Business Ethics in Fashion Industry – Essay Example

Business Ethics in Fashion Industry – Essay Example

Abstract

The House of Dior is a very large house indeed, with branches all over the world. Christian Dior’s original setting, where in the 1940s he established himself as a fashion pioneer, has evolved into a corporate entity of spectacular proportions. As with any such corporation, issues arise from time to time which both reflect and challenge the ethics at the core of the business. Dior is no exception, yet each episode of ethical conflict within the company points to a pervasive absence of any guiding ethical spirit. Based on the evidence, and based as well on a conspicuous lack thereof, it appears that the business ethics of Dior are primarily focused on nothing but the company’s expansion and profits, a general compliance with surrounding ethics and legalities, and in maintaining a prestigious image globally.

(Note: Being aware of the College and the Business Ethics course Academic Honesty polices, I represent that the company which is the subject of my Project for the Business Ethics course has not been the subject of any other individual or group assignment that I have done/am doing for any other academic course; and I have never worked for this company.)

Introduction

Few enterprises have achieved and maintained a global standing as consistently as the House of Dior. Since Christian Dior opened his first boutique in 1946, the name has gradually become synonymous with high-end branding and increased diversification, pioneering territories in manufacture and marketing previously unknown to the fashion industry. By the 1950s, Dior was legendary internationally; today, it represents literally hundreds of concerns, ranging from fragrances and accessories to its position as the controlling shareholder of Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), an equally prestigious retailer of luxury goods. There are Dior operations situated in every industrialized nation, and the corporation’s annual revenues go well into the hundreds of millions.

What is crucial in regard to the extraordinary and ongoing success of the House of Dior is that, in reinventing a fashion house, Dior essentially reinvented business. Certainly, other design labels have diversified to great effect, and branched out from apparel interests to a wide variety of branded products. Dior, however, led the charge, as even the corporate entities of Pierre Cardin, Yves St. Laurent, and Marc Jacobs all began their existences within the Dior empire. Under the guidance of Chief Executive Officer Bernard Arnault since 1985, Dior ventured into territories no design house had considered as commercially viable, and with systematic growth and success ratios. The introduction of the Dior scent, Poison, in 1985 is, in fact, a fitting illustration of Arnault’s impact from the beginning of his tenure. Most importantly, Dior has managed to retain its high-end status as a brand, a feat seemingly incongruous with product diversification and mass marketing techniques. While Dior may not have the extremely elevated cachet it enjoyed in the 1950s when, as chiefly a couture house, it catered to wealthy women paying many thousands of dollars for an original gown, the name has nonetheless retained an upscale association, which in turn continues to fuel global revenues and growth.

The Ethics of Dior

The enormity of the House of Dior, as both design influence and corporate entity, renders any examination into its business ethics an inherently complicated affair. In terms of a corporate code of ethics, it could be argued that, from its earliest days of international success, the House of Dior deliberately defied the ethical considerations of the post-World War II world. That is to say, the war had created drastic shortages within the fashion industry of luxury items, as governments imposed wartime limitations on the usage and availability of sumptuous fabrics. This translated to a stark, somewhat militaristic look for female consumers, one Dior immediately and vigorously opposed as soon as possible. As the war ended, Dior launched its “New Look”, which was a lavish return to feminine styling and opulent materials, and which substantially helped place the house at the forefront of the industry in the late 1940s (McDermott, 2007, p. 169).

Then, Dior, as noted, is attached to a multitude of products and concerns ranging from fragrances to sunglasses, and through internationally-based manufacturing; consequently, no single ethical ideology or code governs the House, as such. Generally speaking, it is reasonable to aver that Dior operates by the ethics mandated by the legalities dictated within its spheres of operation. More precisely, the history of the company reveals no distinctive adherence to a specific, ethical foundation. Rather, Dior has had a more direct agenda, that of self-promotion and corporate growth through any means not restricted legally.

This dearth of actual information regarding a corporate ethical policy is, in fact, revelatory in itself. The company hosts, not unexpectedly, a variety of websites, from “Baby Dior” to “Dior Homme”. Each is marked by a sophisticated mode of presentation and format, and each presents Dior products as attractively and comprehensively as possible. No Dior site, however, conveys any form of corporate ethical philosophy, save those generally referring to the Dior pursuit of elegance and perfection. This, too, is of a piece with the larger image Dior goes to great lengths to maintain; it is, after all, an image above anything else, and never merely product. As the company relies upon the mystique of the name to capture interest, it consequently ignores pragmatic concerns such as business ethics, certainly in what it permits the public to see.

There is also another vital element pertaining to the absence of a manifest code of ethics within Dior: ownership. Dior remains a privately-held enterprise, one within the control of Groupe Arnault, the investment concern helmed by Dior CEO Bernard Arnault (Bloomberg). Consequently, Dior is far less subject to the types of investigations surrounding ethical conduct public companies must confront. It is, of course, necessary that Dior observe degrees of ethical practice in keeping with both the mores and laws of the regions in which it operates, but private ownership demands little more than that, in terms of accountability.

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