Category Archives: Global Fashion Management

Camera and Action in the City of Lights: The 2017 Paris Seminar Case Study

By Karen Abington (Class of 2018)

GFM students created short documentary films to showcase the creative perspectives and processes of four fashion designers: (clockwise from top) Garance Broca-Husson and Benoist Husson of Monsieur Lacenaire, Gustavo Lins, Jérôme Dreyfuss, and Anne Valérie Hash on campus at Institute Français de la Mode (center) and in the designer’s studios.

It should come as no surprise to our alums that the watchword of this year’s Paris Seminar was – drum roll please – creativity.  In discussing fashion, and especially French fashion, we would be remiss if we didn’t touch upon the creative process, and I imagine that this subject was a main focus of the seminars of years past. What was different this year, however, was the way in which this all-important subject was approached and – shall we say – deconstructed.

The centerpiece of this year’s Paris seminar was a film project, in which students from Paris, Hong Kong, and New York collaborated in the development, filming, editing, and presentation of a short documentary on the creative process of four Paris-based designers: Garance Broca, Jérôme Dreyfuss, Anne Valérie Hash, and Gustavo Lins.

This exercise was preceded by the screening of the documentary film Dreamers, which was shown at the 2012 Venice Biennale, and follows the creative process and personal story of 11 film directors and screenwriters, including Michel Gondry, Akiva Goldsman, James Gray, and Guillermo Ariaga. Director Noëlle Deschamps was kind enough to present her film and to assist as one of several filmmaking coaches throughout the seminar.

The launch of the seminar began at L’Arlequin cinéma with the a screening of Dreamers, a documentary directed by Noëlle Deschamps, and the inspiration for the seminar’s case study assignment.

Our viewing of the film set the stage for what was to follow, as we broke up into our first meetings and started to explore our own creative styles and individual aesthetic proclivities in the context of our groups. To help us get to know each other, IFM GFM Director Véronique Schilling was prescient enough to organize a “five senses workshop” through faculty member and aesthetic specialist Jayne Curé. As a part of this workshop, we were asked to clear our heads and make a list of things or experiences that were important to us in the context of the five senses, freely associating between sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound.  We then shared our individual aesthetic impressions among our groups to determine common themes. Everyone in my group, for example, touched upon the theme of the sky in one way or another, and so images of the sky became an important element of our short film.

Meanwhile, as we got to know each other and discussed potential angles and editorial points of view, each designer was kind enough to speak to the entire class about their work as well as their creative process and personal journey. In this way, students were able to get a sense of each designer’s unique character, which would later be on display in our short films.

Through a creative team building workshop developed by IFM faculty Jayne Curé, student teams articulated an aesthetic point of view as a visual guideline for creating their documentary films.

First up was Jérôme Dreyfuss, of the eponymous handbag collection. Jérôme let his instantly lovable personality and sense of humor shine through. To set the stage, he recounted how he decided at age 12 that he would be a fashion designer after watching an interview of French chanteur Serge Gainsbourg, who said that he became a musician in order to seduce women. I guess Jérôme began to think about strategy at a young age: realizing that he couldn’t sing, he decided then and there that becoming a fashion designer might be the next best way to appeal to the fairer sex. Despite such humor and good cheer, it was clear that Jérôme is motivated by a sincere desire to help people. He is inspired by real women, and their real, everyday needs. One of the short films showed how Jérôme – who rides his scooter across Paris to work every day – is perpetually on the verge of an accident because he is constantly turning around to watch women as they pass. He is interested in what they wear and how they conduct themselves, but most importantly he wants to know how they carry their lives around Paris in their handbags. He is constantly tinkering with his designs, so as to make them more intuitive, more practical, and more useful to real women. This concern shines through in the finished product – Jérôme’s bags are light, versatile, beautifully made, practical, and above all, effortlessly elegant.

Jérôme Dreyfuss with his custom leather hides inside the showroom-cum-atelier of his namesake bag and accessory brand.

