- Mexico Seminar 2022: A Reflection
For the Mexico Seminar, FIT students were given the assignment to share their reflections, attitudes, impressions, and ideas on our experience in Oaxaca, and the breadth of lecture topics that were heard in Mexico City. GFM Class of 2022 student Zach Mauer shared his thoughts on two topics that were discussed at some length and his plans to incorporate his learnings into his career and his life.
Based on your role in the industry: what can you learn during this seminar? This was my favorite question posed to my cohort while in Mexico. By the end of the seminar, my answer was simple: question everything. As someone who works in marketing, brand development, and content creation, my professional experience has always revolved around the power of storytelling. Marketing is the process of telling stories that people will buy, idealize, and defend. The Mexico seminar reminded me that as a storyteller, and more importantly, as a student, I need to continue to question things. For example: we discuss at great length in several GFM courses the value of writing a competitive analysis of an industry. But what is a competitor? What is a competitor if you change your mindset? If sharing in a community promotes wealth, harmony, and happiness, then what happens to competition? What metrics or KPI’s should a community of artisans measure its success with? For that matter, what is success? The questions are endless when you reframe your perspective from the traditional hyper-capitalist point of view of which we’re accustomed. We were reminded numerous times during the seminar that when working with artisans, you aren’t working with producers, you are working with culture. When one’s perspective changes, and the questions you’re asking change, the story can change. When the story changes, marketers, brand developers, and content creators can promote new stories for people to idealize and defend. Storytelling in this way becomes a frame. Based on your role in the industry: what can you learn during this seminar? Question everything, there are new stories begging to be told.
I entered the fashion industry five years ago with a relatively simple definition for what I considered “fashion.” Broadly speaking, I considered fashion to exist at the confluence of art and commerce. But delving deeper, I’ve always defined fashion as a form of communication which involves three different cultural dimensions to provide context for its overall message. I believe that fashion entails a combination of 1) cultural symbols, 2) the culture of people, 3) and the culture of place – ultimately shaping what we wear, how we wear it, and how it’s understood by others. At least, that was always my understanding.
We were told to go into the Mexico Seminar with an open mind, and in doing so, I was able to imagine a new dimension of fashion that I hadn’t previously considered. One of the things that our guest speakers mentioned was that clothing made by artisans isn’t just another means of communication (as defined above). Like other artisanal objects – pottery, sculptures, paintings, several of our speakers told us that these pieces have souls. At first, I wondered if that meant that fast fashion was inherently soulless. But for the rest of the seminar, I also wondered if fast fashion (a product of globalization) was the antithesis of slow fashion, or if I was trying to compare two entirely distinct concepts.
Listening to our guest speakers at the textile museums in Oaxaca inspired me to think of possible ramifications for the contrast of fast vs slow fashion. Clothing made by the artisans is a method of breathing life into traditions that have lived for thousands of years. Fast fashion is the result of a race to the bottom in terms of price and ethical payment of factory workers, as well as a fierce competition of production speed driven by the hunger for convenience by consumers. How could I compare fast fashion and slow fashion? I thought. Slow fashion doesn’t seem to exist in opposition to fast fashion, at least not when viewed through the lens of the artisans we connected with. After my group visited the Navarro sisters in Oaxaca, they told us that they had once taken an accounting class to better understand how they could price their pieces based on their costs. At the end of their story though, the Maestra threw up her hands and started laughing. Our translator told us: “she says that in the end, the accounting class was very difficult. It’s difficult to set the price on something you like to do. They don’t see it as a business. They see it as a way of life.” The Navarro Sisters continued to elaborate on why they found the accounting class challenging. Traditional accounting practices attempt to quantify every scrap and thread that doesn’t end up becoming a part of the finished garment. What’s worse, is that in accounting – these costs are referred to as “waste.” But the Navarro Sisters don’t see their materials in that way. For them, thread is not waste. In this way, slow fashion appeared to exist on a separate plane from fast fashion.
