It was a dazzling three days for the HEC Paris MBA and HEC Paris EMBA students indulging in the Retail and Luxury Club’s Career Trek to Milan. Mingled in with stylish lunches overlooking the Duomo and at the ultra-chic 10 Corso Como were 11 company visits designed to inspire.
Take, for example, the club’s stopover at RETROSUPERFUTURE, where the presenter was none other than CEO and founder Daniel Beckerman. He regaled the students with stories about the contemporary eyewear brand’s early days, when he, his girlfriend and his parents were personally boxing up the soon-to-be-iconic eyewear to ship to their clients. Among the not-to-be missed moments: when the head of RETROSUPERFUTURE’s design studio showed top-secret prototypes for an upcoming product launch.
At Buccellati, the 12 students received an exclusive presentation from the group’s CEO, Gianluca Brozzetti. “I knew he was coming, but I hadn’t realized he would do the entire presentation,” explains Jacklyn Burgo, the Retail and Luxury Club’s current President and the organizer of the trek. “He was with us for an hour and a half, walking us through the brand and fielding questions along the way. We were literally able to ask him any and every question we had.”
Bringing together a spectacular array of experiences and high-end brands was what Jacklyn envisioned when she was creating the trip. “I’ve been in the retail industry my entire career and I love it,” she says. “I can’t imagine doing something else. I want to share that excitement with others.”
To that end, the trek covered a lot of territory from April 11 – 13. Despite Covid restrictions still being omni-present in Milan, the participants were able visit the Milan headquarters and flagship boutiques for Bulgari, Christian Louboutin and Dolce & Gabbana, as well as many others. Covering the theme The New Age of Customer Centricity, students had the breath-taking opportunity to handle one of Buccellati’s vintage bracelets—“it was just encrusted with jewels,” Jacklyn says—and hear analysis about the future of the luxury industry during a presentation with Bain & Company, who shared the findings from their not-yet-published 2022 luxury report.
With so many opulent experiences to choose from, including a visit to Fondazione Prada and networking with MBA students at SDA Bocconi, we asked participants to share with us their impressions of the trek.
“What has been the highlight of the week? I believe that more than a specific moment, it has been the variety of meetings and learning from the exchanges with everyone I met on the trek, including my fellow HEC participants. For someone like me who does not come from the industry, it has been a real eye-opening experience.
Aside from the incredible craftsmanship of the products we saw throughout the week, with some amazing masterpieces requiring months or even years of handmade work to be completed, it has been impressive to see how resilient the luxury industry has been to adapt to the rapid changes that have shaped the world in the last few years.
In the hurdles of the pandemic, the industry had to reinvent itself to remain relevant in a world where customers abandoned formal wear for more comfortable alternatives: a group like Zegna that was best known for its suits has now its best-seller in its line of sneakers! All this while balancing supply chain issues in a business where the products change every season!
After visiting jewelers, shoemakers and sunglasses producers, large groups and small young firms, the perfect wrap-up of the trek was to have a full presentation of the current trends in the industry from the Bain luxury division, who highlighted some of the recipes that allowed companies to adapt and grow in the recent difficult environment.
Definitely a worthwhile experience not only for those (like myself) who are interested in the industry, but for any business student!”
– Alberto Benini, MBA
“I was thrilled by the work put forth by the team to assemble a robust set of companies for our visit, plus a mixer with fellow MBA students at SDA Bocconi.
“As someone looking to break into the retail and luxury industry, this trek provided a comprehensive view into different businesses in the luxury sector and roles you could break into post-MBA. From high fashion to decadent footwear, modern eyewear to luxury hotels, and even jewelry fit for royalty, the companies we visited welcomed us with open arms, educated us on the luxury consumer and their brands, and inspired new career aspirations.”
– Kendall Valenstein, MBA
“This was my first time visiting the beautiful city of Milan and it was nothing short of great. From the amazing architectural structures to its rich history, Milan was the perfect host city for this Trek. My expectations for the Trek were high and I remember telling a friend that I was expecting to get a good ROI from this trip.
The host companies did a stellar job! Each and every one of them was well-prepared to talk to us and to answer our questions. It was evident that they are passionate about their work and proud of what their brand stands for.
During the presentations and store visits, I was in awe of the amount of time and expertise that is required to deliver luxury goods and services. One of my key highlights was the visit to 10 Corso Como’s flagship store. I appreciate how the company embraces the concept of collaboration with fashion designers and photographers, while remaining true to its original brand values.
I was incredibly surprised and happy to learn that companies like Bain & Co. are invested in the retail and luxury industries. Their presentation provided a good summary of the state of the retail and luxury industry and where it is headed.
So, were my expectations met and did I get my ROI? Absolutely!!!”
– Thandiwe Mkhetshane, MBA
“This trek picked up where the Paris Retail and Luxury trek [in October 2021] left off, allowing us to ask companies about their evolving post-covid strategies, and to compare and contrast their approaches to companies we met previously in hospitality, retail management, and more. For example, I felt I could better understand La Rinascente after a trip to Printemps and La Samaritan. Our group also had a great conversation with the manager of Bulgari Hotel (a Ritz-Carleton partnership) about cultivating customer loyalty by referencing Cheval Blanc and Hotel Monte Cristo in Paris. In the past eight months, my ability to “see myself” in these roles has grown exponentially — meaning I can engage meaningfully with managers and sympathize with their pain points or complicated challenges on a deeper level than I could previously.
Two highlights stick out for me on the trek: the first is the sheer amount of time and trust that Buccellati offered to us in allowing us to visit their atelier and see their craftsman at work. Milan has a rich tradition of craftsmanship, but to interact with the fine jewelry engravers, quality control, etc. gave us insight into the delicate supply chain management required by their company. Luca Buccellati and CEO Gianluca Brozzetti showed so much respect for our program in the information they shared. The store managers at Bulgari, Christian Louboutin and Thom Browne also showed incredible flexibility and passion for their work. I am impressed with the level of service and execution they extended to us in sharing day-to-day challenges of their roles as managers.
As I am finding, these treks are so special as a direct result of the curiosity and engagement from our group and the willingness to answer questions from the companies we visit.”
– Jacqueline Lane, MBA
“The highlights for me were Buccellati & RETROSUPERFUTURE. Not only did they offer an amazing opportunity to meet their CEOs, but I felt like both companies were super happy that we were there and really invested their time in showing us a lot of the behind-the-scenes and their production.
I found it interesting how, although a lot of the companies produced different products and had varying approaches, there was an overall centricity around their customer, which they highlighted throughout their presentations. Not coming from a retail and luxury background, it was interesting to hear the behind-the-scenes approach.”