Second in the lineup was Garance Broca – designer of the knitwear brand Monsieur Lacenaire – who was accompanied by co-owner, brand manager, and husband, Benoist Husson. Monsieur Lacenaire is an extremely playful, humorous, and creative menswear line, whose designs are restricted only by the technical limits of the knitwear medium itself. Garance is so passionate about her craft that she studied and learned Italian so that she could communicate with the knitwear artisans and technicians in Italy, where much of her line is produced. Such seriousness and dedication has served her well. Throughout her presentation, she shared prototypes, stitch patterns, and yarn samples in different fibers and gauges so that we got a real sense of the complex art of knitwear design. Garance also has a playful side, however. The theme of her presentation was the process of ‘creative ping pong,’ whereby she is able to build and expand upon her ideas by constantly bouncing them off her husband and business partner Benoist. One of our documentary films thus focused on the dialectic between Garance and Benoist, both as a way to illustrate Garance’s creative process as well as show the playful characteristics of Monsieur Lacenaire himself.

Garance Broca and Benoist Husson, are serious about their playful knitwear brand, Monsieur Lacenaire.

Our third designer – Brazilian native Gustavo Lins – represented an interesting contrast to the careful planning required by the knitwear collections of Monsieur Lacenaire. Formally trained as an architect and bringing an undeniable structuralism to his craft, Gustavo Lins has worked for years in high fashion and has come to embody the spirit of a true couturier. He doesn’t read fashion magazines or follow the latest trends when thinking about his next collection. He goes straight to the mannequin and begins to drape and physically construct his garments, at times allowing his initial intentions to be influenced by the spontaneous emergence of an unexpected drape or silhouette. Gustavo turned out to be a touchingly open and sincere person. While he was busily constructing a beautiful garment before our eyes, he candidly and unselfconsciously shared details and memories from his personal life, thus allowing us insight to the person he has become today. Many in the audience were visibly touched by his openness. The filmmakers dedicated to Gustavo were able to tap into and expand upon this theme in their films, showing how Gustavo had emerged from personal and professional tragedy to become the fearless individual he is – a person who is capable of uniting people through his force of character.

Designer Gustavo Lins demonstrates his couture draping techniques while waxing poetic on his technique and inspiration.

Finally, Anne Valérie Hash gave a highly original presentation which was a fitting conclusion to our foray into the personal creative process. A classically trained dressmaker and couturier, native Parisienne Anne Valérie gave a lecture on the themes of construction and deconstruction, in which she disassembled a pair of men’s trousers in order to reconstruct a dress. Deconstruction – whether it be of a garment, of a motivation, or of a memory – is an important part of her creative process. Anne Valérie’s previous collections have included items of personal significance gifted to her by friends – Alber Elbaz’ sky blue pajamas, for example, or Tilda Swinton’s much loved Vivienne Westwood t-shirt. Such items are taken apart in order to build something new, personal, and original. In this way, beloved possessions are given new life.   As a part of her presentation, each of us were asked to think about what we would most like to deconstruct – whether it be a garment, a memory, a photograph, or a book – and what we would hope to learn as a result. This exercise helped us to understand our deep motivations, much as Anne Valérie herself was able to gain insight to her own creative process in an interview captured on film by our students. As a Jewish women, she was recounting the Jewish tradition of the cutting of garments to signify mourning over the death of a loved one. As she was saying this, she realized that this tradition was reflected in her own work. Cutting – and deconstruction – is for Anne Valérie a way to pay homage to the events – both sorrowful and joyful – in each of our lives.

Anne Valérie Hash, a classic Parisian couturier shared her ethos of “deconstruction as an act of construction.”

When Noëlle Deschamps was describing the inspiration for her film Dreamers, she recounted how her goal – to document the creative process of her favorite filmmakers – was initially met with skepticism and bemusement. How can you make a film about creation itself? Her detractors worried that it was simply too esoteric and abstract a subject to be successfully portrayed on film. She ploughed ahead however – she had faith in her vision – and eventually all of the pieces fell into place and she was able to make her dream come to life.

On second thought, is this really an accurate description of what happened? To say that the pieces simply fell into place does the creative process a disservice by making it appear effortless. In point of fact, Ms. Deschamps must have fought very hard for her film. Through hard work, willpower, and the courage of her conviction, she was able to overcome the objections of her detractors.

Each of us has an innate creative ability, and the 2017 Paris Seminar was very successful in demonstrating the process of creation. Despite this, the most important thing that I learned from Ms. Deschamps – and from each of the designers who shared their lives with us – was that creativity is not enough, in and of itself. It takes courage, tenacity, and discipline to bring your dreams to fruition. For me, this seminar was more than anything a manifestation of the human spirit and a glorious celebration of our artistic differences. Like our four disparate designers, each of us is formed by our own unique experiences, and each of us is therefore inimitable. Perhaps it is not exactly topical, but in reflecting on this experience, I am reminded of a passage which struck me when I first read it, and which has stayed with me ever since. In describing his theory of evolution in The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin said: “there is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” Let us therefore always celebrate our differences – these “endless forms most beautiful” – and the indomitable spirit which make us who we are – each of us unique, each of us irreplaceable.

