Updated: Mar 8
It's been a few days since I wanted to write something on the subject, without being able to wrap my mind around it. The desire to write came to me when I read, a few days ago, in an influential newsletter of the luxury industry, this opening sentence:
"European luxury has been left out of Russia sanctions, but actions to remove Russia from Swift could still hurt."
This seemingly simple sentence sums up two things for me: - a discrepancy with what is being played out on the international scene; - complacency - or could it be a lack of courage? - at a time when, on the contrary, an industry and the companies representing it have a fantastic opportunity to commit themselves alongside individuals and governments, firmly and without any ambiguity, for democracy and the defense of fundamental freedom - and raffirm their values at the same time.
It also reveals the discomfort in which our industry (and others) finds itself today. The same industry that had been so quick to pivot and support people, in times of a pandemic. If our industry had learned anything in recent years, it is how closely tomorrow's luxury customers will look at brands' commitments and values and make them their number one purchasing criteria. The current situation may act as a revealer The current situation will undoubtedly act as a revealer of brand values and positioning. What is true is that it's a very complex situation to navigate.
However, certain reactions observed over the past week seemed particularly disconnected to me. For example, how to justify that Italian diplomats demanded that their industry be excluded from the sanctions, to allow their brands to continue to be sold on Russian soil? That certain representatives of the diamond industry have expressed their dissatisfaction with the sanctions imposed? Are these rumors true? Maybe, maybe not, but the ambiguity is there, and that's what's most embarrassing.
Some companies have done so though. BP - which is not known by the general public for its philanthropy - gave up on 25 billion dollars potentially, refusing to partner with a company close to the Russian dictator and supplying fuel to the Russian army. Some representatives of the art world, a sensitive industry which some people could try to go through to circumvent the financial sanctions put in place, have already announced their desire to verify the origin of the funds in a highly meticulous manner:
"Representatives for Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips all reiterated their commitment to avoiding business with sanctioned individuals and companies." (source: News.Artnet)
Angela Missoni, president of the group of the same name, also expressed herself and did so bluntly. She acknowledged that the industry would be hit by rising energy costs and said that despite these costs and the potential loss of the Russian market, she was unambiguously on Ukraine's side.
"I think you have to take a stand. (...) would never be on the side of a war. I will always be on the side of the people of the land who are being attacked. We have to give a sign that we are against the politics, even if it’s a sacrifice for Italy.” - Angela Missoni
As I update this article, most companies have decided to limit their presence and services on Russian soil, at least temporarily.
All in all, it is, as the author Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens, puts it so well, a choice that man has the power and the capacity to make, to demonstrate that the law of the jungle, and therefore war, is not inevitable and if man decides, history does not have to repeat itself.
** All opinions expressed on this blog are my own, personal views **