The Navarro Gómez family invited GFM students into their home to share about their work and their lives. Video by Eva Lépiz.id = videopackOn my group’s excursion to San Antonino, we were shown a white dress that had been passed down and worn by Reina’s family for 47 years. It had been repaired, resewn, and re-embellished more times than she could count. I immediately thought of the clothes in my own closet: would I keep an article of clothing for 47 years? When an article of clothing, or even a piece of pottery has cultural meaning, when it channels a centuries old tradition, the object becomes more than just a shirt or dress. Again – how could I compare a 47-year-old dress with fast fashion? I thought of my closet full of Calvin Klein sweatshirts. How could I compare them with a dress that has existed in Reina’s family for almost twice as long as I have been alive? My sweatshirts were born out of trends, but their dress was a conduit, it has a soul.
I purchased two embroidered shirts at the market in San Antonino, and I did so on the promise to myself that I would commit to making the two shirts last in my wardrobe for the next 47 years. One of our speakers mentioned that slow fashion has become trendy in the fashion industry, which is great. But one of the things that really registered with me was that to be truly impactful, slow fashion needs to become more than a trend: it needs to be a commitment. As a fashion stylist, I’m fairly attuned to the dimensions of fashion that I mentioned earlier: symbols, people, and place. I know that I can make the two embroidered shirts last for decades if I commit to it. My reasoning being that if I can start making better decisions when purchasing new pieces, maybe I can help change other peoples’ minds about their decisions.
I’ll admit that the idea of clothing having souls was new to me, but some of the ideas discussed during the Mexico seminar were familiar. Several speakers discussed the concept of sustainability, a topic heavily discussed during the GFM Seminar in New York. I often found myself remembering a moment that happened during the New York seminar months before. One of our guest speakers was asked along the lines of: “Which brands are currently doing exceptional work in the field of sustainability?” The asker of this question had a clear intention of wanting to purchase clothes from whatever sustainable brands the speaker would mention. But instead of giving a list of brands, the speaker aptly responded: “If you’re looking to be more sustainable, start by looking at what’s already in your closet.” The speaker went on to say that increasing the life of the products we already own is the best way that we can individually be more sustainable. At both seminars we’ve had experts in the fashion industry advise that the answer to society’s mounting global problems isn’t more consumption. Specifically, during the Mexico Seminar, we learned that demanding too much, too fast, ruins the slowness of the artisan’s design process. I wondered if it was consumption, and not fast fashion that existed in opposition to slow fashion.
Our guest speaker, Anna Paula Fuentes told us that if the process stops being small-scale, it stops being artisanal. Selling, in this way, is only a quick answer to the challenges facing artisan communities. In our Global Politics and Trade course last semester, we discussed the fact that we are living in a period of hyper-globalization. Speed and convenience are highly prioritized, but hyper-globalization stands poised to compromise the cultural essence of what these artisan communities are creating. In this way, overconsumption doesn’t just run counter to slow fashion and the centuries old traditions of the artisans, it becomes a threat to their very existence.
The seminar ended two weeks ago, and my mind keeps going back to the 47-year-old dress. It goes back to the two embroidered shirts I bought at the market in San Antonino. It goes back to sitting in a courtyard of stone with my cohort, passing around clay bowls and photographs. I think about concepts like commitment, and waste. Ultimately, however, I continue to think about overconsumption, the threat it poses, and how as a marketer I can use storytelling to combat it.Continue reading →
- Beyond GFM: PhD Candidacy
By Katharine Dorny
Program Coordinator, Global Fashion Management
One of the most frequent questions applicants ask about the Global Fashion Management program is what graduates do with their new skills after completing the program. The answer is as varied as graduates’ individual circumstances and career goals. They can continue at their current jobs and earn promotions within their companies, change their focus by taking on an advanced role with another organization, or begin entrepreneurial ventures based on the capstone projects they’ve completed in the program.