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Below,  “It’s Playtime” is the short video my group created to showcase the creative perspective and process of Parisian knitwear brand Monsieur Lacenaire. Among the eight different team videos created, this was the final jury selection for “Best Director.”

 


Hong Kong: Gateway to Asia

By Michael Battista
Industry Coordinator to the Global Fashion Management Program

Unloaded container ships in Victoria Harbour, as viewed from Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a city that bustles with over 7 million people. Skyscrapers that are achieved with bamboo scaffolding rise from the mountainous terrain of a bay overlooking the South China Sea. Container ships filled with goods destined for the world’s ports dot the horizon. This sets the scene for the third and final seminar of the Global Fashion Management program, held in collaboration with the Institute of Textiles and Clothing of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Hong Kong is a hub for retail: filled with boutiques, shopping malls, and specialized districts. Street markets with literal names like “Jade Market” and “Sneaker Street” are destinations in and of themselves. It’s a place where luxury brands have – until recently – enjoyed great success. There are more Louis Vuitton and Prada stores in Hong Kong than in Paris and Milan. When immersed in the modernity of this city, it’s hard to imagine its humble beginnings as a small fishing village.

Hong Kong is filled with luxury shopping opportunities. Pictured above, in the Kowloon district,  is one of eight Louis Vuitton stores in Hong Kong. There are more LV stores in Hong Kong than in Paris.
Tai O, a traditional fishing village of stilted huts on the outskirts of Hong Kong, stems the tide of modernization and offers a glimpse into the city’s humble beginnings.

The seminar began with the positioning of Hong Kong as a gateway to Asia. According to visiting lecturer Pauline Hsia, American, European, and British brands come to Hong Kong to test their success with the Asian market before expanding further into the continent. Dana Craig, SVP of Supply Chain – Asia at Tory Burch informed us that the brand’s highest volume of sales, worldwide is at their Hong Kong airport location. Notwithstanding this success, Mr. Craig points out that building brand awareness remains a challenge to expansion in Asia.

While success can prove elusive to foreign brands, a strategy of testing and brand building is exhibited in the efforts of Canadian brand Lululemon. The Business of Fashion reports: “The company has stores in Hong Kong but currently only operates showrooms in Shanghai and Beijing, and sells online in China via Tmall [an e-commerce platform]. ‘We start with our showroom model, where our team can build brand awareness, test product, create authentic relationships and learn what is important to a community before we open a permanent store,’ says [SVP, Asia Pacific at Lululemon,] Ken Lee.”

A Lululemon fitness event in Beijing, as reported by the Business of Fashion on 10/10/2016.

The region now known as Hong Kong has been the gateway to China for centuries. The Portuguese maintained trading outposts there in the 1500s; and the Dutch and French would follow suit. By the early 1800’s, the British East India Company had a growing presence to feed Europe’s appetite for Chinese silk, porcelain, and tea. By 1839 it would become the epicenter of the Opium Wars – a humiliating history for both the victor and defeated – spanning two decades and ending with the cessation of Hong Kong to the British Crown.

A painting of a battle: one of many, collectively referred to as “the Opium Wars.” Oil on canvas, circa 1843: “Nemesis Destroying the Chinese War Junks in Anson’s Bay, Jan 7th 1841” by Edward Duncan.

Though the sovereignty of Hong Kong has since returned to China, it continues its tradition as the commercial gateway to the world’s most populous country. The opportunity for growth in connecting the East and West is not one-sided. While western brands have their sights on expansion into Asia, Chinese brands also seek expansion beyond the Great Wall. This seminar’s case study brand, Hidy NG, sought a complete brand audit, and a defined strategy for growth and westward expansion. Students worked in teams to articulate a brand identity, craft a distribution plan, and develop product lifecycle recommendations. The culminating presentations demonstrated rigor, analysis, and professionalism comparable to a boutique consultancy.

Hidy NG (bottom, left), Creative Director of the namesake brand, debriefs student on their assignment for the case study at the brand’s showroom inside of their manufacturing facility in Hong Kong.

