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Interview with Anthony Ledru (SK 1995), President and CEO Americas at Louis Vuitton, an influential and recognised figure in the luxury industry in the Americas.

14 June 2016

With passion, he lets us in on the winning formula for success, and talks to us about the subtle art of combining modernity and timelessness in order to preserve the brand’s authenticity.

I’ve spent practically my entire career in the luxury sector. After a few years in Argentina and Brazil as a district manager for Cartier, I decided to join the North American subsidiary, first in Miami and then in New York in January 2001. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the brand’s turnaround in the United States in my role as Vice President of the Retail Network, which at the time included 35 shops. This was a fantastic experience within an executive committee that was very close-knit, to the point where a large part of the team quit to take over the reins of a wonderful American brand, Harry Winston. I spent three years rebuilding this great design house and travelling the world as Global VP of Sales. This adventure ended in an acquisition by the Swatch Group. I then spent 2 years as Senior Vice President North America for Tiffany & Co., before finally joining Louis Vuitton in December 2014.

You’re in a leadership position. How do you leave your own mark on the strategy of a company as big as yours? What are the priorities?

In luxury fashion houses, the brands are the stars. Louis Vuitton was established in 1854! It was here well before us and will live on long after we are gone.

A luxury brand must of course evolve if it is to survive. Louis Vuitton started out making trunks and owes its current success and popularity to its capacity to reinvent itself constantly. The mythical trunks are still much loved by our customers but our range of products has grown substantially. Louis Vuitton is about fine leather goods, of course, but it’s also about ready-to-wear fashion, the magic of accessories, shoes, watches, fine jewellery…

We are completely obsessed with attaining perfection and controlling every aspect of our business, from the design phase to the marketing and distribution. Very few brands in the luxury sector control these various facets. I think this is what makes Louis Vuitton truly unique.

In your opinion, what will be the main challenges for the retail and luxury sectors in the coming years?

The main challenge is customer experience. Everyone talks about this, but few manage to achieve excellence and, more importantly, maintain it. A great customer experience requires flawless customer service: a warm welcome and dialogue are the keys to a successful personalised relationship. Recruiting the right staff is obviously crucial and it takes time to form a talented team capable of inspiring people to dream. Because that’s what it’s really about: creating an extraordinary environment for our customers.

The second major challenge is digital technology. It is becoming one of the key tools for improving customer experience. With it, it is possible to optimise a store visit; in fact these two networks are now complementary and even integral to one another. I do think, however, that brick and mortar shops will remain essential, because human contact remains crucial for communicating the know-how behind each creation. 

Can you tell us what part innovation plays in your industry? And what your strategy is with regards to new technologies?

Innovation is an integral part of our industry, but the term that suits us best is creativity. It is the capacity to dive deep into the brand’s guts to draw out its undiluted DNA. The challenge is to constantly surprise our customers while maintaining the design house’s identity. We need to know how to juggle the past, the present and the future.

Do you agree with those who say that “China is over”? In what new markets are you going to establish yourselves and open new shops?

The Chinese customer base is still one of the biggest in the world for many luxury brands. Many industrialised or emerging countries would be quite satisfied with the current growth rate of China’s GDP. And the potential over the coming years is significant. Actually, that is the case for the United States, too. Latin America and certain African countries also offer good prospects. But our priority remains the local clientele in each country where we are established.

Lastly, can a “big business” remain an authentic luxury fashion house? How?

To my mind, it’s not really a question of size but rather a question of mindset. And the Louis Vuitton mindset is: zero compromise. Since 1854.

In conclusion, choose a path that you are really passionate about, because that’s the secret to success!

Anthony Ledru (SK 1995)
President and CEO Americas at Louis Vuitton

 

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