No one starts at the top in fashion, or any field for that matter.
French business titan François Pinault built his fortune cycling through several industries — timber trading, department stores and furniture retail among them — before landing on luxury goods.
“Like every actress, I was a waitress. I was actually quite good at it,” Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu of “Emily in Paris” fame said as she filed into Kering’s Paris headquarters on Friday night to celebrate its 10th anniversary, and 60 years of the group’s founding. Its previous company names included Établissements Pinault, Pinault SA, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute and PPR.
Salma Hayek, wearing a draped Alexander McQueen bustier dress in blood-red leather, relished her university days working at a fashion boutique in the Polanco neighborhood in Mexico City.
“I worked only on Saturdays. But very fast, I was the number-one salesperson,” she enthused. “I also ended up being in charge of the windows.”
Hayek said she thrived on the interaction with clients. “It was really about listening to them, being honest with them. And then the pleasure of them owning something that made them feel good, something that we found together.”
François Pinault and his son François-Henri Pinault, now chairman and chief executive officer at Kering, greeted the likes of Carla Bruni, Arielle Dombasle, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Julie Gayet — along with most of its brand CEOs and creative directors, including Sabato De Sarno, looking calm and collected less than a week out from his big debut at Gucci during Milan Fashion Week.
Demna, creative director of Balenciaga, wearing a tattered black cap, hoodie and black knit gloves, recalled his surprising student job: a correspondent for one of the top TV networks in his native Georgia. “I was the translator,” he said, noting he recently came across his press pass embedded with a photo of his 17-year-old self.
Matthieu Blazy, creative director of Bottega Veneta, said he spent his summers picking grapes in the South of France. “I have two hands,” he said with a smirk, holding out his appendages.
In case you’re curious, he picked green grapes for a white wine.
Jonathan Newhouse started his publishing career at one of his family’s newspapers in Springfield, Mass. Cleaning the presses head-first was among his tasks. “I had to wash my hair five times to get the ink out,” he related.
Guests eventually repaired to a long table set for 150 people, and laden with field flowers, bowls of nuts and colorful Ginori 1735 dinnerware.
The Pinault family hails from the Brittany region of France, so the menu leaned into seafood and crescendoed with a buckwheat dessert swimming in buttermilk and salted-butter caramel.
Marie-Claire Daveu, Kering’s sustainability chief who hails from Dinard, encouraged guests to sample mini kouign-amanns — a buttery delight — and “far Breton,” a gooey, clafouti-like square loaded with prunes.
In a brief speech, François-Henri Pinault paid homage to his father’s “masterful” empire building, while stressing that humility lies at the foundation of Kering’s “creative and responsible” brand of luxury.
As they departed, guests were handed a bag containing advance copies of “De Granit et de Rêves: Kering,” a hardcover Flammarion tome that details the company’s history, starting in 1962 when François Pinault, then 26, began trading wood in his hometown of Rennes.
Among the striking archival images is a row of Pinault-branded trucks loaded with lumber in front of the walled city of Saint-Malo, and one of François Pinault beaming and shaking hands with Yves Saint Laurent in 2000, shortly after what was then Gucci Group was on its luxury acquisition spree.
The 320-page book includes tributes from Jane Fonda, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Hung Huang, Jean-Jacques Aillagon and Carlo Capasa. An English version is slated for release later this year.