Kering: Of Granite and Dreams

Image of Kering: Of Granite and Dreams
Release Date: 
February 19, 2024
Reviewed by: 

It is probably fair to say that even the most avid fashionista is not aware that the Kering group—a multinational corporation that owns everything from Gucci to Alexander McQueen to Yves Saint Laurent—began as a timber company. Founded in 1962, the brand scooped up struggling operations hit hard by the 1970s financial crisis. More importantly, François Pinault (who was CEO until 2003) showed a naturally shrewd business sense in both negotiations and practice, trouncing the competition time and time again.

Indeed, Kering: Of Granite and Dreams often reads like an episode of Succession—how one man became a billionaire by outmaneuvering everyone else. Within the first 30 pages of the tome, we learn that when the French importing authorities put pressure on dock workers not to unload the timber Pinault was bringing in at a steep discount, he enlisted the help of all his new clients to physically unload the ship alongside him, undercutting a labor monopoly. Cue the closing credits and intense plot point music, and tune in next week for another nail-biting episode!

It’s not until about a third of the way through the book that readers learn how Kering transitioned into the luxury goods sector, starting out by essentially picking up a company that mega-conglomerate LVMH wanted to offload. Once in mid-level retail, Kering quickly bought up other stores and businesses, gradually shifting out of timber and homing in on the luxury market. These play-by-play details of how the business grew over 30 years, however, are probably not going to be that interesting to the average reader unless they’re really, really into corporate quarterly reports.

The book itself is thoughtfully designed, with each section printed on different high-quality paper stocks that provide both visual and tactile interest. The photography, be it early images of trucks lined up at a port or shots taken on a fashion runway, are universally lovely; and the layout indicates that a very knowledgeable graphic designer was enlisted to mock up the pages. Given that Kering is one of the more profitable luxury corporations in the world, though, anything less would have been shocking.

All this beauty, however, cannot hide the fact that this is nothing more than a really gorgeously produced piece of marketing. The Pinault family are always visionaries and heroes, and there are over 30 pages of accolades written by their famous friends endorsing such fantasies, ranging from the former French Minister of Culture, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, to Anna Wintour. These pages are perhaps the most giggle-inducing, as they tend to read like someone’s intense attempt to get into Harvard by enlisting their dad to have every possible impressive connection write a recommendation letter—alongside the likes of Jane Fonda, there is also a lawyer, a well-known journalist, a film director, an economist, and, of course, a gynecologist.

The final pages are dedicated to the various fashion houses currently overseen by Kering, and will be the most viewed section by anyone who thought this was going to be a book about haute couture. Presented without text, each brand is given a scant few pages highlighting their most iconic collections or ad campaigns—Kate Moss’s nude portrait for Bottega Veneta, the Alexander McQueen runway show in which a dress was graffitied live by robots. But this is well-trod territory in the fashion world, and unless the reader is earnestly interested in the business side of Kering, this is not a book that will get taken off the shelf very often.