But in recent years a new path has emerged: using GFM degrees as a springboard to PhD programs and opportunities to teach in higher education. Take Nimet Degirmencioglu, who, after graduating GFM 2010 and co-founding a fair-trade fashion label based on Indian textiles with a GFM classmate, was encouraged to pursue a doctorate at North Carolina State by GFM professor Praveen Chaudhry. She’s now a researcher and teacher, focused on fair trade, social entrepreneurship, and digital marketing–disciplines she was originally introduced to at GFM.
Or consider Dave Loranger (GFM 2011), a luxury retailer for two decades prior to GFM, who earned his PhD at Iowa State, where he based his dissertation research on Scottish kiltmakers’ craft. Dave is now an assistant professor at the Sacred Heart’s Jack Welch College of Business & Technology, where he teaches marketing and fashion business–fields he knows well through both his earlier professional experience and his academic pursuits at GFM and Iowa State.
Dave Loranger’s GFM 2011 classmate Caryn Pang also wound up at Iowa State in the Apparel, Merchandising, and Design doctoral program. Now finishing her dissertation, Caryn has taught at FIT and other institutions, while also taking on consulting projects. In her dissertation, she looks at the challenges of American mall culture and future applications of the “live, shop, play” concept–combining retail with residences and entertainment venues–to create a prospective new economic paradigm, replacing a staid business model.
Yet another GFM 2011 class member, Shanti Amalanathan, followed what has become a well-established path to doctoral studies at Iowa State, where she is interested in undertaking a dissertation focused on culture and social justice. And a more recent GFM graduate, Colleen Salonga, class of 2020, who earned her undergraduate degree at the U.S. Naval Academy and came to GFM after working in supply chain for the Navy, also made her way to Iowa State, where she is considering examining the circular economy from a supply-chain perspective for her dissertation.
GFM salutes the success of all its graduates, from those who continue with their original companies or assume managerial roles with other organizations, to those who initiate entrepreneurial ventures–many of which represent market-based applications of the research students began in their GFM capstones. Now that grads like Nimet, Dave, Caryn, Shanti, and Colleen have undertaken a GFM-to-doctoral studies academic trajectory, yet more rewarding venues have become available for students to display the benefits of the hands-on learning they gained through GFM.
The PhD programs pursued by growing numbers of grads qualify as a new evolutionary phase for a GFM program that has long provided an innovative, industry-driven education for its students. These doctoral-level educational opportunities not only engender new career horizons for GFM grads, their research-intensive nature ultimately involves creating, developing, and executing novel ideas and strategies for the business of fashion–innovations that characterize the progressive essence of the GFM program, and that serve as the crux of an industry whose practices increasingly represent pace-setting advances within the global economy.Continue reading →
- Notes from the Field: GFM Alumna Uses Her Expertise to Assist FEMA Efforts
CC Salonga, GFM class of 2020, joined the program from a career as a U.S. Navy officer where she specialized in logistics and inventory management for the Defense Department. She entered GFM with an interest in retail operations and will continue her studies in the fall at Iowa State University’s doctoral program in the department of Apparel, Merchandising & Design. But in the meantime, CC is back in Washington, dedicating her military expertise to the country’s most crucial work of the moment. The GFM program takes great pride in her academic and professional accomplishments and wish her success in this critical phase of her career.
When I learned that supply chain consultants were needed to support the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) efforts towards COVID-19, I reached out. Within a few days I found myself at the Federal Emergency Management Agency Headquarters (FEMA HQ) operations center where I assisted with tracking supply requisitions for the Strategic National Stockpile. HHS and FEMA coordinate efforts with local emergency response officials to provide supplies and address medical needs.
The team I worked with specializes in disaster relief and tracks requirements and incoming and outgoing inventory on commodities such as ventilators, test kits, pharmaceuticals, and Federal Medical Systems which are deployable 250- and 50-bed sets with bathroom and shower capabilities. We pulled information from multiple supply chains and different tracking systems to include reviewing thousands of emails requesting support for the states, tribes and territories. We also tracked deliveries to designated sites — primarily convention centers, but also school gyms, warehouses, hospitals, and national guard sites.