By the time the students travel to Hong Kong, they are nearing the completion of the program. They have spent the last year-and-a-half cultivating business acumen through the curriculum; and have expanded their world view through their work with diverse colleagues from around the globe. As a result, they’re able to offer insights with clarity, precision, and confidence. So when the students presented their recommendations for the case study brand, Hidy NG was listening.

Students work in multicultural teams across three continents to prepare for and present their recommendations for the Hong Kong Seminar case study brand. Hidy NG (bottom, right) responds to each presentation.

 


 

Teaming in the Global Workplace

By Bob Greene, MS
Leadership and Team Development Coach and Consultant

GFM students developing their “teaming” skills in a workshop during the New York Seminar.

Students in the Graduate Fashion Management (GFM) program are developing as leaders who can innovate successfully in the ever-changing global fashion industry. Today’s and tomorrow’s leaders need to be successful not only when problems are routine or primarily technical, but in uncharted territory, where learning and creativity are essential. Ronald Heifetz and his colleagues talk about the need for leadership that can successfully meet “adaptive challenges” in addition to more “technical problems.”  In The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, they write that “[i]n an increasingly flat, globalized third-millenium world, where innovation occurs so quickly, just having the best product at any moment in time is not a sustainable plan.” (p.21) Companies and leaders are being challenged to shift how they have operated in the past and embrace a new emphasis on relationship-building and engaging with complexity and change.

Amy Edmondson suggests that “teaming” embodies the mindset and skills required for the global marketplace. In contrast to previous perspectives that saw teams as static and long-lasting, Edmondson emphasizes today’s workforce may participate on numerous teams that change their membership over time for different projects. Edmondson talks about teaming as a verb, and that people must learn team skills that they can carry from team to team, project to project. And, of course, many of these projects will be adaptive challenges rather than routine, technical, problems, so it’s vital that learning is a central quality of effective teaming. Edmondson, as well as Heifetz and his colleagues, say that leaders must focus on bringing out the best in others, rather than simply rely on command-and-control.

GFM students have a remarkable opportunity to learn and practice teaming skills as they work on three different case study teams and take on real-world challenges that don’t have easy answers and require creativity. During my workshop early in the New York City seminar, I encourage GFM students to pay attention to how they are teaming and what they are learning from the process. Ideas and tools for effective teaming that I introduce include:

  • The importance of intentionally getting to know who is on the team;
  • Developing clear and shared expectations upfront;
  • Recognizing the challenges of working cross-culturally and how easy it is to act on assumptions that may not be correct;
  • Various approaches to preventing and resolving common team issues; and
  • The essential role of team self-assessment to promote learning that can be carried forward to each new team experience.

Hopefully, GFM students will bring the skills and tools they use with their three case study teams to their workplaces—building on diverse perspectives and powering innovation.

GFM students practice outlining expectations in a workshop during the New York Seminar.

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References:

  • Edmondson, A. C. (2012). Teaming: how organizations learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy (1st ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass; and Edmondson, A. C. (2012, April). “Teamwork on the Fly” Harvard Business Review.
  • Heifetz, R. A., Linsky, M., & Grashow, A. (2009). The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (1st ed.). Harvard Business Press.

Learn more about Bob Greene’s coaching and consulting work and follow his blog, “With This in Mind” at www.BGCoach.net.


 

A Global Learning Laboratory

By Bob Greene, MS
Leadership and Team Development Coach and Consultant

Global Fashion Management students from Institut Français de la Mode, Hong Kong Poly U, and FIT during a workshop at the New York Seminar.

I’ve had the pleasure for the past several years of facilitating a workshop on building teams for the Graduate Fashion Management (GFM) program during the New York seminar hosted by Fashion Institute of Technology. Students and faculty from schools based in New York, Paris, and Hong Kong meet with industry experts and work on real-life cases to more fully understand the modern global fashion industry.

GFM students also have the opportunity to participate in cross-cultural teams, a vital part of the program. It’s commonplace to talk about the global nature of modern industry, but it’s rare that students can learn about it by interacting in meaningful ways with counterparts from (at least) three continents.

