The era of Donald Trump: Political Figure has been marked by a handful of fashion controversies, starting with the campaign and extending into his time in the White House. It inspired the #GrabYourWallet campaign, which encouraged shoppers to vote with their dollars and boycott brands and retailers linked to the Trump family and its supporters—which then led to counter-boycotts. It brought increased scrutiny, and the eventual closure, of his daughter’s brand. It turned the Fashion Week runway into a more urgent call to action. And don’t forget about that one Zara jacket.
Now it’s the opening of a luxury manufacturing facility in Texas that’s raising eyebrows. It’s a story that, in past administrations, might not have registered outside industry circles. But the image of LVMH CEO and chairman Bernard Arnault and Donald Trump at a ribbon-cutting ceremony surrounded by Louis Vuitton products has caused some to speak out against the French fashion house.
Here’s everything you need to know about the situation.
Back in January 2017, shortly before the Inauguration, Arnault met with then President-elect Trump in New York to discuss potentially expanding Louis Vuitton’s production in the U.S., WWD reported at the time. The brand already had two factories in the U.S., both in California—one in San Dimas, which opened in 1991, and one in Irwindale, which opened in 2012—and had been manufacturing in the country even longer than that. (According to the New York Times, half of the Louis Vuitton bags sold in the U.S. in the past three decades were actually made here too.)
In October 2017 local officials confirmed that Louis Vuitton would be opening a facility in Johnson County, Texas, its first in the state. That month Johnson County approved Louis Vuitton’s request for a 10-year, 75% tax abatement (which was estimated at approximately $91,900 annually), the Cleburne Times-Review reported.
In the lead-up to the grand opening, Arnault attended President Trump’s first State Dinner, and Louis Vuitton signed the administration’s Pledge to America’s Workers. Then a week before the ribbon-cutting, scheduled for October 2019, the White House announced that the president would visit Louis Vuitton’s new factory on opening day. Which leads us to…
Louis Vuitton Rochambeau Ranch officially opened its doors on October 17. Six specific handbag and backpack styles will be produced at the facility, all of which will have the Made in USA tag. Louis Vuitton currently employs around 150 people at Louis Vuitton Rochambeau Ranch, with the goal of creating 1,000 jobs there over the next five years, the Dallas Morning News reports.
President Trump, Arnault, and Louis Vuitton chairman and CEO Michael Burke were all present for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, as were White House advisors Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
“This shows two commitments: One, the commitment of LVMH to the American market, and two, the commitment of President Trump to the American worker,” Arnault said, according to WWD, estimating that LVMH’s investment in the U.S. comes in at over $1 billion.
In his remarks, President Trump joked, “Today, we continue the extraordinary revival of American manufacturing, and we proudly celebrate the opening of the brand-new Louis Vuitton—a name I know very well. It cost me a lot of money over the years.”
Already, Louis Vuitton executives tiptoed around the political implications of the photo opp. Arnault told WWD, “We are very honored to have the president of the United States. I’m not here to judge any types of policies. I’m here to work with my brand and we are going to, over five years, have 1,000 people working here and that’s what matters.” Burke, meanwhile, insisted to the publication that this partnership is “about jobs, it’s not a political statement. This is about engaging with the president of the United States’ overriding economic goal of bringing jobs back to the United States…. It’s ironic that it’s a French company that’s doing it. There’s a subject…for those who want to be critical. Once again we’re helping out America. That’s what friends are for.”
What’s In It for LV
Yes, there’s the tax abatement—and, as the Wall Street Journal notes, a way around trade disputes affecting the European Union. But according to Louis Vuitton, the opening of a Texas facility is more about better serving one of its most important markets.
In his remarks at the ribbon cutting, Arnault described the U.S. as the “number one [market] for LVMH in the world,” per a local NBC affiliate. The opening of a manufacturing facility in Texas will allow the company not only to keep up with that demand, but also to get product quickly to customers across the country, officials told the Times.
However, Louis Vuitton’s alignment with the Trump administration might prove to be an alienating force for some shoppers.
As images and videos from the Louis Vuitton Rochambeau Ranch opening began to circulate on social media, celebrities, stylists, and other influential figures began to speak out against Trump, LVMH, and Louis Vuitton more specifically.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, stylists including Karla Welch, Elizabeth Stewart, and Alexandra Mandelkorn took to their Instagram Stories and comments to express disappointment in LVMH and Arnault for aligning themselves with the Trump administration.
The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan characterized the ribbon cutting as “jarring in its utter nonchalance, in its unflinching fealty to corporate normalcy during these most abnormal times. Can there be neutral ground when the players are a president who has made women in general, along with immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community, feel as though they are under siege, and a billionaire mogul who reaps tremendous profits from those very people? Is a public shrug permissible anymore when all around there is chaos?”
To many—including some on Louis Vuitton’s payroll—the answer to those questions is “no.” On October 20, Nicolas Ghesquière, artistic director of women’s collections at Louis Vuitton since 2013, took to Instagram to make clear that his views don’t necessarily reflect those of his employer. He posted the cover art for Evelyn Thomas’s “High Energy,” and captioned it: “Standing against any political action. I am a fashion designer refusing this association #trumpisajoke #homophobia".
On October 18, Shannon Coulter, the founder of #GrabYourWallet, announced that Louis Vuitton had been added to the master list of brands to boycott.
“Creating jobs is not an excuse to ignore morally repugnant behavior,” she told Business of Fashion. “Businesses are willing to look the other way in order to work with the Trump administration, but it’s a worrisome trend.”
Glamour has reached out to Louis Vuitton for comment and will update this story when we hear back.
Originally Appeared on Glamour