As pharmaceuticals requirements gained momentum, I was moved to an HHS mission support building in Frederick, MD where there is a warehouse that holds some national stockpile stores for pharmaceuticals, devices and supplies designated for disaster and health emergencies. There, I helped the staff with inventory and administrative efforts to get caches ready for deployment.
The needs of HHS continue to change, and I am now in a third location, the HHS operations center close to FEMA HQ. I still support resource allocation efforts but also have the ability to observe videoconferences involving multiple groups within the government and the military. I have an even greater appreciation for the monumental and collective efforts of private industry and the government. Having spent some time in the military, I have found it rewarding to continue serving in times of need.
CC Salonga, Washington, D.C.Continue reading →
- Found in Translation: A Visit to Japan’s Toyota City
By Michael Battista
Industry Coordinator to the Global Fashion Management Program
As a complement to the recent Hong Kong Seminar and its focus on apparel production and the Asian markets, GFM continued onward to Japan for an optional two-day segment of executive lectures and site visits. Here, the scope of our attention expanded to include merchandising techniques at Isetan Department Store, the ethos of home goods and lifestyle brand Muji, a presentation by renowned textile designer Reiko Sudo of the innovative textile corporation Nuno, and a visit to the headquarters of Toyota [cue the abrupt screech of a record stopping]. You may be wondering what a car manufacturer has to do with Global Fashion Management. The answer is actually, quite a lot.
Toyota is one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world. Before these Japanese cars dominated the planet’s roads, it was a family business known as Toyoda Loom Works. Established in 1907, it became an innovator and inventor of a number of textile looms and cotton spinning machines, improving on the speed, quality, and efficiency of mechanical textile production, and ultimately developing the technology towards automation. The company headquarters in Nagoya, Japan hosts a museum dedicated to exhibiting this history and its pivotal transition to car manufacturing on its original founding site.
The significance of Toyota’s contribution to the apparel industry transcends its historical role in loom development and textile production. The company pioneered a highly efficient and agile manufacturing methodology, known as the Toyota Production System, that serves as the foundation for the Fast Fashion models leveraged by H&M and Inditex (the retail group behind Zara), the second and third most valuable apparel companies in the world. Additionally, Toyota’s principals of flexibility, waste reduction, and efficiency are the foundation of the Eton System, used in Esquel’s vertical production plant in Guangdong. During our China seminar, students observed this flexible material handling system, which is designed to eliminate manual handling and transportation, resulting in an increase in production.
While GFM Students explore the fundamentals of agile, efficient, responsive, and risk minimizing production models like the Toyota Production System in the program’s Production Management and Supply Chain course, there’s nothing quite like seeing the application of a methodology with your own eyes. The site visit to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, and then later to Toyota Motor Corporation’s Tsutsumi Assembly Plant, offered an additional opportunity for the concepts covered in the classroom to spring to life.
The museum’s textile machinery pavilion is a hangar-sized space of over 11,000 square feet filled with nearly 100 pieces of equipment from its archive—many of which are functional—that showcases the evolution of cotton spinning and textile looms from the industrial revolution of the 18th century to today. Docents lead us through the exhibition, charting the historical progression of these production processes and stopping to demonstrate the machinery along the way. As we proceeded, we witnessed the evolution of technology, speed, and complexity, from wooden machines powered by hand to those forged by steel and guided by computer.
Compared to the more contemporary and dizzyingly fast machines used by factories today, the earlier wooden looms from the beginning of the 20th century have parts that move at speeds more amenable for the human eye to process. For those of us on the tour without a technical background in textiles, it was an opportunity to better see and understand the mechanical process of a loom shuttle moving yarn back and forth between the vertical warp threads to create fabric. It was truly an aha moment for many of us, with the cadence of clicking heard from students and looms alike.
