, and social status that are implied in the mere word “luxury,” this has not been a partnership without its share of symbolic perils. A large number of gilded boutiques on shopping thoroughfares like the Faubourg Saint-Honoré were targeted as examples of what was perceived to be Mr. Macron’s Marie Antoinette-like distance during the yellow vest protests against rising fuel prices in 2018. This critique was revived by Mr. Macron’s opponents during the recent campaign.

With her second choice of Vuitton for her election night party, Mrs. Macron seems to be implying that her husband will be recommitting to this specific special connection in the coming months. However, when it comes to that issue, she doesn’t say anything at all.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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