Guilhem Parent-Oteiza is a trailblazer in luxury brand management. He is currently Marketing and E-commerce Director for Givenchy Beauty in the UK, leading all aspects of the customer journey and focusing on cross channel strategies, e-business and direct to consumer (DTC) growth and retail brand expression.
Prior to that, he was at Moet Hennessy, then Guerlain, where he led new product development in fragrances and skincare.
Guilhem is executive business sponsor for LVMH Pride UK, an initiative to support the LGBTQI+ community in the business.
We talk to Guilhem as he embarks on an exciting new stage in his career, joining a digital native brand next month. He shares his insights on the luxury industry, the acceleration of sustainability and digital experience, the importance of representation and what it means to be LGBTQI+ in luxury.
You have worked in the luxury industry for many years, where did it all start for you?
It actually started by accident, thanks to conversations with marketers. At that time, I was an intern in Paris at a news magazine. Through the LGBTQI+ community, I met likeminded and inspiring people working in marketing in the luxury industry. Discovering their passion, their story and their jobs was instrumental for me, I could project myself in their shoes. I was 20 and remember thinking “I want to do this”.
I joined LVMH 13 years ago and made my way up from intern to Marketing and E-commerce Director, across jewellery, wines & spirits and beauty. In July, I’ll embark on a new journey and join Huda Beauty as VP of Marketing – Europe, a brand founded by Huda Kattan in 2013 and which focuses on bringing inclusive beauty that empowers people to express who they want to be, no matter their background.
From your perspective, how has the luxury and beauty industry changed?
In recent years, the luxury beauty industry has accelerated its evolution to be relevant to a wider and more diverse audience. And it means delivering products and services that are environmentally friendly, that acknowledge the diverse forms of beauty and are accessible on multiple platforms (shops being one of them).
Regarding sustainable development, the luxury and beauty industry is a prime actor. Firstly, the protection and sustainable sourcing of raw materials is of pivotal importance. When you think fragrance you think Bergamot from Calabria, Rose from Grasse… these raw materials are part of our patrimony, and we need to protect them for future generations. Second, the formulations have been improved to answer customers' concerns on product safety. The segment of clean or green beauty has boomed over the last 10 years with the emergence of new brands and entire new product line-ups. Third, work has been done to reduce the carbon footprint of products by reducing the weight of glass in fragrance bottles, or the volume for skincare products. I am proud of our achievements at Guerlain to reduce the carbon footprint of the Orchidee Imperiale range by 50%, a premium line which has fully been redesigned – and that was in 2015, seven years ago already.
The beauty industry gives a voice to all forms of beauty. In that respect, great progress has been made in recent years to be more inclusive of skin tones, shapes, cultures, age, genders… The road will be long but it is important to celebrate the achievements. We need to keep energy levels high to accelerate the process.
The recent pandemic has also accelerated the digitalisation of the beauty experience, allowing people from everywhere to consume content and enjoy products at their own leisure. Delivering an omnichannel experience is key to success and the arrival of the metaverse is a great opportunity to further build the relationship with the customer. A few examples worth noting: Givenchy launched an NFT to support the young LGBTQI+ community in Pride month last year and we’ve just launched on Roblox, go enjoy the brand!
This interview is part of our LGBTQ+ trailblazer campaign. Can you tell us about what Pride means to you and also your work on Pride at LVMH – what’s the thinking behind it?
For me, Pride is about acknowledging and celebrating the diverse experiences of LGBTQI+ individuals in life. It’s a moment of reflection on equality, injustice in society and what we do to make sure we nourish a more inclusive society in which LGBTQI+ individuals feel safe, have the same opportunities as others and can thrive to realise their potential.
LVMH Pride UK is the little sibling of the LVMH Pride US group. It is composed of a committee of talents who manage cross functional projects and an Executive Business Sponsor committee – which I am part of – whose role is to support their implementation (with funding, coaching and expertise sharing). The initiative is still very recent and aims at engaging with our fellow colleagues on topics that resonate with the community, like inclusion or equality. For this Pride month, the committee has organised three awareness events: a drag brunch in partnership with Mermaid UK, a children’s book reading and a discussion panel with speakers from LVMH. These events are free of charge for employees and are an opportunity to start a conversation.
Looking more broadly at diversity and inclusion across the industry, where are we now and what needs to change?
I think the acknowledgement part has been done quite broadly. Now, the industry needs to make sure that what we all consider as necessary is implemented: more representation of people of colour, more diversity in terms of body type or age, more inclusion of LGBTQI+ individuals. The next challenge is also to give visibility to the richness of intersectionality: the story, heritage and point of view of a woman of colour, or LGBTQI+ mixed race couples… The possibilities of telling stories that matter and change perceptions are limitless. It is our responsibility to give them a voice.
On the topic of representation, as much as the shop floor has become more diverse, the board room is still very uniform. We need to ensure that the managing committees are infused with diversity too, especially targeting underrepresented communities such as women of colour, Asian colleagues or LGBTQI+ colleagues just to name three.
Representation in all layers of the industry should be a short-term goal (as in we need to reflect the world as it is today) and a mid-term instrument (as in a more representative industry will lead the change for more inclusion and more diversity). Therefore, it’s a virtuous mechanic: give it a push now and it will be exponential tomorrow. Let’s do it. It starts with things as simple as training hiring managers to develop more inclusive recruitment processes where people are aware of their bias.
I’m very proud of my diverse team of talents where we include diversity of origins, race, culture, sexual orientation or gender identification. A rich melting pot where we feel elevated by others and respected for our contribution.
Traditional working cultures can be difficult, there is often a pack mentality…
Within a company? Surely and we can already see the change so I feel very optimistic. After all, this is how we have been programmed to survive: trust people who look like you, be on your guard when something different comes to you. But I’m sure we’ll agree that the world has evolved and the same applies to the rules of survival! We need to move from this representation to the next generation of social interaction. Let’s value the unknown, the undiscovered and always keep in mind not to take what we think as a universal truth.
You mentioned the next generation. How are things going to move forward for them?
I think the younger generation will evolve in a society which is more aware of diversity and which will eventually be more inclusive. Conversations happen now which were not happening 10 years ago, like the ones on gender identification, for instance.
It doesn’t mean that homophobia or transphobia for instance will disappear soon though. We need to be constantly on our guard to protect LGBTQI+ rights and avoid any return to darker times.
Also, with more LGBTQI+ leaders, companies have now a more representative set of decision makers who can share their lived experience (and especially regarding discrimination) and help put in place the framework of a more inclusive and positive workspace.
We are living through challenging times, what is it that keeps you going?
Have a positive impact around me: with my teams when I help or guide, with the business when we unlock opportunities, with our customers when we bring this unexpected experience.
Do you have any guiding principles that you live by?
Be true to yourself, own your failures and your successes. I guess this is the easiest way to become the best version of yourself.