Additional wings of the museum are dedicated to the company’s transition from Toyoda Loom Works to the Toyota that we know today. The most salient changes resulted from the generational shift in management from father to son, and a culturally astute rebranding that altered the company’s name to allude to “good fortune” in the written Japanese language.
By bus, we continued our site visit to the Toyota Motor Corporation Assembly Plant in nearby Toyota City. We ascended to a network of catwalks perched above the production lines. From here, we bore witness to a focused and coordinated effort of man and machine. There was a great deal of activity. Workers were staged across various points of the production lines, diligently and swiftly transforming frames of steel into cars by methodically adding its components. Small robotic carts tugged bins filled with parts to their respective stations. There was a symphony of coded tones and musical notes to indicate production status, delays or errors. This is where we could see and hear the Toyota Production System’s deployment of two of its core philosophical principles:
Just-in-Time: where the supply follows the demand, this is defined by Toyota as “making only what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed.” Each car we saw on the production line, represented a sale and customer order for that specific model.
Jidoka: a Japanese word at the intersection of automation and human intelligence has come to embody a quality control methodology to prevent defects throughout the workflow. Assembly workers stop the production line if a problem arises or is detected before the car moves forward to the next step in the manufacturing process.
Toyota’s growth and capture of the global market share is due to its development and refinement of these core principals (among others), which have enabled it to maximize efficiency and minimize waste (waste, in this case, being defined as overproduction).
The history of this company’s success across generations and industries illustrates the value of internationalism and open trade. Both generations of Toyoda leadership were informed and inspired by site visits abroad, building their respective global empires on the foundation of their impressions of best practices and innovations, and ultimately improving on them. Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of the company’s first incarnation, visited the global textile centers of his day, touring fabric mills in the northeastern U.S. and Manchester, England. His son, Kiichiro Toyoda, who transformed the company into an automobile manufacturer in 1937, went to see the Ford operation in Detroit at the onset of its development of the Assembly Line Method, a transformative innovation in manufacturing at the time.
For a grand finale, we witnessed the mechanical ballet of the welding machines fortifying the frames of cars-to-be, rhythmically moving to the beat of their own programming. Many large mechanical arms swiftly and articulately moved in concert across the body of a single car. They stretched, contracted, and rotated around each other, sending bursts of orange sparks into the air. At this point on the catwalk, we stood entranced by the performance, which would end within a minute’s time, only to be repeated on the next car frame in line. The speed and scale of the elegant process was both impressive and humbling. Many jaws had fallen ajar at the sight of it all. As we stood there above the manufacturing line, I could do nothing but appreciate that after nearly 80 years from the company’s inception, we were witnessing the fulfillment of a vision of automation, efficiency, and synergy of human and machine. And so I wondered, what potential advancements might lie on the horizon of the apparel industry’s future, and what visions have yet to come?Continue reading →
- Cameras and Action in the City of Lights: The 2017 Paris Seminar Case Study
By Karen Abington (Class of 2018)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
- Teaming in the Global Workplace
By Bob Greene, MS
Leadership and Team Development Coach and Consultant
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.
- 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
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.
- 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
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- GFM Joins Cardozo Law Students for Conversation with John Idol, CEO Michael Kors, and Lee Sporn, Kors General Counsel
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
“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.
The world’s supply chains for apparel and beyond, could do much worse than to adopt Edwin Keh’s vision of the future.
- Hong Kong Seminar 2015: The Connected Chinese Consumer
Within all aspects of Global Fashion Management education—from lecture event to panel discussion to informal conversation—the focus often turns to the demand and purchasing power of the Chinese consumer. According to the Sourcing Journal, China-based consumers’ online spending for American brands in 2015, is seven times higher than in 2014. But while Chinese consumers are aware of American brands, they’re often not available in China. Jingming Li, U.S. President of Alipay, China’s third-party payment platform, writes that growth will be exponential as logistics and localized payment options improve for cross-border purchasing.
