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ESSEC Celebrates 25 Years of Education in Luxury Brand Management | Education, sponsored position

Paris, France – ESSEC’s motto is “the Pioneering Spirit”, and since 1995 it has been trying to instill that attitude in the next generation of luxury professionals. Originally launched in partnership with LVMH and L’Oréal Luxe – the world’s largest luxury conglomerate and the beauty giant’s prestigious consortium of brands – the school was tasked with nurturing the next generation of luxury professionals to create a talent pool of specialists who were equipped with the insight and experience to develop luxury companies in emerging markets.

Today, the school partners with “all major luxury groups” worldwide, both by placing graduates in leading luxury homes and shops, and by creating unique educational experiences to educate today’s students. The school’s curriculum varies in scope, including fashion and accessories, jewelry and watches, fragrances and cosmetics, wines and spirits, luxury shopping and luxury hospitality – all put together into an immersive and intense year for the students, about 50 percent of which retraining careers in other industries.

To shape the next generation of luxury professionals, the school offers students a mentoring program, a 2-month field project / advisory mission with a luxury brand during the summer, conferences with leading executives throughout the year, a week-long boutique internship, and four global field trips to New York. York, Shanghai, Milan, Florence and Switzerland, as well as individual career guidance from a professional professional.

To learn more about how training at ESSEC has helped advance their career in luxury, BoF interviews three graduates from the program: Mercedes Abramo, President and CEO of Cartier North America; Megha Malagatti, Director of Business Development at L’Oréal Luxury; and Xi Yu, assistant general manager of the sales, watch and jewelry division for La Samaritaine at LVMH’s DFS.

Mercedes Abramo, President and CEO of Cartier North America | Source: Courtesy

Mercedes Abramo, President and CEO of Cartier North America, graduated in 2002

The ESSEC curriculum put me in touch with the industry from day one. In a period of nine months you will gain international exposure for four or five years.

Why did you choose to study at ESSEC?

For eight years I held various positions in the US, where I worked for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. I was on my way to senior management positions when my husband was offered a job in France.

While it was a great move for our family and for my husband professionally, I wanted to do something to stimulate myself intellectually. I watched a number of MBA programs until I came across ESSEC. I thought it was perfect because it had a real luxury angle, but also exposed me to areas of the industry other than hotels.

What was the most valuable aspect of studying at ESSEC?

The ESSEC curriculum exposes you to the industry from day one. From guest speakers to international travel, you will gain four or five years of international exposure in a nine-month period. We’ve also traveled extensively and took advantage of what was nearby with day trips to Parisian houses and fairs, such as the Basel watch fair. We then went to Milan and on to Tokyo.

When we visited Bugatti in Italy, showed through the factory and listened to the production director in the shop floor talk about design and craftsmanship, it really resonated. These touchpoints taught me that product and savoir faire must be protected and nurtured, and it opened a new luxury field for me.

How does the school connect students with mentors?

We were assigned official mentors, but you also had access to many other contacts in their database. My mentor was the Head of HR for Montblanc in France, who was particularly interested in my operational background. The school and mentors looked at our experience and paired us up based on that, creating a real relationship.

When ESSEC now has a study trip to New York, I organize them at Cartier for an information session, tour and discussion. I also connect them to some of the others Richemont brands that their students would be interested in and with our HR team.

What skills resonated with employers in the luxury sector?

Getting a foot in the door of the luxury industry requires compromise. After graduation, I took a position that was more of a junior position than I had previously held in the hotel industry. However, I was confident that the MBA had given me the skills to move me forward quickly, and it has.

From the beginning of the MBA, you will be intentionally associated with projects with other students from backgrounds in different disciplines and cultures. Whether they come from a creative or more financial mindset, there was a real openness to learn about topics and from each other as well.

I have been able to challenge myself on many levels – both intellectually and interpersonally. The school really teaches you and challenges you to use every tool.

Megha Malagatti, Director of Business Development, L’Oréal Luxe | Source: Courtesy

Megha Malagatti, Business Development Director, L’Oréal Luxe, graduated in 2012

Through my mentors, my networks, the classes and my colleagues, ESSEC helped me build that first step.

Why did you choose to study at ESSEC?

I started my career as an engineer. I didn’t want to do engineering, I wanted to be fashionable, but as an Indian woman I had to get married. I was unhappily married when I was 23 and later became the first in my family to divorce.

