Aug 18, 2023
At the helm of Ralph Lauren Corp., Chief Executive Patrice Louvet is navigating the novel challenges modern times bring for the fashion industry. The list includes dealing with a world where hoodies can be fair game at the office and factoring the metaverse into business planning.
He’s bringing a different perspective, too, as one of a growing list of CEOs in apparel and retail who don’t hail from the world of fashion. Prior to joining Ralph Lauren, he was an executive at Procter & Gamble, focused on beauty. Louvet spoke in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Francine Lacqua. Questions and responses have been edited and condensed.
Are we really going to the office in hoodies now?
It depends which industry you’re in. At Ralph Lauren, I haven’t seen many people in hoodies. But Ralph does come in once in a while in a double RL hoodie or a Polo hoodie. But he makes it look beautiful, as you can imagine.
How much time do you spend thinking about sustainability?
A lot. Timelessness and sustainability go together. You can’t expect to be timeless if we’ve run out of resources. So for me, sustainability is not a side activity, it’s not a reaction to external pressure. It’s core to who we are, what we stand for. And to a very strong extent, it’s about future proofing our business.
You need the focus on sustainability to recruit. More and more that younger consumer, they want to work for companies that care about this planet, that do more than just generate revenue and profit. You need sustainability to attract consumers, including that younger consumer. They care deeply about what are you doing differently. Are you making a difference? Investors, particularly in Europe, more and more place value in what you’re doing in sustainability. Many of our partners have expectations on sustainability.
There seems to be a trend to get chief executives from the consumer products industry who don’t have backgrounds in luxury and fashion. Do these consumer products chief executives do better than those from the luxury sector?
This trend started in beauty. And now we’re seeing that in the fashion world. At the end of the day, success in this industry is getting the balance right between magic and logic. And so in the fashion industry, the creative leaders have the magic. There’s an opportunity to bring a higher level of logic without diluting the magic. What people from the consumer goods industry bring are greater focus on understanding the consumer now. Where you get successes is when designer vision and customer needs come together. There’s an element of intuition that needs to be protected, but that can be supplemented by data.
How do you choose celebrities and influencers?
For us, what’s critical is authenticity. So the concept of, I’m going to write you a big check today and you’re going to talk about us and then tomorrow you’re going to show up on a competitive brand because you got another big check — we’re not interested in that. We want people who have an authentic relationship with the brand.
Are you excited about metaverse? Are you investing in the metaverse?
The media headlines have moved on, but the consumer has not, which is very interesting. We are investing in the metaverse. We want to be where our consumer is. And that’s where the younger population is. That’s where they want to engage with brands like us.
We’ve got a partnership with Fortnite. There’s some really cool boots that we developed that you can dress your player with, but we’ve actually done a physical version of them as well.
What are you like as a leader? A risk taker?
I think people would say listener. There’s a great quote from a Greek philosopher that we have two ears and one mouth. And there’s a reason for that. People would say I’m a learner. I am a measured risk taker. I am not a swing-for-the-fence risk taker, but I believe in innovating, experimenting and trying new things. And I think that’s the energy inside the company today. I love that spirit of just trying things, and again, learning.