Our intensive seminar in Hong Kong provides GFM students the perfect venue to hear the very latest on e-commerce, digital commerce, and social networks from those who know it best—local experts, colleagues, and consumers—and to gain insight on how the future might unfold.
Anson Bailey, Principal, Business Development for KPMG in Hong Kong, has spent a good portion of his career in China, and has the consumer-technology expertise to deliver a fresh perspective on the contemporary Chinese consumer. Anson says, “Asia will be the story going forward,” and he backs up this claim with a few trends:
- Peer to peer, mobile and cognitive technologies will continue to strengthen, especially as new digital consumers in third and fourth tier cities in Mainland China turn to e-commerce.
- Among consumers in first and second tier cities, 2008 marked a turning point when buying incentive shifted from status seeking to self-reward and purchasing from a more individualist incentive. Heightened by an educated knowledge of country-of-origin when buying luxury, Chinese consumers have less concern for price, and focus more on accessibility.
- Among Chinese consumers surveyed by KPMG, 45% buy online. Among the 54% that make up the middle to upper class, this group has the greatest influence on consumer purchases.
Anson went on to describe the evolving innovation of Chinese tech companies in creating disruptive technologies, consumer convergence, more adaptable mobile devices (such as OnePlus), and aggressive accelerator programs such as AIA. Regardless of how much we may read about the connected Chinese consumer, there’s nothing quite like being on site, and among the experts, to get a first-hand perspective.
- Paris Seminar 2015: News from Fashion Industry Leader Didier Grumbach
Didier may not be a household name, but in the international fashion industry, he’s a legend. It’s been GFM’s great fortune to hear him speak about the history of the industry and his unique place at the center of it, when he opens the Paris seminar every year.
Co-founder of Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, colleague to Givenchy, chairman of Thierry Mugler, and Chairman of the Fédération Français de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, and of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Corture, Didier has also served as Director of Studies and Dean of Professional Staff at Institut Français de la Mode since 1985.
His History of International Fashion – recently translated into English – is the ultimate authority on the history of haute couture, leading to the origin of ready-to-wear and manufacturing, and finally to the internationalization of the industry as we know it today. Didier hasn’t written a history of fashion, and his lecture to GFM students doesn’t follow that narrative. Instead, he discusses designers as instigators of society-changing concepts; for example, Chanel’s disruption of structured garments through the introduction of new fabrics and silhouettes; the Christian Dior business model and the start of licensing in the U.S.; and YSL’s brilliant creation of ready-to-wear collections inspired by couture. Didier has the remarkable ability to rise above the often-repeated stories of glamour and indulgence (although he’s familiar with those as well) to describe businesses devoted to beauty and high fashion but starved for cash, and opportunistic governments that use the apparel industry as economic protection. There are very few in the apparel industry – anywhere in the world – who have the comprehensive knowledge and experience of Didier, and even fewer who have the generosity to share it.
“This book . . . aspires to be the story of the creation, the evolution, and the implosion of the fashion trade and to offer perspectives on a profession that, like any other social body, defines itself by its origins as by its current economic context.” – Didier Grumbach
Please see “Seminars” on the Global Fashion Management website for more information.
- Paris Seminar 2015: News from Luxury Industry Leader Guillaume de Seynes, Executive Vice President, Hermès International
During each New York, Paris, and Hong Kong seminar, Global Fashion Management students meet to work in intercultural teams to analyze a business with the goal of recommending strategy in finance, marketing, or retail, for large companies or entrepreneurs. This process would be challenging enough if you were familiar with your teammates, their expertise, and their negotiating techniques. But GFM students seldom have this advantage. In the first seminar, they work across cultures with those they’ve never met to come to consensus, relying on their colleagues’ skills in merchandising, product development, finance, retail, design, marketing, or any number of specialties required to operate successful companies.
