Interview with alumnae Francesca Benini and Giulia Ferraris
Luxury brands are some of the world’s best known. It’s no surprise that designer labels from this industry are some of the most coveted across the globe, by individuals from vastly different cultures, traditions and social backgrounds.
The luxury industry has profoundly changed and has undergone several transformations due to the evolution of digital markets, internationalisation, and ever-evolving consumer trends. Master in Management alumni Francesca Benini and Giulia Ferraris, who have found their professional calling in this exciting and dynamic environment, tell us more about what it takes to work in the industry in this interview with Marketing Professor Isabella Maggioni.
Professor Maggioni: “Francesca, you work as a Merchandising Manager in women’s leather goods for Louis Vuitton in Paris. Can you tell us more about the daily responsibilities in your line of work?”
“The beauty of my job is that every day is different! The pace is quite intense and there are always new challenges to face. My role can be described as a sort of spokesperson for international markets – I’m in daily contact with zone merchandisers in the different regions of the world. I try to understand their needs and the major trends, in order to create the most desirable and efficient collection possible, together with colleagues from product development, design, supply chain and production. 50% of the time I work on numbers, analysing the performance of our launches, the remainder of my time is spent on products, dealing with materials, colors, and shapes! The perfect balance between quantitative and qualitative skills.”
Professor Maggioni: “Giulia you work as a Retail Merchandiser for Hermes in Milan, and you’ve also worked for Valentino as a WRTW Retail Merchandiser. Can you tell us what a typical day in the office looks like for you? What gets you up in the morning?”
“Simply put, merchandisers monitor sales of certain products – we analyse past and current figures to see what is working and what isn’t, and we try to predict what will happen in the future. I work closely with both buyers and designers, with the ultimate goal of maximising profits for my fashion brand. I plan how specific products end up in stores, ensuring there’s a consistent flow of stock.
Being a fashion merchandiser requires an equal balance of analytical skills and creativity. You need to use your knowledge of trends to plan effectively, but you also need to make strategic decisions that make good business sense. It’s an exciting and highly rewarding role with great opportunities for professional growth, which is what gets me up in the morning.”
Professor Maggioni: “Products often attain the status of luxury goods thanks to their design, quality, durability, or performance. What in your opinion sets a luxury brand apart from its competitors and can you offer us some examples?”
“In my opinion it’s a brand’s long lasting values that really define its heritage and make a difference.
Successful brands are the ones that are able to tell a story through their products. They are successful because they express their inner DNA and their core values, through their product. These brands strengthen their positioning as luxury players in the clients’ minds just by being true to themselves.
One example that comes to mind is the Petite Malle, a bag that embodies all of my company’s brand heritage. Its shape conjures the historical trunks that made Louis Vuitton famous worldwide. The iconic monogram canvas, the gold closure and the three red crosses are inspired from our founder’s visionary spirit and love for travel, and carry forward a strong message.”
Professor Maggioni: “The world of luxury goods is constantly changing. What trends have you noticed in the last few years? What are your predictions for the future of this sector?”
“Luxury is one of the most resilient industries there are. It is also one of the fastest to rebound after a crisis, as it has proven time and time again. Despite a worldwide pandemic and constant insecurity, the global luxury industry has bounced back faster than expected, and its foundations are looking strong.
Looking into the future, the industry is working on reducing its environmental impact by setting limits to the exploitation of raw materials and by decreasing textile waste.
In terms of trends, we’ve recently seen a huge growth in online purchases, which is forecast to surpass all other sales channels, and it is strengthened by the arrival of new clients from the Millennial and Gen Z generations.
Another interesting phenomenon that is arising within our industry is Social Commerce. The growing comfort that each one of us experiences while using social media encourages smooth shopping experiences, from product discovery all the way to checkout. Future challenges will include tailored in-app purchase journeys, interactive live-streaming and augmented reality try-on.”
Professor Maggioni: “ESCP, your alma mater, just launched a new Specialisation in the Master in Management programme – Luxury Marketing – in its Turin campus. Can you offer prospective students interested in working in this booming sector any words of advice?”
“Getting a foot in the door of the fashion industry is often daunting – it’s a very competitive world, where creatives and strategists have to work together to keep up with rapidly changing trends and a demanding audience.
With this in mind, I recommend that students who are interested in working in this rewarding industry start by looking for work opportunities very early on, perhaps by looking at internships in the sector, without focusing only on big industry players and well known brands. Smaller firms often offer more recognition, a chance for students to get a more rounded experience.”
“I believe it’s super important for students to stay connected, to be aware of what is happening out there in the fashion world. Students should follow the latest shows, learn all there is to learn about the new product launches and different collaborations in the industry.
Another important aspect of this job is understanding how luxury clients buy in different parts of the world, and what they are looking for. Getting store experience is one of the most valuable opportunities there are for this. Last but not least, students should try to be brave and unleash their inner creativity and fresh points of view, as new ideas are how luxury brands continue to evolve and remain relevant for the next generations of clients.”
Professor Maggioni: “The luxury goods market has been on an upward climb for many years now. Do you think a specialisation in this field can be an added bonus for individuals wishing to become leaders in this sector? What lessons from your own academic career at ESCP have stuck with you the longest?”
“Working in fashion requires a lot of elasticity, together with a high understanding of the market and of its trends. A specialisation in this sector could help newcomers better understand the dynamics that lie within the industry, and to quickly take over its language.
Flexibility, dynamism, communication skills and out of the box thinking are the most important lessons I learned at ESCP, and countless times they’ve helped me integrate in this amazing industry that I am now happy to call home.”
“The luxury goods industry is such an inspiring and dynamic sector, and a specialisation is a great opportunity to learn its intricacies from the very start of your career.
Personally ESCP has left me some valuable life lessons, for example it made me understand the value of working as a team and to have a solution-oriented approach in my daily tasks, because of all of the group projects I had the opportunity to work on.
As a student there, I also had the chance to meet several highly skilled professionals from a range of different industry sectors, who really allowed me to visualise the path I wanted to take after university, and provided the strong network that helped me reach my professional objectives once I was ready to stand on my own two feet.”
The “Made in Italy” label is synonymous with excellence, creativity, style and elegance. The Luxury industry is constantly growing and requires increasingly specialised professionalism. ESCP Business School created the new Luxury Marketing specialisation, starting in January 2023 in Turin, as we believe that Italy is a great place to study luxury marketing and management.