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Guillaume de Seynes is Managing Director of Hermès and chairman of the Comité Colbert, which works to promote, share and develop French design and expertise. For The Insider, he shares his definition and expert vision of contemporary luxury.

What is luxury? Speaking for Hermès, I can quote the words of my grandfather, Robert Dumas, “A luxury item, is an item that is repaired”. It’s the opposite of what is meant by planned obsolescence.

The luxury resides in the initial quality of the item. Luxury items last and are handed down. These traditional notions, carried notably by my grandfather, have reappeared in current attitudes. In terms of new trends, I have noticed that the present crisis has triggered the acceleration of a group of factors which were already there.

The first, is the volume of Asian clientele in our industry, which has grown even bigger. All of these growth markets are carrying our industry: China, as well as Korea and Japan. Conversely – and symmetrically – we are still seeing a drop in the European markets.

The other movement is the strength of digital, which impacts brand strategy and leads to new client approaches. Finally, sustainable development imperatives are key for the whole sector, and with especially high standards around the values of transparency and sustainability.

Good momentum in France

I can also say that the French industries are doing well; we have good momentum and a promising market. In Italy, the situation seems more difficult for the luxury industry at the moment. Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Kering and all other players in luxury have become a driving force of the economy. We should encourage and facilitate this uptick.

The Comité Colbert has a supporting role to play for the smaller houses in the association. The bigger players in the sector bring their help, savoir-faire and networks to the table – to help smaller companies export to new markets, for example.

Our other strength is the diversity of our disciplines; for example, one of our most recent members is Henri Selmer, the world-leading saxophone maker. The richness of our expertise and the creativity of our houses are essential in the face of international competition.

The luxury sector represented by the Comité Colbert encompasses many disciplines. We also represent the big Paris hotels and restaurants, and the best piece of advice I can give to anyone who wants to get into these disciplines is to choose luxury because you want to, not because of family pressure or because it seems like a trend.

“The disciplines of luxury are disciplines of passion. I believe openness to the world around us is essential, as is speaking foreign languages and knowledge of international realities.”

Guillaume de Seynes

The disciplines of luxury are disciplines of passion. I believe openness to the world around us is essential, as is speaking foreign languages and knowledge of international realities.

Our houses recruit and train these future talents. At Hermès, leatherwork training takes place in our ateliers over the course of 18 months. The profiles of our trainees are quite diverse: we have 30-year-olds who are changing direction and young people driven by a passion for the craft.

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