Bernard Arnault on being John Galliano's boss!

10 January 2011

John with Bernard and his wife Helene Arnault

Bernard Arnault is such a big star that he’s regularly being interviewed himself. But he’s not a designer, he’s the business man in charge of all of LVMH – the huge luxury conglomerate that owns Christian Dior AND Louis Vuitton. He revealed to Tatler Asia that he’s never regretted his decision to hire John Galliano to the venerable couture house of Christian Dior. He described it by saying, ‘An essential ingredient in the success of of the brand today is the real proximity of Galliano to the talent of Christian Dior’. He goes on to say that, ‘John, in spite of his very exuberant look and artistic vision is very down to earth.  . .he goes into shops and asks what is selling. He is not only an artist but a businessman.  . . Some great designers, when they become famous, lose contact with reality and think they can walk on water. Galliano is not like that.'

The article, in honour of the opening of a mighty new Christian Dior shop in China’s Kowloon area, also expounds on the facts and figures of Arnault’s success. He chose to buy up the manufacturing company that owned Dior in 1994, for the princely sum of $1 (or maybe that was 1 euro, or about 50p). Today it is worth 10 billion dollars. When the gamble paid off, he began to acquire more and more designer labels, until LVMH now comprises 60 profitable brands and employs 76,000 people worldwide.

He likens the Dior machine to an orchestra with John Galliano as its star soloist. ‘When John is ready to work, I have to be sure the other players in the orchestra are in their seats and ready to play’. Another picture the he painted in our minds was that of his first meeting, or “audition” with Galliano before he hired him for the job. ‘He told me to work for Dior is the dream of his life’, recalls Arnault. ‘He took out some sketches from his wallet and said “Look what I can do for Dior” and started to draw in front of me and in 15 minutes he had drawn 20 or 30 sketches. It was unbelievable and I said to myself “he is a genius – what he will do for Dior tomorrow is what Christian Dior would have done himself”’ Aah. We love it when a plan comes together!

- Naomi Attwood


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