Marc Le Menestrel
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Love, Ethics and Peace in Fashion

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by Marc Le Menestrel (8/11/2011)

When I was contacted for an interview by FT’s fashion editor Vanessa Friedman about the CEO of a fashion house who is now partner with the creative director, I thought it was a joke.

The ethics of love in the fashion industry? What an insignificant subject to think or write about!

At that time, I was preparing a difficult assignment for a company involved in military intelligence. I was reading about covert operations, disinformation, influence tactics and strategic military planning. I was attempting to analyze how we now treat war and information as a business. I was feeling important and powerful, glad to study this subject professionally and not as a subversive covert activist. I felt disdain for the fashion industry.

In fact, my reaction was so much ego-driven that I could not avoid noticing it. I became prudent about myself. I first asked Vanessa about the ethics of writing about such a personal topic and she told me that they (the coming-out couple) asked for it. This was a good reason for her to do her job. I began to think more about the subject.

Discussing this topic is one more manner by which “love” enters business relationships.

I first thought about love as an antidote to violence, which is more and more present in business and which obviously raises ethical issues. I also thought about love as a source of true creativity, which has monetary value, particularly in the fashion industry. But I also thought of love as a metaphor to share about priceless values. In my dreaming sessions, I observe that most business leaders dream of a life where their personal values would be compatible with who they are at work. Hence, this love story is also about the tension between personal life and professional life, about the meaning of life. It was a fairy tale that says you can work and love. That was the input Vanessa will use in her article.

Bringing love to the debate about ethics and business also raises unethical issues. In a sense, we participate in a system where love becomes a business, and a show business that conveniently hides other unethical issues. I thought about Guy Debord and his “Societé du Spectacle”:

"Toute la vie des sociétés dans lesquelles règnent les conditions modernes de production s’annonce comme une immense accumulation de spectacles. Tout ce qui était directement vécu s’est éloigné dans une représentation."
Guy Debord

The world is becoming a show business and we are actors in this show.

Again, ethics appeared to me as a continuous experience where contradictions resolve when our actions reveal our true identity.

For these business lovers, how they will manage their affair will reveal who they are to themselves and to stakeholders. I wish they will see the many dilemmas they will face as opportunities to truly become who they want to be. They are bringing love to business.

Finally, “peace and love in business” came to my mind. In association with the FT, I thought it was too much. And I loved it!

Click here to read what Vanessa finally wrote: "When personnel get personal", By Vanessa Friedman, Financial Times, October 28, 2011.