An umbrella group representing members of France’s luxury industry opened its doors Thursday for the first time to companies from other European nations in a bid to broaden its lobbying clout with the European Union.
The Comite Colbert added camera-maker Leica, pen-maker Montblanc – both from Germany – Czech glassware company Moser and Hungarian porcelain manufacturer Herend to its ranks of France’s top fashion and jewelry houses, hotels and purveyors of spirits, fine wines and foods.
The group’s president, Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes, told journalists that the new policy is part of a bid to bolster the group’s influence in lobbying with the EU.
“Since our organization was founded in 1954, our mission has always been to represent French labels, to transmit French styles and French taste,” Ponsolle des Portes told The Associated Press in an interview in the Plaza Athenee, a four-star Paris hotel that is a Comite Colbert member. “But times have changed, and now the EU is very involved in legislating on matters that are of critical import to our members, like selective distribution, e-commerce and intellectual property.
“Now, when we go see the European Commission on these matters, we can say ‘We represent France, of course, but also brands from other European countries.'”
Ponsolle des Portes said the Comite Colbert- whose 75 French members include luxury clothes and accessories houses like Chanel and Hermes – has agreed to accept up to 10 non-French houses.
Labels from countries like Italy, Britain or Spain that already have similar national associations will not be eligible to join the Comite Colbert, Ponselle des Portes said.
The foreign brands will pay fees to belong to the group, like all other members, but they will not be included in its campaigns to promote French lifestyles abroad, like a recent initiative in the Persian Gulf.
Famous for its cameras, Leica has been making precision optics since 1865. Germany’ Montblanc was founded in 1906 and is considered the world’s foremost purveyor of quality pens, topped with the brand’s signature sextagon.
Founded in 1826, Hungary’s house of Herend is world-renowned for its hand-made, hand-painted porcelain, while the Czech Republic’s Moser has been delivering fine glassware since 1857.