Much of what GFM students will do in their careers requires being able to cope with complexity and ambiguity, identify creative solutions, and constantly innovate. This is the kind of work that teams of people with different backgrounds, experiences, and skills should be well-suited to take on. Scott Page writes in The Difference that “[s]cholars from a variety of disciplines have studied how people and groups make breakthroughs. The common answer: diverse perspectives.” (p.24) Yet as important as diverse teams may be, in my experience, a great many people have little practice  working in effective, well-run, teams. In fact, many have had poor team experiences and dread each time they are assigned to a team.

I believe part of the problem is how we typically think about teams. It’s not enough to put a group of people together, call them a team, and expect that they will be effective. In this common scenario, team members fall back on the way they have always done things, whether that has worked well or not. And individuals typically make assumptions about other team members, a tendency that can be heightened in diverse, cross-cultural teams. There is research that indicates that diverse teams can be more effective than teams in which everyone is from the same background, yet diverse teams can also run into significant difficulties that hold them back.

GFM students have a chance to experiment with doing teams differently! As part of the year-and-a-half  GFM learning laboratory, students  participate in three different case study teams, each one including colleagues from across the globe. Early in the first session in New York, I have the opportunity to explore with them qualities of effective teams and tools they can put to use immediately in their case study teams. In addition, we consider potential cultural assumptions related to working in teams. Each GFM case study team then becomes an opportunity to experiment with doing teams well—moving past previous team experiences to gain the advantages of working in global teams.

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References:

  • Butcher, M. (2006, March 3). “Intercultural competency a key to global business success.” Retrieved from http://insideasia.typepad.com/ia/2006/03/intercultural_c.html
  • Page, S. E. (2007). The difference: how the power of diversity creates better groups, firms, schools, and societies.
    Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Learn more about Bob Greene’s coaching and consulting work and follow his blog, “With This in Mind” at www.BGCoach.net.


 

The New Rules of Retail Engagement: How to Reach Conscious Consumers

By Brooke Blashill (Class of 2015)
Senior Vice President, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, and Director of The Boutique @ Ogilvy

Brooke Image
Brooke Blashill, GFM Class of 2015.

For brands to be successful in the future, they need to align value with “values.” That was the resounding sentiment at last month’s major trend conferences: Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the preeminent global forum for sustainable fashion, and WGSN Futures, the London event predicting retail trends in 2030.

While there was talk of artificial intelligence, multi-generational workforces and the impact of the sharing economy, it was a new shift in the sustainability dialogue that dominated conference discussions. Once seen as a supply chain issue, the topic of ethics and responsibility spanned product design, retail strategies and buying approaches.

Spurred by the next generation of high-powered, conscious consumers, retailers are addressing the business functions where quick and impactful changes can be made – such as marketing – while other parts of the business play catch-up.

nike-flyknit-eco running-shoe
Nike Flyknit Running Shoe

Nike, for instance, said that sustainability is an innovation challenge that begins with its design team – tasking designers to make a product with the least environmental impact, setting the goal to cut their carbon footprint by half while doubling production.

Other brands, such as Selfridges and H&M, are changing the way they communicate with their customers about environmental issues by putting sustainability messages at the forefront of dedicated campaigns, in-store experiences and digital content. In years past, these types of stories would only appear around Earth Day or timed to the launch of special collections.

According to Nielsen, 2.5 billion “aspirational” consumers are becoming increasingly interested in, and making decisions based on, the environmental and social impacts of their purchases. This move isn’t about altruism – it’s driven by the consumer desire to make choices that represent who they are and what they believe in.

For retailers, that means authentically realigning a brand with the values and beliefs of their customers by being transparent and helping shoppers make smarter and more informed purchase decisions. For some brands, this could be as simple as communicating existing eco-efforts that have been taking place behind the scenes, or collaborating with credible partners to bring broader awareness to these issues and help redefine the industry conversation.

 “Good design is sustainable design.” Imran Amed, Founder and CEO of The Business of Fashion, made this statement in Copenhagen when debating media’s role in evolving the sustainable fashion dialogue. Media and marketers have a responsibility to unite this conversation using their creativity to “make sustainability sexy,” says Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times.  

So how does one use these creative powers of persuasion for good? I had the opportunity to talk with a variety of industry leaders during these two trend conferences, and here are some examples of how brands are applying these important principles across areas such as retail strategy, advertising and digital:

 Retail Strategy – Selfridges has demonstrated that eco and luxury can live in harmony through its award-winning campaign, “Project Ocean,” creatively integrating messages about ocean protection into the store experience from the window displays to the food hall. The department store has also hired its first Director of Sustainability and taken a new approach to buying, ensuring brands meet standards on ethical trade, while championing new brands with a sustainable focus through its “Bright Young Things” project.

selfridges-project-ocean-oxford-street-canopy-3-credit-andrew-meredith500
Selfridges’ award-winning campaign, Project Ocean.

