As a member of the Arnault family, whom Forbes placed fourth in its 2018 World’s Billionaires List, you’d expect Stéphanie Watine Arnault to feel the pressure for her one-year-old business, Clos19, to perform. “I think we all inspire each other, in our own individual ways,” she tells Vogue. “For me it’s what’s normal. My family is my type of normal. It’s nothing special.”
A “normal” family dinner could see Watine Arnault sat around the table with her uncle Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of luxury French goods conglomerate LVMH, his daughter Delphine Arnault, the director and executive vice president of Louis Vuitton, and his sons: Antoine Arnault, who helms Berluti and Loro Piana, and Alexandre Arnault, who recently took the reins at Rimowa. “We try to avoid talking about business all the time, but it’s really hard to avoid,” she admits.
It’s the family’s refined taste and their hedonistic lifestyle – “we regularly go to the Champagne region, to Cognac, to Bordeaux – it’s something I hold dear to my heart” – that Watine Arnault distilled into her brand. Clos19 is LVMH’s first etailer and experience agency dedicated to the champagne, wines and spirits within the stable.
“It’s a shop, but it’s not a simple shop,” she explains. “It’s not just a place where you can go and buy a product. It’s a lifestyle place, where as a customer, you can get inspiration on the art of hosting.” A quick browse on Clos19.com today, for example, might see a customer come away with a set of hand-blown glass Campbell-Rey straws produced on the island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon (dishwasher friendly!) and a one-of-a-kind trip to the Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon maisons during the harvest time, when they are usually on total lock down.
“We’re not just selling you a bottle. We’re not just telling you a beautiful story,” she continues. “If you want to really live it, we take care of everything to make you live a beautiful moment. It’s a modern type of luxury.” Her cousin, Alexandre Arnault, the 25-year-old LVMH protégé, has also placed this experiential economy at the core of his revamp of Rimowa. “The next generation is seeking a more intense life than the last one, so we must service this,” he told the CNI Luxury Conference in April of his peers wish to spend their money on experiences they can share on social media. “Social networks have redefined the balance of desirability…Snapping and sharing images makes them valuable.”
Watine Arnault conceived the idea of Clos19 when working in the innovation group of Moët Hennessy. “I realised that nobody was talking to me or my generation, it was all for connoisseurs,” she recalls. “The technical aspects – the right temperature, the right glass, the right pairing for champagne – can be a bit boring. But, if you look at it from a lifestyle perspective, where you can set a scene, it can become very playful.” Accordingly, the name is inspired by the democratisation of Champagne in the 19th Century, hence the “19”. And she doesn’t categorise her customers, because she doesn’t feel it’s relevant: “I think it is really more about people who just want to enjoy life.”
Before Moët Hennessy, she racked up stints at Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, scooping up a business degree from INSEAD (European Institute of Business Administration) along the way. “I never really planned to end up where I am,” she concedes. A book she discovered owned by Madame Clicquot, where the “Grande Dame of champagne” kept personal notes on all her customers, spurred Watine Arnault on to make her love for customer communication and personalisation a business proposition. And she loves hosting a party.
“It’s really about the people you bring together,” she says of orchestrating the perfect occasion. “What I find today is that people lose the personal link through smartphones and things like that. Put people together that are going to take something out of the moment.” No iPhones, but plenty of Krug, Ruinart, Dom Perignon or Möet. Now that is a lifestyle the Arnaults know plenty will buy into.