These skills were tested at the Paris seminar in April, when Hermès came to Institut Français de la Mode to present the history of their extraordinary brand and the challenges they face. As demand increases for their products and the experience it offers around the world, the company came to GFM to seek advice on how they might deliver the highest standard of customer service on a level that’s consistent with the expertise required to develop the products themselves.
Lead by Guillaume de Seynes, Hermès International Executive Vice-President; Corinne Feneon, Hermès International Group Retail Activities Director; and Thibault Hesse, Hermès International Customer Experience Manager, students received a thorough history of the family and the brand, leading to questions such as, “what does luxury mean to a contemporary – and younger – consumer?” “How does a digital strategy fit into the future of an historic and revered luxury brand?” And, “how do you identify and create a profile for a new consumer, and deliver the highest standard of customer service?”
Prior to arriving in Paris, and in their respective countries, students conducted primary interviews, collected data from database and digital sources, and most importantly, experienced the Hermès store experience themselves in cities throughout the world, to better understand the brand values and culture. As students collected data, they communicated among themselves in advance of meeting at the beginning of April, comparing notes and setting expectations for their first meeting in Paris.
The seminar’s lectures added depth to several topics within the case study, and a final coaching session helped to sharpen the focus to the recommendations. In the final debriefing session at the close of presentations, Hermès executives praised the teams for their insights and perspectives that were sometimes surprising and sometimes verified their assumptions, but ultimately made a valuable connection between the retail experience and the expectations of a digitally-engaged and global consumer.
From FIT students’ point of view, the following quotes:
“Working with one of the most iconic luxury brands such as Hermès provided an enriching perspective on French industry dynamics.”
“Fascinating study on luxury with an international group. Always interesting to observe the initiative to make changes, yet the blindness to acknowledge what truly exists.”
“It was a ‘one time in my life’ experience to give a presentation in front of executives from Hermès.”
“Overall, it was a great learning experience working with people who understand and value luxury and customer service in different ways.”
“Experience and practice are needed to understand and deal with these cultural differences.”
“Having access to the thoughts and strategies of top executives from Dior, Chanel and especially Hermes helped inform the concepts our group put forth to assist in moving the luxury customer experience into the digital world. It was impressive to hear how important the customers are to these brands, and they all approach their interactions with consumers in unique ways.”
Please see “Seminars” on the Global Fashion Management website for more information.
- Paris Seminar 2015: News from Luxury Industry Leader Sidney Toledano, Chief Executive, Christian Dior
“True luxury is only meaningful when rooted in authentic tradition,” says Toledano, reflecting on his knowledge of the luxury industry at the Paris Seminar for Global Fashion Management students.
A recent New York Times article describes Dior’s management under Chief Executive Sidney Toledano as among the best training grounds for luxury executives. On April 8th, when Mr. Toledano addressed Global Fashion Management students from FIT, Hong Kong Polytechnic Institute, and Institut Français de la Mode on their Paris campus, his remarks were less about his management style than a reflection of his depth of knowledge of the luxury industry in general, and Dior in particular. Mr. Toledano channeled Christian Dior through his quote, “true luxury is only meaningful when rooted in authentic tradition,” before he went on to describe Dior’s evolution of designers and iconic garments and accessories, noting the importance of a thorough understanding of the brand DNA among creators.
Mr. Toledano began his presentation by describing the company’s licensing business after World War II and the effort to finally bring it under control. He commented on the early career of Bernard Arnault, and Yves Saint Laurent – Christian Dior’s assistant – all leading up to the extraordinary success of the company today. Commenting on the skill of the design and production teams, he said, “The Dior atelier is unique in Paris and at the height of complexity,” as Global Fashion Management students who have had the privilege to visit, will no doubt agree. Questions from students followed, asking about Dior’s digital commerce strategy, expanding into emerging markets, and the creative decisions behind the iconic brand.
“Even when there are no more secrets, fashion remains a mystery.“ – Christian Dior
Please see “Seminars” on the Global Fashion Management website for more information.