Advertising – The trend in repair wear, or mending an item so it can last longer, is now spanning luxury retailers to mass market brands. WGSN says this concept, which they call “Brand Immortality,” is what big industry players, including Barbour and Brooks Brothers, have been doing for years in the form of added-value services. Now, the difference is that brands are making this a central part of external marketing campaigns and gaining customer loyalty as a result. For example, Patagonia took out an ad in the New York Times during Black Friday with the headline, “Don’t Buy This Jacket,” following up with a “Better than New” cross-country road trip to fix customers’ old coats. Nudie Jeans, the indie denim label, has opened 20 stores globally that include a repair shop offering free mending and alterations for all their jeans.

Nudie Jeans Repair Shop

Digital – Transparency has become the new buzz word, and Zady, the online eco-retailer, sets the example for the industry with its business model. Named by Fast Company as one of the most innovative retail companies in the world, Zady’s editorial approach to e-commerce and social media allows customers to see what country their clothes were made in and who makes them. Costs transparency is also gaining popularity among consumers, and is likely to become a new industry standard. Brands including Everlane and The Reformation have dedicated platforms on their e-commerce sites to list production and sourcing costs. Similarly, new luxury menswear company Boga publishes details about the materials and textile houses it uses under The Know section of its website. 

everlane
A webpage on Everlane’s e-commerce site, lists production costs.

The common thread between these companies is that they made the concept of a socially responsible purchase decision part of a desirable lifestyle through consistent brand stories that both inspire and educate. While some of these initiatives are not completely new, retail experts at both conferences predicted these approaches will be the business standard in the next three to five years. As the trend in mindfulness and conscious consumption becomes more mainstream, the most successful brands will be those that lead by example and authentically reflect the values of their customers.

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Brooke Blashill is a Senior Vice President at Ogilvy, the award-winning global marketing agency, and a recipient of PR Week’s esteemed 40 under 40 award. Blashill founded and leads The Boutique, an international retail division dedicated to helping clients develop creative and effective communications strategies with a focus on campaign development, product launches, brand experiences, designer collaborations and influencer engagement. Core areas of expertise include luxury, apparel, accessories and home. http://www.ogilvy.com/. Twitter @brookeblashill  

Brooke headshot
Brooke Blashill, GFM Class of 2015.

 


GFM Joins Cardozo Law Students for Conversation with John Idol, CEO Michael Kors, and Lee Sporn, Kors General Counsel

John Idol, CEO of Michael Kors (left) and Lee Sporn, General Counsel of Michael Kors (right) discuss “The Intersection of Luxury and Law” at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

On February 17, Global Fashion Management students attended a fundraising event for Cardozo School of Law’s newly launched Fashion, Arts, Media and Entertainment Law Center (FAME) which was created to train law students for jobs in New York City’s creative industries. Cardozo’s collaboration with Global Fashion Management to provide legal council to GFM’s “clients” for the capstone course is part of this curriculum.

John Idol, CEO Michael Kors, and Lee Sporn, General Counsel of Michael Kors, discussed the evening’s topic, “The Intersection of Luxury and Law” through a series of questions from moderator Leslie Fagan, Senior Partner at Paul Weiss. Mr. Idol pointed out that at Kors, knowing the law is very much part of doing business, and protecting the brand, and employees, is under constant review. The relationship between a CEO and general counsel was described as “complex,” where business expansion and innovation were inevitably balanced by legal obligations.

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The panel discussion on the legal relationship with business was hosted by Cardozo School of Law’s newly launched Fashion, Arts, Media and Entertainment Law Center (FAME).

When asked about how the company deals with counterfeit products, both executives agreed that no brand can be completely protected because it’s simply too easy for a violation to occur, especially through online sales. Mr. Idol also commented on the unending challenge to protect the brand in every country in which you do business, and where legal protection is subject to broad interpretation.

Regarding intellectual property in design, Mr. Sporn believes that the law provides enough protection, although many in this country and around the world may not agree. Mr. Idol said, if you have to ask ‘where is the true innovation,’ it could be a difficult case to prove, adding that less law often results in pressure to always do better as a designer.

