“nepotism baby” or is fashion in the blood?

While research indicates that fashion companies are looking for talent and are greedy for skills to grow the business, on the web there is more and more talk of nepotism babies, abbreviated to “nepo baby” to indicate the privilege of some offspring of families at the head of luxury and fashion companies, but not only. Even the world of entertainment, in fact, is not immune from this trend. In fact, Lily-Rose Depp, Deva Cassel, Lila Moss and Kaia Gerber, Gigi and Bella Hadid are just one example. Returning to fashion, these days, moreover, the ranking drawn up by Forbes magazine indicates that Clemente, 18, the youngest of the six children of Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder of Luxottica, the eyewear giant whose heart is in Agordo, in province of Belluno, is the youngest billionaire in the world given that the capital in his possession is worth about 3.5 billion dollars, which comes from the division of the family safe company, the Delfin holding. In short, while the debate on nepo children is mainly based on their obvious privileges, it becomes a bit more complicated to understand their role in fashion leadership. Were privileges instilled in future CEOs or were they well prepared to take over the family business from childhood?

This question arises especially when the family members of company founders are still quite young, with an age of less than 40, and are already climbing to the top of the company. When searching for an answer, a look at the offspring’s curriculum vitae might provide insight.

The Arnault dynasty

Every empire needs successors and Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has five potential contenders for the throne. All five Arnault children, Delphine, Antoine, Alexandre, Frédéric and Jean, are currently involved in the family business, albeit in different roles.

“From an early age, our father always involved us a lot. He always spoke to us about the group, its work and its customers. We were consulted (…). I remember that when I was ten, I went with him to the house of Dior fashion”, recalls Delphine Arnault in Élodie Andriot’s book “Patronnes – Tête-à-tête avec les numéros unes” (Women’s bosses – talking to women at the top). She herself was recently appointed general manager of Dior Couture.

Alexandre Arnault

Bernard Arnault’s ambition to integrate his sons into the family business at an early age becomes even clearer when one takes a closer look at the careers of his three youngest sons. Alexandre Arnault first made headlines when he was named co-CEO of German luggage company Rimowa aged just 24, after LVMH acquired 80 percent of the company.

According to Business of Fashion, Alexandre was not only the first to recognize the potential of the traditional Cologne brand, but also to visit owner Richard Morszeck. Now in his 30s, Alexandre is executive vice president of product and communications at Tiffany & Co, the conglomerate’s largest acquisition to date. Under his leadership, the luxury jeweler has collaborated with celebrities such as Jay-Z, Beyonce and Blackpink’s Rosé, and recently launched a much-discussed sneaker collaboration with Nike, which Alexandre proudly showed up with at a soccer team game. New York Knicks basketball.

Frederic Arnault

Not many can claim to be at the helm of a global luxury brand just two years after graduating. However, for Frédéric Arnault, who graduated in applied and computational mathematics from the prestigious École Polytechnique in September 2018, this is a reality. According to his Linkedin profile, the now 28-year-old completed summer internships during his studies at online firm Facebook and management consulting firm McKinsey, the same firm his half-sister Delphine worked for years earlier.

In his senior year of college, he eventually moved to Swiss luxury watch brand Tag Heuer and was given the company’s smartwatch business. Bernard Arnault’s progeny were primed for the executive presidency from the start. Chief Executive Stéphane Bianchi groomed him for the role, a move that paid off in June 2020 when Bianchi handed over the reins to the then 25-year-old Frédéric Arnault and moved up to the top of LVMH’s watch and jewelery division.

Jean Arnault

Jean Arnault hasn’t quite settled into the executive chair yet, but the younger Arnault is well on his way to following in his brothers’ footsteps. He holds two master’s degrees, one in mechanical engineering from Imperial College London and one in financial mathematics from the Massachusetts institute of technology. After graduating in the summer of 2021, he was named director of watch development and marketing at Louis Vuitton, the same brand where he worked as a sales associate for two months in 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile. “I was a student in London when Frédéric started working for Tag Heuer,” Jean told the Financial Times, attributing his passion for watches to his older brother, Frédéric. “We have a close relationship and he started talking to me about the new watches and all the different things he was working on. I was fascinated by it.”

