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Give-and-take: how students and Kering enjoy a symbiotic relationship throughout luxury certificate

The Luxury Certificate Kering sponsors at HEC Paris is an opportunity for students to learn from some of the industry’s big players, with the Kering eyewear project as a major part of the five-week course. But while it gives students hands-on experience, it also provides the luxury group with 40 good brains to help with its distribution strategy.

Give-and-take: how students and Kering enjoy a symbiotic relationship throughout luxury certificate - Kering & HEC Paris Luxury Certificate  © N Reitzaum HEC Paris 2016

A course focusing on brand management challenges in the luxury industry, has begun once again for 40 of HEC Paris’ brightest Masters and MBA students. The program, which takes place on the HEC campus, is sponsored by Kering, owner of top fashion brands Stella McCartney, Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Girard-Perregaux (to name but a few). This year one of the course’s main projects aims to design a distribution strategy that will help grow Kering’s eyewear sector in a profitable way, after the luxury group decided to bring eyewear in-house just last year. "This was perceived as a very bold move within the luxury industry," says HEC Paris affiliate professor Patrick Albaladejo, "as they decided that the business of eyewear, that was always a license business, should be back in-house. "This was unparalleled," he adds, "and by doing so, they have broken new ground."

Albaladejo, who for the last decade was executive vice-president of strategy and image at Hermès International, is one of three lecturers teaching the luxury certificate alongside directors from the Kering Group. He explains that the group has moved fast with its eyewear ambitions as they started with a division of just four people. A year later, and the department employs 300 with still a lot to do, according to the academic.

The luxury goods giant was born from a partnership between François-Henry Pinault and Jean-François Palus, who met on the HEC Paris campus while studying together in the eighties. After originally starting a timber business together, they later went into retailing, then ten years ago: luxury, despite facing stiff competition from other firms that had been around for more than 100 years. They established a partnership with HEC Paris in 2010 around the school’s luxury Chair and renewed it for a further five years at the start of the luxury certificate, which kicked off end of April 2016.

Kering will now take advantage of the students on HEC Paris’ luxury programme to ask them to contribute and make recommendations for their eyewear ambitions. Pinault, who is Kering’s CEO and Chairman, said during the certificate’s launch ceremony (March 27th) that the group wants to take advantage of its sponsorship to find future Kering leaders – the business case studies will therefore provide them with a good opportunity for talent-spotting.

During the five-week course the luxury group is very involved, including with the teaching. "The students spend virtually the same number of hours with Kering managers as they do with the professors," explains Kristine de Valck, marketing professor on the certificate. "We have top management from Kering that has committed to transfer the Kering way of managing luxury and students also get to meet the people behind the brand and discover their jobs," says de Valck.

Rather than forged in the luxury industry, de Valck’s research has focused on the digital domain. "The use of technology for the luxury industry is a bit of a challenge and opportunity," explains the professor. "I think it has adopted social media, but not necessarily the digital culture that goes with it – I hope I am able to help them with that."

After a careful selection process involving both HEC and Kering, students are chosen to attend the certificate, which they are not required to pay for. This year’s participants hale from 14 countries and are comprised of a mix of Masters, MBA, and MSc students. "HEC Paris' certificate is unique because, to my knowledge, it is the only academic content in which people from such different origins are mixed," says Albaladejo.  

Yu Yamada works for a telecommunications company in Japan and wants to transfer the luxury ethos into his industry. "Luxury is not just about good bags, but about the customer experience as a whole," says the MBA student, who is attending the certificate. "In telecommunications, smartphones are becoming commodities but I think we could apply the values in the luxury industry to mobile phones, making them luxury items," he adds.

Alexandra West is also one of the students taking the certificate. "I am excited about the quality of our professors and speakers. We get to hear from people within the industry and I haven’t found any other program that does this," says the MBA student. In the next five years West hopes to work in a global luxury or fashion company to get gain experience in marketing strategy. "Of course, working for Kering wold be amazing," she adds.

So throughout the certificate, students are privy to first-hand knowledge from some of the industry’s big players and could even get their big break as top managers within the luxury industry. Kering, meanwhile, benefits from 40 good brains working together – which might just help it develop its strategy quicker.   

Read also

Kering partners with HEC Paris Luxury Chair, Press Realease, 28 April 2016