Luxury’s sigh of relief on Macron re-election

 

Emmanuel Macron won in the second-round runoff of the French presidential election on Sunday. His victory over Marie Le Pen was welcomed by many in the luxury industry.

By Laure Guilbault from Vogue Business.

“Today, you chose a humanist project that’s ambitious for the independence of our country, for our Europe, a republican project in its values, a social and ecological project, a project based on work and creation,” Macron said in his victory speech on Sunday night. First lady Brigitte Macron, known for wearing Louis Vuitton, was dressed in a blue buttoned jacket and matching pants by the brand on Sunday. “He has an ambition for France. I know where he wants to go. I’ll do everything. I hope he’ll be understood. I have immense trust in him,” she told French TV. Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing and Simon Porte Jacquemus were among those who posted their support on Instagram on Sunday night.

The luxury industry had been holding its breath. France represented just 5 % of overall luxury spend in 2021, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Edouard Aubin, but the country is home to its heaviest hitters, including LVMH, the parent of Louis Vuitton and Dior, and Kering, parent of Saint Laurent and Balenciaga. The French fashion industry accounts for EUR150 billion in direct sales, 1 million jobs and 2.7 % of national GDP, according to the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode.

Macron’s largely liberal policy has been favoured by businesses large and small. The industry has praised Macron’s support of apprenticeships, which are key to the luxury craft. He passed a law in 2020 to help recruit artisans — the industry crucially needs to hire 20000 additional artisans per year to sustain demand from American and Chinese luxury consumers. His agenda has also been boosting notable financing for French fashion startups via public investment bank BPI, and helping businesses during the pandemic with the “partial unemployment” scheme (LVMH, Kering, Chanel and Hermès didn’t use it though many smaller ones did).

For French luxury sales, France’s image also matters. “Emmanuel Macron telegraphs youth, modernity and international leadership, both in France and abroad,” says Matthieu Chaigne, partner at BVA, a Paris-based research and opinion poll agency. On Saturday, Macron walked along Le Touquet beach with his wife Brigitte, wearing a cap, a pair of denim jeans and a hoodie in the colours of the French flag. “His style is very calculated,” says Benjamin Simmenauer, professor at Institut Français de la Mode, who notes that he heavily promotes “Made in France” clothing. His reasonably priced suits are fitting for a post-Yellow Vests movement in France (the populist supporters who oppose the wealthy elite) and in light of inflation and the global context. “That said, he recently sported an expensive Fabergé Altruist watch,” adds Simmenauer.

Macron has been courting fashion, underscoring the industry’s local currency in both power and cultural influence. He hosted dinners at the Élysée Palace for designers twice during his presidency. Last year, he inaugurated the LVMH-owned Parisian department store La Samaritaine and in January, Chanel’s 19M, the house’s new building grouping all its metiers d’art. His minister of economy, finance and the recovery, Bruno Le Maire, recently inaugurated two Louis Vuitton ateliers in France.

“It’s a bag that I could never afford, but it doesn’t matter, as long as it creates jobs in France,” Le Maire told Vogue Business during the inauguration ceremony while holding an emerald green Capucines handbag made of crocodile.

“Emmanuel Macron knows our industry well; he understands it,” says Bénédicte Epinay, CEO of luxury industry association Comité Colbert. “Under his presidency, there were two very important laws for us, one on recruitment of apprentices, another one giving houses the possibility to deliver certificates. There’s a recognition of the public authorities.”

Ahead of the election, 130 executives, entrepreneurs and investors signed an op-ed that ran in France’s economic newspaper Les Echos voicing support for the candidate. Nicolas Santi-Weil, CEO of French fashion brand Ami, Sébastien Fabre, co-founder of Vestiaire Collective and the body care marketplace Agua Blanca, were among them. “Emmanuel Macron has done a lot to foster entrepreneurship; he has also promoted apprentissage, which gets a nice play in his programme; this has helped the fashion industry for the recruitment of young people and with a more diverse background,” says Santi-Weil.

“There’s no doubt that France has become one of the sexiest places in the world for entrepreneurs,” says Vestiaire’s Fabre. “Access to funds and infrastructures that ease the journey of thousands of companies from early stage to unicorns are proliferating.” He’s looking forward to further improvements. “The next five years will be about consolidating a trajectory for the society through entrepreneurship and projects for companies with purposes.”

Alexandra Van Houtte, founder of Paris-based fashion search engine Tagwalk praises Macron’s support for entrepreneurs: “He has the youth factor, and he really gets it.” Tagwalk benefits each year from Crédit Impôt Innovation, which supports innovative companies. “I also think that he is reassuring, which is positive for consumption.” Support for innovation in France has helped spur a growing Web 3 ecosystem in Paris, including startups Powder, Lynx, Arianee, Stage 11, among others.

Spectators note there are now expectations to be met following the election, as well as contingencies surrounding future elections that will dictate liberal progress and policy. In June, legislative elections will determine if Macron’s party will oversee the majority at the National Assembly as well as influence the appointment of prime minister, says Delphine Iweins, the author of Les vrais pouvoirs du président (or The President’s Real Powers).

No “Frexit”

In the event of a Le Pen victory, analysts were bracing for impact on the CAC 40, the French stock exchange. Le Pen’s views on the EU and her plan for “economic patriotism” had worried luxury watchers.

Her “national preference for employment”, which would discriminate against foreign workers, would have been a major blow to fashion and creativity, with the industry employing foreigners at all levels, including in top design jobs. The overall cultural conservatism Le Pen would have ushered in was a concern for an industry that strives to promote diversity and inclusion.

Even though she reined in her earlier intentions to withdraw from the EU, she was intending to enact stringent enough conditions that could have led to “Frexit” (France’s Brexit). Withdrawing from the EU would have had a negative impact on regulations and tariffs, as well as on the French economy, observers said.

In his Instagram posted on Sunday, Rousteing was optimistic for the future. “I believe in Europe, I believe in freedom of expression, and I believe in youth, I believe in modern France,” the designer wrote.

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