When I tried to file for divorce, I met some French friends in Bangalore who said, “Why don’t you apply to ESSEC?” I quit my job and started working in retail as a shop floor salesperson to gain a better understanding of how a luxury mall works, which confirmed that my decision to change my career and study at ESSEC was the right one .

I didn’t tell my parents and then, a week before the course started, I sold almost everything I owned and left for Paris.

What do you think ESSEC excels at?

I don’t come from a luxurious background. As an engineer I think logically, analytically, statistically. Talking about dream building and the heritage of a luxury brand were all foreign words to me.

ESSEC opened this new world of deep diving in a luxury brand that I believe no other school has the curriculum. You will learn not only how to build a luxury brand, but also how to identify a business that could become one, how to enter the full 360 degree plan, be it finance, delivery, marketing, sales or building a completely new communication platform. In addition, we had great hands-on conferences / sessions with many luxury homes and had the opportunity to visit them in Hong Kong, Italy, London and Geneva, opening doors to a pool of alumni.

How does the school enable industrial connections and mentorship?

The school gives you one mentor, but with its extensive network you can meet many more. During my studies I ended up having more than 10 mentors, but my main mentor, given by ESSEC, was Alain Crevet, the CEO of ST Dupont and former CEO of Givenchy perfumes and cosmetics.

Alain was instrumental in building myself up professionally and I was eventually recruited by ST Dupont where I worked under his direction for seven and a half years.

Once a week I now take a phone call with an ESSEC student because they are a pool of fresh minds and the more you talk to them the more you start to think differently.

What skills have you developed for a job in the luxury sector?

ESSEC has helped me develop my interpersonal and intercultural skills. I discovered who I am as an individual, my strengths and areas for improvement. It taught me to be resilient. It helped me understand the industry and positions I applied for.

ESSEC gave me a new career that I have always loved and gave me hope to rebuild my life. I got a great scholarship that supported my studies. Through my mentors, my networks, the classes and my colleagues, ESSEC helped me build that first step.

Xi Yu, Assistant General Manager, Sales, Watch & Jewelry Department for
La Samaritaine, DFS | Source: Courtesy

Xi Yu, Assistant General Manager, Sales, Watch & Jewelry Department for La Samaritaine, DFS, graduated in 2018

My time at ESSEC was particularly rich and diverse, providing 360-degree insight into the luxury sector.

Why did you choose to study at ESSEC?

I originally majored in German language studies in Beijing and initially worked for Mercedes-Benz which involved a lot of rotations and training in different countries such as Brazil and Germany.

However, I had always wanted to work in the luxury industry but felt I was not strong enough. I wanted to build some legitimacy and experience which led me to look for an MBA in Paris. I was focused on the luxury sector and found ESSEC to be the most established in the industry.

What do you think ESSEC excels at?

ESSEC was life changing in terms of both my career focus. Over the year, my values, ideas and preferences have certainly shaped and evolved. I used to live in a culture that was Chinese, German and British, but now I work with a more diverse team in Paris.

My time at ESSEC was extremely diverse and rich, thanks to the extensive program covering all categories. This provides 360-degree insight into the luxury industry, which made me more confident and easier to talk to people across the industry.

How does the school enable industrial connections and mentorship?

Networking and access are extremely important, especially in the luxury sector. I can’t think of any other school that can provide such a strong link to the industry. During our latest project, the advisory mission, we are working on a specific project for a luxury brand. I have worked with DFS France, in particular on the La Samaritaine project. We were treated like colleagues, were given access to internal interviews and interacted with executives in Hong Kong and Paris.

La Samaritaine’s project director encouraged me to apply for their leadership program and I was offered a one-year accelerated program and sent to the Hong Kong retail team for managerial training. Now I am back in Paris and I run the watch and jewelry department.

What skills have you developed for a job in the luxury sector?

Sometimes as a team you need to observe individuals, identify who is good at what and assign work accordingly. This skill is something that I started to develop at ESSEC and that I use regularly in my career today. I’ve also learned to share opinions, negotiate and always be willing to present ideas. Making your voice heard is a real skill.

This is a sponsored position for which ESSEC has paid in collaboration with BoF. Take a masterclass to learn more about the Luxury Brand Management MBA program Live streaming opportunities for luxury brands after Covid-19 on September 30.