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Why are Gucci, Chanel, Hermes so eager to support Korean cultural heritage?

Royal tables and cushions, reproduced by Hermès as part of its project to recreate palace hall furnishings, are now on display in the king's workspace at Gyeongbok Palace. Courtesy of the Cultural Heritage Administration

Gucci, Chanel and other global luxury brands are increasingly turning their attention to Korea’s cultural heritage, rich with tradition and history. They frame these initiatives as social contributions but are driven by strategic motivations.

The underlying intent is to leverage the historical and aesthetic attributes of humanity’s cultural heritage to enhance the identity of high-end luxury brands.

Gucci has taken the lead in a significant cultural project at Gyeongbokgung Palace, with Gyotaejeon Hall, the queen’s residence, soon to feature reproduced mural paintings thanks to the Italian brand’s support.

In 2022, Gucci signed a social contribution agreement with the Cultural Heritage Administration 추천 (CHA) and has been working on these replicas, aiming to unveil them at the end of the year.

At the same time, since 2022, the French brand Chanel has annually selected and exhibited artisans who possess noteworthy traditional craft skills in the fields of cultural and artistic heritage from various countries.

The affection luxury brands show for cultural heritage isn’t limited to tangible assets like palaces and paintings.

Hermès, while creating replicas of palace furnishings, has collaborated with national intangible heritage artisans specializing in woodwork, metal decoration, lacquerware, inlay and traditional knot-making.

Such endeavors are even more active abroad. When the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris was severely damaged by fire in 2019, LVMH, the French group owning brands like Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Fendi, donated 200 million euros.

Similarly, Kering, the French group owning brands such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent, contributed 100 million euros.

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