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Powerful pro-leather testimony from Louis Vuitton CEO

The chief executive of luxury leathergoods brand Louis Vuitton, Michael Burke, has said digital communications mean brands can lose their customers’ trust faster than ever.

In a recent interview with Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr Burke said brand awareness can be an asset if it builds up over time and is the result of the hard work and dedication of all the people who work for the company. But he described it as being fragile at the same time. “One false step and your image can collapse in no time,” he warned.

He went on to say that this is one reason why Louis Vuitton does not “make proclamations” about future sustainability goals, for example. “We set ourselves objectives,” he said, “and when we meet them, we communicate it.”

Asked about embracing new materials he said Louis Vuitton was committed to animal welfare but had no intention of ending its use of leather, including exotic leather.

He gave three reasons for Louis Vuitton’s ongoing commitment to leather. First, he described the tanning industry as being, and always having been, an example of the circular economy. “Hides used to make bags and shoes are a waste product from the food industry,” he insisted. “If our sector were not able to put this material to good use, it would for disposal.”

Next, he said that the cattle that provide raw material for Louis Vuitton leather have come, for time immemorial, from farms that have externally validated certification for the ethical treatment and wellbeing of the animals.

Thirdly, he said human beings have been using hides for centuries and that, in all that time, no one has been able to come up with any raw material that meets the needs of Louis Vuitton in the way that leather can. Leather, he said, endows these products with durability and longevity and, at the same time, it makes them beautiful. “No material is more suited to giving this function to the clothes and accessories we make,” he said.

Michael Burke, CEO of Louis Vuitton

Credit: Louis Vuitton Malletier/Jean-François Robert

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