ELLE International Fashion and Luxury Management Program connects continents and fields of expertise to prepare future global industry leaders
Contributed by Kristin Viera Zecca, Director, Executive Programs, MIT Sloan Executive Education
Fashion and luxury are not topics that jump to mind when people think of MIT. But when you put them in the context of innovation and digital transformation, it all starts to make sense. As an industry, fashion has always been among the first to embrace innovation—in materials and manufacturing, operations and supply chain management, marketing and distribution. And, like virtually any industry today, the world of fashion and luxury is undergoing seismic disruptions due to globalization, digitization, and automation of business, as well as major shifts in customer expectations and purchasing behavior.
So it was only natural, when ELLE International was looking for an education partner to teach the business implications of these market forces to a group of future industry leaders, they chose MIT. In collaboration with Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM) and MIT Sloan Executive Education, ELLE International created a unique educational experience to give a global perspective on the business side of fashion and luxury for people who are either looking to transition into a fashion and luxury career, or who have been in these industries for many years but now recognize a need to hone or build up their skills to continue to be successful in the field.
Now, why would ELLE, ostensibly a women’s fashion and beauty magazine, get into education? Constance Benqué, CEO of ELLE France and ELLE International, explains: “Fashion, luxury, innovation, women’s empowerment are fully part of our DNA. So our collaboration with such prestigious partners focused on education, innovation, and excellence is a perfect match to help the students make their dream come true and become future leaders in the fashion world.”
Mickael Berret, Director of International Media Licenses, ELLE International, who is in charge of new projects at ELLE, among other things like license contracts, all things digital marketing, and more, elaborates: “We like to share our expertise, our knowledge. It’s something that is very important for us, for the Editor in Chief, for everyone who works on the ELLE brand. ELLE has been doing this for decades. Helping young designers or training people in the design and luxury industry, for us it is a way to be consistent with the values of ELLE.”
For us at MIT Sloan Executive Education, the ELLE International Fashion and Luxury Management Program was the first of its kind—part open enrollment (anyone who qualified could apply), part custom-designed for a single client (ELLE International), and delivered in modules across three countries (Spain, France, and the U.S.), with the capstone module here on the MIT campus, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As the Program Director of the MIT module, I had the advantage (and the fun) of observing the three previous ones—in Madrid, Paris, and New York—to design our part of the program in a way that would build on the experiences and knowledge that participants took away from those.
What an amazing journey it’s been! Madrid was a whirlwind of “fast fashion.” Paris, the birthplace of haute couture, opened the doors of its legendary ateliers. New York focused on prêt-à-porter and premium brands. And, Cambridge was all about innovation, operations, digital transformation, and strategic thinking. In addition to more “academic” sessions, the Madrid, Paris, and New York modules included visits to fashion design studios and innovation labs, as well as presentations by key leaders in fashion and luxury, like the famed footwear designer Christian Louboutin, CEOs of Christian Dior Couture and Louis Vuitton, the French clothing designer Roland Mouret, the American style icon Diane Von Furstenberg, and many other luminaries. Our own module here at MIT integrated these experiences with frameworks that participants could use to apply what they’ve learned to their own jobs, whether they work in the fashion and luxury industries or in other fields.
Glamorous travel aside, what I found most gratifying about this experience was watching the participants learn and grow and form relationships with one another over the course of the program. A young professional from the U.K. told me how this program gave her the confidence she needed to leave a stable, but unfulfilling, job in the pharmaceutical industry and pursue her true passion in jewelry design. Another person, a senior leader of a global textile manufacturer based in Austria, saw tremendous value in thinking through how his company can be more strategic and innovative along its entire value chain. An entrepreneur and social media influencer from Taiwan appreciated learning more about the management side of fashion just as much as she delighted in meeting her fashion icons. An MIT alumna from Brazil, who works in retail supply chain and logistics, was inspired by how innovative fashion and luxury industries are in her area of expertise and how she could easily translate the insights from the program to her own work.
People came to this program from all over the world—North and South America, Europe, Asia—and everyone came away with a life-changing experience, deeper and broader knowledge of the fashion and luxury industries, and an international network of peers. There is no doubt in my mind that these people will continue to learn from and support each other as they progress in their careers. It’s part of the program design, actually. “We are creating an amazing network here with ELLE magazine and with these students. We want to keep engaging with them in the future, because the industry is evolving, and the program will continue to evolve,” says Francisco J. Lopez Navarrete, the mastermind behind the entire program and the Program Director for the Complutense University modules. The first official alumni reunion will take place in September, 2019, in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, we are excited to meet the next group of ELLE International Fashion and Luxury Management Program participants in December, 2018. If you are interested in joining or know someone who might be a great candidate for this truly transformative experience, please consider applying.