Bridget Bardot called St Tropez “Eden”, Bernard Arnault wants to call it “LVMH City.” Locals are up against Bernard Arnault and his LVMH Empire for boutiquing it. Balance mix of traditional fishing port and international glamor is in danger because of the non-stop expansion of LVMH boutiques. “Bernard Arnault started by buying a small building where he set up a Dior boutique. And ever since, he buys everything that moves,” David Belity, a local shopkeeper, told Le Parisien. Arnault’s LVMH Group owns more than 60 luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Bulgari and Moët & Chandon. Maybe he just wants to add St Tropez to the list.
A local graffiti artist last year replaced the St Tropez city sign with “LVMH City”, police acted quickly to bring the sign down. Locals blame Mayor Jean-Pierre Tuvéri, for giving his blessing to big businesses and property developers for turning St Tropez into a designer boutique paradise. “Bernard Arnault’s group is taking advantage of the current mayor’s policy of giving property developers and private investors free reign,” complained Dominique Bonnet, president of the St Tropez Our Village association.
A recently purchased local restaurant is already turned into a Sephora store. LVMH bought Place des Lices, a favorite place for local boules players. Now it’s the four-star Hotel White 1921 that charge $1300 per night. Right next to the hotel is LVMH owned Fendi and Celine fashion and leather stores.
Apparently it seems, St Tropez is stuck in the middle between dueling French billionaires, Bernard Arnault and François Pinault. Some locals think Arnault’s maddening property buying spree is the result of the great rivalry between two men. France’s second richest man François Pinault, is the founder of PPR Group, owns Gucci, Puma, Girard-Perregaux and Stella McCartney. Arnault lost the bruising battle to Pinault for Gucci.
Not everyone think boutiquing of St. Tropez a bad idea. As one shop owner pointed out, “He brings in a clientele that spends a fortune in the shops. People weigh up the pros and cons, and in this time of crisis, they are more inclined to see the advantages.” With a population of only 5600, this is a boon to the economy. That is, if you are willing to look the other way of disappearing traditions of St.Tropez.