- NY Seminar: No Sleep Till Brooklyn
GFM students took a break from lectures at the SUNY Global Center in Manhattan during the recent New York seminar to spend a day exploring the rapidly evolving and consistently inventive retail environments of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
These neighborhoods –transformed from their origin as industrial, manufacturing centers, and home to thousands of immigrants who moved to the area from Manhattan’s lower east side in the early 20th century – were rezoned for development along the East River in 2005. The zoning ordinance allowed for light manufacturing, making it possible to continue apparel production. The new “creative economy” has provided Williamsburg and Greenpoint with an energy that is beginning to attract mainstream Manhattan retailers. But the neighborhoods’ small retailers are keeping their edge as local customers have given them permission to indulge in “slow” fashion and reward them for their courage. Two of our favorites are In God We Trust and Kai D. Utility.
Shana Tabor, In God We Trust: Shana’s Greenpoint store serves as her jewelry and garment production studio, as well as the retail store for In God We Trust; her other retail locations are in Williamsburg and Soho. Shana’s collections are reminiscent of her New England heritage, infused with attitude and style, sung to Veruca Salt and Joan Jett, and made in Brooklyn (and Manhattan). Trained as a jewelry designer, Shana believes in the importance of detail and the integrity of quality.
. . .
Kai D., Kai D. Utility: As a disciple of the less-is-more philosophy, Kai D.’s shop is a panorama of rich organic neutrals dyed into high-quality natural fibers; woven in historic Italian mills; sung to Bob Dylan, Brother Yusef, and Billie Holiday; and cut and constructed in Manhattan. A gifted designer, his ideology, “refined for the modern artisan and built to last,” is visible in every garment. Kai D’s working knowledge of tailoring and fit, and the construction details which set his garments apart from the accepted standard, are alone worth the trip. For Kai D., this is personal.
Continue reading →
- GFM NY Seminar: Priceless
By Elka Gruenberg (Class of 2016),
Northeast Account Executive, Simone Perele
If you were walking down East 55th Street one afternoon in early October, you may have happened across dozens of giddy adults pouring out onto the street; visibly elated, exhausted, chattering non-stop in half a dozen languages, and making a beeline for celebratory drinks. What you would have seen would have been students from FIT’s GFM Program – with their colleagues from IFM and HKPU – emerging from the New York Seminar after delivering case study presentations.
To be fair… we were warned…. multiple times…by all of our professors, advisors, and older students…“Be prepared not to sleep” and “You’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked before.”
Yet we eagerly dove into the seminar, enthusiastically meeting our new colleagues and forming our case study teams. What followed was ten days of unremitting learning. Nights were spent continuously working and re-working angles of the case study.
Our days, however, were spent being lectured by some of the retail industry’s most influential and accomplished players.
I won’t lie; it felt a bit like a commercial…
Metro Card. $2.50.
Morning double latte. $4.50…
Asking advice from Anna Bakst, who launched Michael Kors Footwear and Accessories and built it into a multi-billion dollar business…Priceless.
While I’m sure she could have easily picked twice as many speakers, Pamela Ellsworth, Chair of GFM, assembled a group of experts who covered the entire span of the retail horizon.
Kevin Ryan – founder of Gilt Groupe – walked us through how he launched the luxury flash sale site. He challenged us to ask, “Why will people use this product,” at every point in product development. He also reminded us that while ideas are great, “The idea is only moderately important. Execution is everything.”
We learned how securing private equity is like dating; how manufacturers are positioned to become direct conduits to retail; and in this day and age every company is a tech company.
All of the speakers pushed us to expand our understanding of the retail experience.
Today’s consumer is more global, more tech savvy, more environmentally conscious and more demanding than ever before. To keep up, we need to be constantly aware of what is happening around the world. Luckily, all I have to do to keep up is Skype with any of my case study teammates in Paris, Casablanca, Geneva, or Hong Kong.