On the question of licensing, Mr. Idol said that while owning your own business is for him, preferred, it’s also necessary to work with those with expertise in, for example, fragrance and eyewear. He stressed the importance of a stable working relationship, and one that you have confidence will work from the start.

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Global Fashion Management Students at the FAME Center’s event. GFM Students work as clients to Cardozo’s legal teams as part of their capstone research.

John Idol and Lee Sporn, who have worked together for twenty-five years, were clearly in tune on the demands of balancing the functions of a CEO and general counsel in managing a wildly successful public and global company. In addition to his position as general counsel (which at Kors, includes a considerable list of additional responsibilities) Mr. Sporn teaches Cardozo’s fashion law practicum course with Global Fashion Management.


 

Hong Kong Seminar 2015: The Innovative Chinese Company

Edwin Keh, CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel giving a lecture to Global Fashion Management Students on campus at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Edwin Keh, CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel giving a lecture to Global Fashion Management Students on campus at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Edwin Keh’s lectures are always among the most anticipated of the Hong Kong seminar. As the CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel, he works with business leaders and academic researchers to develop technology for Hong Kong’s competitive and creative apparel industries. Edwin is also a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where he teaches the Global Supply Chain Management in China course, with Marshall Fisher, author of The New Science of Retailing: How Analytics are Transforming the Supply Chain and Improving Performance.

He knows a lot about sourcing and logistics. Until 2010, Edwin was chief operating officer and senior vice president of Wal-Mart Global Procurement, and prior to that, held executive positions for Payless Shoesource International, Donna Karan International, Country Road, and Abercrombie & Fitch. He remains active in charities and advises social enterprises.

Edwin’s lecture is profoundly optimistic, but not maudlin; pragmatic, but not rigid. He makes cutting-edge technological trends such as waterless industry, energy efficiency, a new generation of green materials and recycling technologies, self-cleaning treatment, and plant-structure fabric seem within reach, without minimizing the challenge of ambitious research and development. Political, scientific, and sociological facts inform his worldview, as he discusses the importance of Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 and its impact on trade.

United States President, Richard Nixon and First Lady, Pat Nixon on the Great Wall of China on February 24, 1972.
United States President, Richard Nixon and First Lady, Pat Nixon on the Great Wall of China on February 24, 1972.

This observation is followed by questioning China’s ability to continue to create value from manufacturing, and points to the Kuznet curve economic hypothesis that suggests that a society will no longer tolerate the downside of manufacturing—such as pollution—as it reaches maturity. As China quickly approaches this turning point, the country is just as rapidly entering an era of innovation.

The environmental Kuznet curve. Source: Panayotou (2003), Economic Growth and the Environment, a report by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
The environmental Kuznet curve. Source: Panayotou (2003), Economic Growth and the Environment, a report by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

Those of us fortunate enough to hear from China experts on a regular basis, have become familiar with the results of economic shifts that accompany large-scale immigration to urban areas. As Edwin points out, these shifts include higher energy consumption, breakdown of family structure, demand for a higher level of education, and a longer life span—and all heavily influence consumer demand, product creation, and the supply chain. Edwin asks, “Where does the American company end and the Chinese company begin?” He points out that personalities and talents are absorbed from one, two, or more cultures, and product production and adaptability will quickly follow. In turn, the supply chain itself must be reengineered because the one we’re using is unsustainable.

Goodbaby
Goodbaby International, a manufacturer of children’s products boasts state of the art production facilities worldwide, localizing research and development operations, and maximizing efficiency.

“Good Baby” illustrates Edwin’s example of a hugely successful Chinese company and a radical departure from the stereotypical low-wage labor factory. This company’s core capabilities lie in research and development, with eight development centers throughout the world. Operations and production are localized, making it possible to cater to cultural and lifestyle demand for strollers, children’s car seats and furniture. Timbuk2 is another example. This designer and producer of messenger bags is based in San Francisco. With quality production in Guangdong province, Vietnam, and Indonesia, the focus on sourcing all materials within proximity to the factory is central to the company philosophy of lowering energy consumption in transit, and the importance of promoting a transparent supply chain.

Screen-shot-2011-06-17-at-7.59.59-PM
Timbuk2, a messenger bag company based in San Francisco that has expanded its supply chain operations to China and Southeast Asia.

The world’s supply chains for apparel and beyond, could do much worse than to adopt Edwin Keh’s vision of the future.