Tag Archives: #gradstudies

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.

 

Class of 2022 students Amethys Kompani and Zach Mauer at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. Photo by Eva Lépiz.

Question Everything

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.

Students examining pottery from Colectivo 1050 grados during a discussion in Oaxaca. Photo by Eva Lépiz.

 

Slow Fashion

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.

Photographs from Colectivo 1050 grados of their work with artisans in Oaxaca. Photo by Eva Lépiz.

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.

Margarita Navarro Gomez weaving at her home in Santo Tomás Jalieza. Photo by Margaret Sancho.
Mariana Gómez weaving on a backstrap loom. Photo by Eva Lépiz.

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.

Students studying finished embroidered garments from Artesanías Nasa’a in San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Photo by Eva Lépiz.
Handmade dress from Artesanías Nasa’a. Photo by Katharine Dorny.

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.

Ana Paula Fuentes speaks with students at the Museo Belber. Photo by Eva Lépiz.
A hand-embroidered garment by a local Oaxacan artisan. The stitches were so fine, they could hardly be seen on the reverse of the fabric. Photo by Eva Lépiz.

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.

Zach Mauer in one of his new shirts from San Antonino, which he plans to wear for the next 47 years. Photo by Eva Lépiz.
Students shopping at the local artisan market in Santo Tomás Jalieza. Photo by Eva Lépiz.

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.

CC Salonga at FEMA HQ.

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.

P​aris Seminar 2015: News from Luxury Industry Leader Guillaume de Seynes, Executive Vice President, Hermès International

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.

Global Fashion Management students working in teams made out of professionals with diverse backgrounds offer complementary skills
Global Fashion Management students work in intercultural teams of professionals from diverse backgrounds to offer complementary skills as they create strategies for their case study recommendations.

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.

Hermès International executives offer feedback to students during their case study presentations. Corinne Feneon, Retail Activities Director (center); Florian Craen, Executive Vice President, Sales and Distribution (third from right); Guillaume de Seynes, Executive Vice President, Manufacturing and Equity Investments (with microphone); Bénédicte Revol, Client Marketing Director (Right).
Hermès International executives offer feedback to students during their case study presentations. Corinne Feneon, Retail Activities Director (center); Florian Craen, Executive Vice President, Sales and Distribution (third from right); Guillaume de Seynes, Executive Vice President, Manufacturing and Equity Investments (with microphone); Bénédicte Revol, Client Marketing Director (Right).

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.

GFM Students presenting their strategy recommendations to for Hermès.
GFM Students presenting their strategy recommendations to Hermès.

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.


 

P​aris Seminar 2015: News from Luxury Industry Leader Sidney Toledano, Chief Executive, Christian Dior

Sidney Toledano, CEO of Christian Dior Couture, speaks to GFM students about his experience with turning a haute couture house into a global brand.

“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

Sydney Toledano, Chief Executive of Christian Dior, meeting with GFM students at the Paris Seminar
Sidney Toledano, Chief Executive of Christian Dior, meeting with GFM students at the Paris Seminar.
Véronique Schilling, Director, GFM Executive MBA at IFM Paris (Left), Sydney Toledano, Chief Executive of Christian Dior (Center), Emmanuelle Favre, International Human Resources Director, Christian Dior Couture (Right)
Véronique Schilling, Director, GFM Executive MBA at IFM Paris (Left), Sidney Toledano, Chief Executive, Christian Dior (Center), Emmanuelle Favre, International Human Resources Director, Christian Dior Couture (Right)

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.

Global Fashion Management Students from Paris and Hong Kong join their colleagues in New York for a 10 day Intensive Seminar of lectures and site visits. Brooklyn is just a short subway ride away.

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.

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Shana Tabor, In God We Trust
Global Fashion Management students exploring the inside the hip apparel and jewelry boutique of the Greenpoint location of In God We Trust located at 70 Greenpoint Avenue. Other locations are in SoHo and Williamsburg. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio
In God We Trust F/W 2014

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.

Behind the scenes of their Greenpoint location, lies the jewelry workshop and a production facility for In God We Trust. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio
Shana Tabor, owner of In God We Trust shares the ins and outs of the creative and production process of her brand with Global Fashion Management Students. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

. . .

GFM Students explore well tailored, slow fashion clothing line of Kai D. Utility at the 230 Grand Street Williamsburg boutique.
Kai D. Utility F/W 2014

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.

Kai D. speaks to Global Fashion Management Students about the brand DNA and philosophy behind his brand. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio
A Global Fashion Management Student from partner University, Hong Kong Polytechnic gets up close and personal with the menswear at Kai D. Utility.
Some Inspiration from Kai D. Utility.