Emmanuel Macron’s victory in Sunday’s French presidential election was not just a victory for the young president’s vision of France and its role in the world, or centrism towards the far right, even if it was both.
It was also a victory for fashion, especially high fashion, and the role it plays in reflecting French culture and heritage to the world.
If in doubt, just consider Brigitte Macron’s election night suit: a bespoke cropped Louis Vuitton navy jacket with silver military details and matching trousers, perfectly coordinated with her husband’s navy suit (which also coordinated with at least a third of the French flag). It was a choice that reflected the couple’s common front as well as the ideological battlefield the election had become. And it served as a subtle signal from an administration with a tendency towards big business and the free market that these relationships will continue to flourish in its second term.
After all, luxury has been enjoyed by Mr Macron since his first candidacy for president in 2017, and Louis Vuitton has been Mrs Macron’s favorite brand since she became First Lady.
Although she has worn other French brands, including Balmain (whose designer, Olivier Rousteing, posted a statement on Instagram celebrating Mr. Macron’s re-election) and Alexandre Vauthier, no one has been as regularly represented in her public wardrobe as Louis Vuitton. She has worn Vuitton in many of her most performative moments – the times that will surely be preserved visually for the story, where she acts as a representative not only of herself or her spouse, but of the country that writes big.
She wore Vuitton to her husband’s first inauguration in 2017 (a baby blue miniskirt set with another military-inspired jacket). Vuitton for Bastille Day celebrations in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. And Vuitton for state dinners at home and abroad, including the State Dinner in 2018, which hosts President Donald Trump in Macron’s honor. How many times Mrs. Macron has chosen Vuitton can be traced on the Instagram account dedicated to her style, @thebrigittestyle.
Although former first ladies in France similarly associated themselves with classic French brands, with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy often wearing Dior and Hermès, and Bernadette Chirac wearing Chanel, and although Macrons has supported French fashion widely, they hosted designers at two dinners in The Élysée Palace during Paris Fashion Week, Mrs Macron is the first to work so closely with Louis Vuitton.
It is an alliance of political and business power that has served both sides very well.
After all, fashion is part of the foundation of the French economy and its heritage, and Louis Vuitton plays a very specific role in both. The industry accounts for one million jobs in the country, 2.7 percent of its gross domestic product and 150 billion euros (about $ 160 billion) in direct sales, according to the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, the industry’s governing body.
And in French fashion, Louis Vuitton – currently celebrating the 200th anniversary of its namesake’s founder – is a tent pole brand and the engine of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group. As it happens, LVMH is owned and operated by Bernard Arnault, the third richest man in the world and a vocal Macron supporter.
Louis Vuitton is also the name of one of the newer museums in Paris, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, opened in 2014, built by Mr. Arnault, designed by Frank Gehry and designated as a “gift” to the city of Paris that will be transferred to municipal ownership around 2070
In late 2021, Mr Macron helped inaugurate the Fondation exhibition for the Morozov collection, the first time a major Russian collection was seen in Europe. (Although the loan required the signature of President Vladimir V. Putin, the LVMH has declared its support for all those affected by “the tragic situation in Ukraine.”) Also last year, Mr. Macron posed with Mr. Arnault at the opening of the conference. renovated Samaritaine department store, also owned by LVMH, says its reopening was a metaphor for the reopening of Paris after Covid-19 isolation.
It is a relationship that has not been without symbolic risks, given the associations to elitism, wealth and class implicit in the very term “luxury”. During the yellow vest protests in 2018 against rising fuel prices, many gilded shops on shopping streets like Faubourg Saint-Honoré were targeted as examples of what was seen as Mr. Macron’s Marie Antoinette-like removal – a critique revived by Mr. Macron’s opponents during the latest campaign. (Marine Le Pen was almost resolutely without fire in his election campaign.)
When Mrs. Macron again chooses Vuitton for her election night celebration, Mrs. Macron suggests that her husband will double this particular relationship. Although when it comes to that topic, she says no word.