He is a former L’Oreal executive who believes that luxury brands work best when run by peasants. The man in question is Professor Charles de Brabant, founder and CEO of Saint Pierre, Brabant, Li & Associes, a China-headquartered HR firm specializing in luxury companies. He expressed this opinion at a Swiss business seminar held last week, adding that poets and craftsmen were also necessary in the luxury business.
What Brabant was trying to highlight is that the luxury industry requires people who think like peasants – people who will be realistic about the work and money, even as the designers inhabit the fantasy world. Essentially, what he meant is that the CEO of a luxury company must walk the tightrope between being a smart business leader, the creative brain and the enabler (the craftsmen).
While speaking at the seminar, Brabant brought geography into question by asking why Europeans and not Americans dominate the luxury world. In 2010, brand consultants Millward Brown compiled a list of the top 15 international luxury brands. Topping the list were Bavarian car manufacturer BMW and French conglomerate LVMH. The lone non-European (also the only American) label on the list was No. 15, Ralph Lauren.
History may have played a part, but even that is not enough to run a luxury company to its full potential. Giving the example of Dior, Brabant explained that luxury firms need creatives like John Galliano, pure businessmen like Bernard Amault as well as enablers who will coordinate between the two – people like Christian Dior CEO Sidney Toledano.
The latter role is something Americans are good at, but they the broader interests and experiences of their European counterparts. And a successful luxury business, as Brabant put it, needs “all three elements, poets, peasants and craftsmen”.