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The Best Quotes from Bernard Arnault, Fashion's Most Powerful CEO and the World's Richest Man

The king of acquisitions.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
ILLUSTRATOR RAPHAEL QUIASON
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Bernard Arnault is now the world’s richest man, according to Forbes. The massive success of LVMH Moët Hennessy in Asia, specifically China, bumped up LVMH’s valuation to €329 billion in 2021, making it the most valuable company in Europe. Together with his family, Arnault is currently worth $220.9 billion. 

Who Is Bernard Arnault?

The LVMH chairman and CEO has been overseeing his luxury goods empire since its inception in 1987 when the then 30-something Arnault decided to build a luxury conglomerate, the first of its kind. The Frenchman was no self-made, rags-to-richest product. Arnault was born into privilege as the son of a French manufacturer with a small fortune in construction. Arnault used his inheritance to begin his aggressive acquisition spree to fulfill LVMH’s ambitious goal to be the biggest luxury goods company in the world.

The king of acquisitions, Arnault started with Christian Dior’s mother company Boussac Saint Feres in 1985, and went on to acquire Celine, Berluti, Kenzo, Guerlain, Loewe, Marc Jacobs, Sephora, and more in the ‘90s. Moving into the 2000s, LVMH and Arnault fixed their eyes on Emilio Pucci, Fendi, DKNY, and La Samaritaine. His most notable deals in the 2010s were with Bulgari, Stella McCartney House, and Fenty Beauty. Their most recent headline-making acquisition was Tiffany & Co. For a whopping $15.8 billion, largely believed to be the biggest luxury acquisition to date.

With over 70 brands in his empire of luxury goods, fashion, cosmetics, jewelry, wines, and spirits, it’s no wonder Arnault is called the “ultimate taste-maker.” Despite being a ruthless businessman with aggressive strategies, Arnault and LVMH are known for being France’s biggest patrons of the arts. Arnault has spoken more than once about the importance of appreciating creatives.

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At 72 years old, fashion’s most powerful CEO is showing no signs of slowing down.

Bernard Arnault’s Best Quotes on Business and Creativity

On the Luxury Industry

“In the luxury business, you have to build on heritage."

"Affordable luxury—these are two words that don't go together."

"A good product can last forever."

On Brilliant Branding

“Even great talent could not launch a brand from zero. A brand must have a heritage; there are no shortcuts.”

“All that interests me is promoting my brands, never myself.”

"If you control your distribution, you control your image."

On Listening to Creatives

"I meet the designers very often, we discuss the products, they show me their ideas, we discuss the ad campaigns and every new invention that we can find for the future."

"When you are on the management side, you still have to understand the artistic sensibility so that there is a dialogue with the creative side."

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"If you deeply appreciate and love what creative people do and how they think, which is usually in unpredictable and irrational ways, then you can start to understand them. And finally, you can see inside their minds and DNA."

"I like that combination between creativity and the creative process and the organization needed to make a business like this successful worldwide."

On Balancing Business and Creativity

“My work is to help innovators and designers understand that the success of their creativity is in large part based on the success of their products. Creativity—yes, but executed in a way that people like and can use.”

"It is not enough to have a talented designer; the management must be inspired, too. The creative process is very disorganized; the production process has to be very rational."

On His Business Mentality

“You have to be just as mistrustful of straightforward rationality in business as you do of a uniquely gut approach.”

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“I often say to my team we should behave as if we're still a startup. Don’t go to the offices too much. Stay on the ground with the customer or with the designers as they work. I visit stores every week. I always look for the store managers. I want to see them on the ground, not in their offices doing paperwork.”

“Money is just a consequence. I always say to my team, don’t worry too much about profitability. If you do your job well, the profitability will come.” 

On World Politics

“People think of politicians having true power, but that’s less and less true. After all, they are often constrained or being edged into a corner by a whole series of contingencies... I’m lucky in that I can say, ‘I want my group to be in such and such a situation in 10 or 20 years’ time’ and then formulate a plan to make that happen.”

“What we do in our group is the opposite of the bad effects of globalization. We produce in Italy and in France and we sell to China, when usually it’s the opposite.”

"China is clearly going to be the number one economic power and it is already full of potential.. with lots of population and the buying power increasing by the day.”

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Anri Ichimura
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