“Our father always involved us a lot, from an early age. He told us about the group, his work, his clients. We were consulted […]. I remember going with him, at the age of ten, to the house of Dior”, she says in the book of interviews “Patronesses – Tête-à-tête with the numbers ones” by Élodie Andriot, published in October.
It is precisely at Dior that Delphine Arnault will take her first steps as CEO on February 1, a brand where she has already worked for 12 years and is highly symbolic for Bernard Arnault, whose first acquisition in fashion.
“His appointment is anything but a surprise as it is steeped in the culture and DNA of Dior. His high standards and his unique eye will only reinforce the desirability of everything that makes the success of the house,” says Sidney Toledano, CEO of the LVMH Fashion Group (a division uniting several brands) and former CEO of Christian Dior Couture, who known since the end of his studies.
Delphine Arnault, a native of Roubaix, slender figure and blonde hair, is the eldest of five children and the only daughter of the billionaire. A graduate of the Edhec business school and the London School of Economics, she spent two years at the consulting firm McKinsey before entering fashion at John Galliano.
She joined LVMH in 2001 by joining the management committee of Dior, where she managed several product lines and then became deputy director. In 2013, she took on the key position of number two at Louis Vuitton, where she contributed to the exponential growth of the world’s leading luxury brand.
“Her role was already extremely important but she was rather in the shadows; it will now be in full light” at Dior, believes Eric Briones, co-founder of the Paris School of Luxury.
Comfortable with folders… and rhinestones
He describes “her feminine side of files, with a high level of requirement and knowledge of costs and the industry. She is also at ease in the rhinestones of fashion and has a real flair for spotting talent”, having notably created the coveted LVMH Prize which rewards a young designer each year.
Internally, few employees wish to speak about Delphine Arnault, even anonymously: a senior manager describes her as a “rigorous manager”, while a Parisian employee confides that “at first sight she can be cold or very distant, she is in its role. But she will also say hello to the employees and greet those she has known for a long time when she goes to the store, as her father does in order to get customer feedback on the products, on what works or not.
His appointment strengthens family control of the empire: Antoine Arnault, the eldest son, already has multiple titles, including those of managing director of the Christian Dior SE holding company controlling LVMH or image and environment director of the band. As for the sons born of a second marriage, Alexandre Arnault is executive vice-president of the jeweler Tiffany, Frédéric CEO of the watchmaker Tag Heuer and Jean director of marketing and development of watches for Vuitton.
Delphine Arnault is currently the only one of five children to sit on the executive committee of LVMH, the group’s governing body. “We feel something extremely built to avoid a war of succession, each child has his territory according to his talent and his experience. And their father is still totally there, ”underlines Eric Briones.