Marc O’Polo: like father, like son

When Werner Böck acquired Marc O’Polo’s Swedish parent company in 40, his son Maximilian was still in his infancy. Ten years later, Böck senior became the majority owner of the brand, which is now in Stephanskirchen under the management of his son. Not even 35, Maximilian Böck can already look back on almost two years of presidency of the family business.

He was well prepared for his role: After training as a purchasing and retail trainee at the Düsseldorf-based clothing retailer Peek & Cloppenburg, Böck Junior worked there as a buyer before joining the family business . He held the position of director retail at Marc O’Polo before being appointed chief retail officer and co-CEO alongside Dieter Holzer. The latter was intended to prepare him for his subsequent role as sole director. With his son at the helm, the long-term and currently successful development of the company in the interests of the family can be ensured in the future, Werner Böck commented on the announcement of the management change in 2020, showing that the company is also a family affair in this case.

Scion and pilot: Lorenzo Prada

The future of the Italian Prada Group is in the hands of Lorenzo Bertelli, born in 1988, son of the designer Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli, with whom he shared the position of managing director for many years. Miuccia Prada herself took over the family business in 1978, now it’s up to her son. The eldest of Prada’s two sons has so far mainly made headlines as a racing driver, but has been part of the family business since 2015, at the time still as a member of the board of directors, and meanwhile as marketing director and head of responsibility corporate social.

However, his area of ​​responsibility could soon expand, as CEO Andrea Guerra, who was appointed in December, is preparing Bertelli to take over the reins of his parents’ company. Lorenzo’s parents, who studied philosophy at the San Raffaele University in Milan, make no secret of his future in the family business. “We’re getting older, my husband and I, and that’s how we’re trying to organize the future for our son and for the company,” Prada said in an interview with Vogue Business earlier this year.

Marta Ortega Pérez: the heiress of fast fashion

Marta Ortega Pérez worked for 15 years at Inditex, the fast-fashion empire of her father Amancio Ortega, before the now 39-year-old took over as chairman of the Spanish textile group’s board last April. Her first official position in Inditex is hers, before she was always active where the company needed her most, even in terms of sales, Ortega Pérez explained in a rare interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2021.

Even without an official title, it was Ortega Pérez who significantly changed the image of the Zara brand in recent years. Under her guidance, campaigns were created with renowned creatives giving the fashion chain a premium coat of paint even before a ‘premium’ collection was introduced. “I have lived and breathed this company since I was a child (…)” said Ortega Pérez in a statement by Inditex in November 2021. “I have always said that I would dedicate my life to building my parents’ legacy, looking to the future, but learning from the past and serving the company, our shareholders and customers where I’m needed most.”

Ancestry as a guarantee of success?

This is just a brief portrait of particularly young CEOs of well-known fashion dynasties in which the baton has remained in the hands of the family. Family members from fashion houses like Missoni, or Versace and designers like Carine Roitfeld could easily join the long list. Many fashion empires that at first seem not quite as glamorous, such as Peek & Cloppenburg, Otto Group and C&A, are also firmly in family hands, but not always without problems. Sometimes the next generation wants to go their own way, and not everyone tries to organize their succession within the family in time.

François-Henri Pinault, CEO of the luxury fashion group Kering, is now considered the biggest competitor of Bernard Arnault and therefore of Lvmh. He was only 23 when he joined his father’s company, François Pinault, in 1987. In 2005, he finally followed in his father’s footsteps and renamed the group Kering a few years later. Compared to the Arnault clan, none of Pinault’s sons are part of the group and his potential successor is therefore still completely open.

Even clothing brands such as S.Oliver and Marc Cain are trying their luck with candidates outside the family, away from possible “nepo babies”.

Originally written by Jule Scott for the German edition, translated and adapted by Isabella Naef for fashionunited.it

Tag Heuer boss Frederic Arnault. Photo: Lvmh
Lorenzo Bertelli. Photo: Prada

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