When the fire broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday at around 6:30 P.M. local time, tourists and onlookers were ushered out of and away from the building. By the time the night was over, the catastrophic damage had already been done.
Now that the fire has reportedly mostly been contained, the question of whether or not a building that broke ground nearly 1,000 years ago can be saved or reconstructed is still unanswerable. Hundreds of years of craftsmanship and artwork—including the cathedral's iconic spire and stained glass—have been destroyed by a fire the origins of which still remain unknown. French President Emmanuel Macron announced his promise to rebuild Notre Dame, and "will call upon the greatest talents" of France to save the landmark. It would appear that the most powerful billionaires in the fashion industry see this as an opening to save a piece of French cultural history by pledging to donate millions of dollars to assist with the reconstruction of the cathedral.
As the CEO of Kering, the luxury goods conglomerate that owns Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Gucci, François-Henri Pinault, also known as Salma Hayek's husband, offered a reported $113 million to help rebuild Notre Dame. Pinault released a statement regarding his donation via the Kering Group's Twitter account. “The Notre-Dame tragedy strikes all French people, as well as all those with spiritual values and those who care about history and culture. Faced with this tragedy, my father [François Pinault] and I have decided to contribute to the funds needed to fully rebuild Notre Dame de Paris, in order to bring this jewel of our heritage back to life as soon as possible,” he said.
Pinault's multimillion-euro donation was then joined by the LVMH chairman, Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault, who has now pledged a reported $226 million (or 200 million euros) to assist with rebuilding the cathedral. LVMH—the largest luxury goods conglomerate in the world—released a statement via Twitter outlining its pledge to support the reconstruction of "an integral part of the history of France."
"In the meantime, the LVMH Group puts at the disposal of the state and the relevant authorities all its teams—including creative, architectural, and financial specialists—to help with the long work of reconstructing and fund-raising, which is already in progress," the statement says.
Meanwhile, L'Oreal, a French company and the world's biggest cosmetics brand, has also promised $226 million in conjunction with the Bettencourt Meyers family, its largest shareholders, and the charitable Bettencourt Schueller foundation. That totals more than half a billion dollars from the who's who of the country's fashion and beauty sphere already.
The luxury magnates are not the only global citizens to express their sadness regarding the Notre Dame fire. Luminaries from around the world have responded on social media: Pope Francis issued a statement urging unity with France via Twitter, and even Mayor Pete Buttigieg shared a message of gratitude to Parisians (in French).
Hayek's Instagram account is already being flooded with comments thanking her and Pinault for the donation to the reconstruction project of the cathedral.