At the time of writing, there were a staggering 3,582,469 confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide. Besides perhaps Bill Gates and his enthusiasts, who would’ve thought we’d end up here? The world as we know it is turned on its head, with almost every industry being infected by the novel coronavirus.
Economically and socially, the immediate outlook may appear grim, but not all hope is lost. If nothing else, crises of these proportions highlight the fortitude of communities who rally together in solidarity. And it’s luxury brands that have shown they are ready to lend a helping hand.
Whether it’s all for the tax breaks or they are in fact doing things for the right reason, here’s a highlights package of some of their large-scale (and in some cases, not so obvious) acts of Covid-19 goodwill. No surprise that much of the relief is targeted at Europe — and decimated Italy especially — given that most of these brands are based on that continent.
Luxury behemoth LVMH was one of the first to initiate a relief response, having committed in mid- March to produce and distribute 50-60 tonnes of hydroalcoholic gel — aka hand sanitiser — to hospitals in France each week. LVMH has ordered 40-million masks (both surgical and FFP2), from a Chinese supplier, that will be distributed among French healthcare authorities in batches.
Reacting to the shortage of medical equipment in France, the company has also arranged for 261 respirators, 400,000 serology tests, and eight diagnostic-processing machines to be delivered to hospitals throughout the region. In addition to this, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior have repurposed their workshops to make non-surgical face masks for the public and gowns for hospitals. This is all on top of several significant donations to various needs by the LVMH group, including to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation.
Kering and its houses — Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and others — have donated €3-million (plus an additional €2-million in crowdfunding projects) towards Covid-19 relief. These donations have gone toward the Hubei Red Cross Foundation in China, four major foundation hospitals in Italy, and the Civil Protection Authority and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Solidarity Response Fund. In addition, 3-million surgical masks have been arranged through a Chinese supplier for France’s healthcare services.
Gucci, specifically, has committed to producing 1.1-million surgical masks and 55,000 gowns for Italy’s Tuscany region; with Saint Laurent and Balenciaga retooling their workshops to produce 15,000 surgical masks per week for medical staff in Paris. To assist with the production of protective equipment, Kering has financed the purchase of 60 3D printers for the Cochin Hospital in Paris. In support of the CDC Foundation in the US, the group has donated $1-million to fund medical essentials and personal protective equipment (PPE).
PRADA AND GIORGIO ARMANI
Responding to the shortage of PPE in Tuscany, Italy, Prada has produced 110,000 masks and 80,000 medical overalls. Likewise, Giorgio Armani, CEO of Armani Group, has pledged its Italian production plants to manufacture single-use medical overalls, as well as a €2-million donation for hospitals in the Tuscany region.
Milan-based luxury brand Moncler has announced a donation of €10-million towards the construction of 400 intensive-care units in Italy’s Lombardy region.
The luxury Italian fashion house has announced that it will donate €3-million to support the healthcare system in Italy. The company has also rallied to manufacture masks, and 280,000 protective hospital suits for medical staff in Switzerland.
US-based Ralph Lauren announced that it would donate $10-million in response to Covid-19. The donation will provide grants to employees through Ralph Lauren’s Emergency Assistance Foundation, contribute to WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund and the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund for Covid-19 Relief, and support the brand’s cancer care Pink Pony Fund. Ralph Lauren will also produce 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns for donation in the US.
Ensuring that its staff are looked after, Hermés will maintain the basic salary of its 15,500 employees worldwide. In addition, the French maison will donate €20-million to public hospitals in Paris, as well as 30 tons of sanitiser and 31,000 masks, produced in-house.
Luxury diamond house Graff has announced it will donate $1-million to WHO’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund. In a similar vein, South African luxury diamond group De Beers has pledged $2.5-million to be split between Botswana and Namibia’s national relief funds in response to Covid-19.
Interestingly, some brands have already seen a bounce back — with Hermès specifically having made $2.7-million in its flagship store the day it re-opened when the lockdown was lifted in China. We do ponder whether all these brands believe in philanthropy at their core. But does it even matter? Help is help after all.
One thing is for sure, this pandemic has shown that things need to change. A reboot in how we treat one another, and the environment, will be necessary to survive. The levels of greed and the sheer excess of stuff need to change — and the luxury-goods industry is presented with an opportunity to be at the forefront of that change. And just maybe, when the dust has settled, we won’t need another catastrophic pandemic to remind us to help each other out.
• From the May edition of Wanted, 2020.