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The Younger Pinault: Nouveau Titan Enters The World of Luxury

Artemis chairman François-Henri Pinault, the luxury world's new titan-in-training, discusses dealings with Gucci and his vision of PPR’s future.

François-Henri Pinault in his Paris office

François-Henri Pinault in his Paris office.

Photo By Thierry Chomel

PARIS — Artemis chairman François-Henri Pinault, the luxury world’s new titan-in-training, already seems to know when not to stand in the way of fashion creation.

In an interview, Pinault said negotiations to renew the contracts of Gucci Group creative director Tom Ford and chief executive Domenico De Sole have been sidelined while Ford works on upcoming collections for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.

“We’re talking, but we’re taking our time,” he said. “Nevertheless, we won’t talk all year.”

Pinault declined to provide specifics, but dismissed suggestions that the talks, heavily scrutinized in the media, have been contentious.

“All of the hullabaloo came from an interview my father [François Pinault] gave to The Wall Street Journal,” he said. “His remarks that a brand is more important than a designer were taken out of context. It was understandable that Tom had to respond. In context, my dad’s remarks were logical. Coco Chanel is dead, but Chanel the brand still lives. It’s obvious that a brand can outlive a designer. Just look at history.”

And Pinault is no slouch at fashion history. Though he is just stepping into the glare of the media spotlight, he actually got his first taste of the fashion world long before his father, the retail and luxury tycoon, took control of Italy’s Gucci Group in 1999.

After graduating from business school in 1985, the young Pinault spent 18 months working for the French Trade Commission in Los Angeles in charge of helping Gallic fashion and accessories companies gain a foothold in the American market.

“The highlight was when I was asked to organize the first haute-couture show on the West Coast,” remembered Pinault, sitting last Friday in his minimalist headquarters here, designed by architect Rena Dumas. “It was 1986. We assembled an exhibit on fashion and design. For the opening night, we did a charity gala with a huge Jean Patou fashion show. [Christian] Lacroix designed Patou then. We became friends and he invited me to the shows he did for Patou in Paris.

“It was a great time,” he enthused. “I did all of the seating. I had to find a lot of the models. Doing the casting was a blast.”
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