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From manufacturing to global brand development: HEC Paris students get to the heart of the Kering way of luxury management

This spring, a group of 40 bright and ambitious HEC Paris students from 14 nationalities selected from different HEC campus programmes - Grande EcoleMBAMasters of Science, and specialized Masters - took part in Kering’s Luxury Certificate. This unique programme, which provides an in-depth look at the luxury sector, aims to help future leaders learn how to best handle luxury brand management challenges, to explore key sectors within the luxury market, and to develop a greater understanding of the many facets of the luxury industry.

From manufacturing to global brand development: HEC Paris students get to the heart of the Kering way of luxury management - visit to Boucheron’s workshop - Nicolas Reitzaum 2016

While being very beneficial for HEC students, who finish the course having acquired hands-on experience and solid knowledge of the luxury industry - its heritage, challenges, trends and opportunities - the program also allows the luxury group to identify talented individuals who could potentially join Kering and its brands (Stella McCartney, Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Girard-Perregaux, to name but a few).

The certificate is not only based on courses given by HEC Paris professors, but also on a series of seminars led by operational or functional managers from Kering and its brands. The program includes a ‘business game’ centered around developing a luxury company, and finally an advisory team project on eyewear, presented in front of a jury comprising the certificate’s academic co-directors, and experts from Kering.

From the visits of the prestigious Boucheron workshop, to Kering’s E-Business and Omni-Channel class of 10 digital myths debunked, here is a quick overview of the experience offered by the programme.

A guided visit to Boucheron’s masterpiece ateliers

Located at the heart of Place Vendôme in Paris, the Boucheron ateliers are  where all the Maison’s luxury pieces are designed. About 60 carefully chosen designs produced by the ateliers are transformed into high-quality, unique pieces each year.

"Our jewellery is inspired by the past, with an added hint of modernity", explained Claire Choisne, the 19th century Maison’s Director of Creation, to the students. While introducing them to the creative team and its current confidential projects, Choisne took the opportunity to gather with the students and explain to them the history behind Boucheron’s masterpiece jewelleries and to show them some of the Maison’s iconic pieces from recent and heritage collections.

The 10 digital myths debunked

An important aspect of the programme is for HEC students not only to gain knowledge from professors but also from top professionals in the luxury industry. Debunking “digital myths” with Sebastien Hua, Kering’s E-Business and Omnichannel Director, was a great opportunity for the programme’s participants to interact with a top Kering player in the digital industry. So what are the top myths that prevail today when people comment the articulation between digital and the luxury industry? 
"It is often said that digital in luxury means disruptive innovation. Not necessarily! Luxury is much more innovative than people tend to think. But innovation does not necessarily mean you need to reinvent your business model entirely or that you need to change what makes luxury brands unique. Luxury does not necessarily want to be a pioneer in testing new things affecting the customer experience as it needs to be perfect from the very first time. So very often, we innovate by being early adopter, when something is mature enough to be implemented", said Hua.

"Another common myth is that digital leaves you with no choice but to transform or die. Some industries will disappear if they don’t embrace digital - luxury is much more robust. Our distribution model is very integrated. Our products cannot dematerialize. I don’t think our business model is really endangered by digital. That being said, in the luxury industry, service is the best way to recreate a competitive advantage online", he added. 
Kering’s E-Business and Omnichannel Director, concluded his presentation by addressing the topic of big data and its crucial importance in today’s digitalized world. According to Hua, nowadays, big data is the only way to recreate the level of personalization that luxury is all about. "We are using big data to recreate the personalization that used to exist a few decades ago between local clients and the shops they used to visit on a regular basis."

Presenting new business initiatives for Gucci’s eyewear

Throughout the certificate, students were tasked with creating a consulting project for Gucci Eyewear, to be submitted to the certificate’s professors. The three best business cases that were chosen by HEC Paris professors were then presented by students to the Gucci eyewear expert team on the last day of the programme.

Three groups of ambitious students introduced their ecosystem analysis and strategy proposals in terms of in-store, global marketing and digital to a very attentive and interested team of Gucci executives. "Luxury can be a difficult concept for people to grasp because of how abstract it is. I appreciated learning about the traditions and codes behind luxury as it gives me a better idea of where they may go in the future. It was interesting to parallel the values of old luxury to the values of today’s millennials. Of course, the concept of luxury is still alive and well, and I look forward to a long and happy career of developing luxury brands for the changing generations!" concluded Priyanka Mathew, an HEC Paris MBA Candidate specializing in strategy, after successfully completing the certificate.


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