Established in 2008, the Kering Foundation is celebrating a decade of combating issues affecting women and their safety – but its not stopping there
It’s easy to be cynical about the relationship between fashion and activism. While fashion can serve as a powerful communicator, these days it’s often hard to tell where marketing gimmicks end and tangible social change begins. It’s not all smoke and mirrors, though. For the past ten years, luxury conglomerate Kering has been steadfastly building the charitable side of their organisation, the Kering Foundation – a philanthropic enterprise which aims to end violence against women.
Founded in 2008, the Foundation’s mission was inspired by conversations between Kering’s CEO, François-Henri Pinault and his wife, Salma Hayek, a key figure in the #MeToo movement. After Hayek revealed to her husband the shocking statistics surrounding violence against women, he decided to focus the Foundation’s work on combatting issues affecting women and their safety, particularly domestic violence, which currently affects one in four women in the UK alone. This week, it celebrates its tenth anniversary – which was marked with an event in which Pinault and the Foundation's president Céline Bonnaire gave a talk on their work so far.
“In addition to what we are already doing to support survivors, we should also work on the prevention side with young men and boys to think about what is masculinity, what it means to be a man, and redefine that” – Céline Bonnaire
Unlike many brands’ half-baked attempts at activism, the Kering Foundation takes the same approach to its humanitarian projects as it does its luxury business, focusing on quality and longevity in every endeavour. Their projects range from local to international, with Bonnaire citing their work with Maison des Femmes, a Parisian refuge for vulnerable women, as one of the company’s most rewarding projects to date.
Similarly, the Foundation has found success with its ongoing White Ribbon For Women campaign, which aims to break the silence around female genital mutilation: “The manager of this particular project is a gynaecologist, and through her work found out that FGM was much more prevalent in France and indeed Europe than most people would ever realise,” Bonnaire tells us.
The Kering Foundation Awards also took place recently, awarding seven international social entrepreneurs funding and support for their respective projects this year. Elsewhere, the Foundation has begun collaborating with organisations such as Promundo in the USA to tackle the root causes of violence against women, attempting to prevent future incidents by addressing (and dismantling) the constructs that fuel toxic masculinity.
“We strongly believe that in addition to what we are already doing to support survivors, we should also work on the prevention side with young men and boys to think about what is masculinity, what it means to be a man, and redefine this masculinity,” says Bonnaire.
The Foundation’s work also involves awareness campaigns – such as last year’s #ICouldHaveBeen initiative, when notable Kering faces including Alessandro Michele and Christopher Kane lent their support to raise awareness around gender equality. Although separate from the luxury business side, the work of the Kering Foundation provides many opportunities for Kering employees to benefit from their humanitarian work. One scheme, Solidarity Live, partners employees with appropriate organisations, granting them up to four days of extra holiday to complete two-week projects in the field, funding their mission alongside 50 per cent of the travel cost.
“Championing women is really at the core of Kering’s DNA” – Céline Bonnaire
Kering has also implemented awareness seminars within the company, partnering with local organisations in France, Italy, the UK, and the US to design a three hour long training session educating the company’s staff about domestic violence. “This is an initiative I'm really proud of,” explains Bonnaire. “Back in 2010, we asked ourselves ‘What are we doing for the survivors within the company?’ In the UK it’s one woman in four that's a victim of domestic violence, in France it’s one in ten, Italy one in three... So of course, we do have survivors within the company, and we wanted to make sure they knew they were in a supportive work environment.”
Since 2010, 1200 employees have completed the training. What’s more, Bonnaire explains that systems are in place so that any employee who finds themselves a victim of domestic violence is able to safely disclose their situation and access professional help and support.
Whilst luxury business might not seem the most obvious advocate for women’s rights, Pinault is committed to placing female empowerment at the heart of the company. These values are enforced by concrete HR policies, alongside the work of the Kering Foundation and projects such as ‘Women in Motion’ at the Cannes Film Festival. “Championing women is really at the core of Kering’s DNA,” she surmises. “People who come to work at Kering know that, and they are interested in a group with such values.”