Backstage: Catching a Glimpse of the World of Professionals in the Fashion Industry

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What is hidden behind the jobs of professionals in the fashion industry? How did they get where they are now? What key skills are required and which major decisions do they make on a day to day basis? On November 18th, more than 200 Bocconi students from different courses and faculties squeezed into a lecture hall to find out more about these questions.

In a conference called “Nel Backstage della Moda”, five guest speakers from different areas in the fashion industry were introduced in order uncover some of the peculiarities of the fashion industry by delving into exciting fields such as retail merchandising, commercial sales and digital marketing.

What stood out immediately is that the fashion industry is unique in the sense that its jobs greatly differ from the corresponding jobs in any other industry. The descriptions of the day to day challenges our guest-speakers face allowed us to catch a glimpse of what actually distinct s one area of the industry from the others.

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The presentations of the five speakers varied greatly. Alexandra Trosin, commercial sales representative for Valentino and Giambattista Valli, used her time to give a detailed account of the different stages of her job. For instance, from January to March she is engrossed in the stressful “sales campaign” period in which she spends all day in the showroom selling as much as possible of the new collection to retail clients from all around the world. This period is followed by a three month gap in which she travels to visit her biggest clients in order to strengthen the relationship with them and also to help them sell the collection to the final consumer. In the concluding sentences of her speech she summed her job requirements up in the following statement: “My job requires a lot of interpersonal soft skills, a love of traveling and a somewhat creative and flexible disposition.”

On the other hand, Antonio Biafore, Retail Merchandiser for leather goods at MiuMiu, presented his daily work as one that is highly numerical: his key decisions as a merchandiser include analysing budgets and finding strategies to increase prices. Strategies and settlements must be decided quickly and require him to be dynamic, flexible and good under pressure.

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Gaetano Ragona gave a completely different account of his career. In a humorous and very tongue-in-cheek way, he described his journey through photo-journalism and party-crashing that lead him to his current job as Celebrity PR and Digital Specialist for Biffi. Between stories about dancing on tables with Philipp Plein and housing a group of models during fashion week, he narrated how he has been establishing a digital communications platform for Biffi that should represent the different brands they carry.

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Chiara Berlendi, a head hunter for Badenoch and Clark, focused her discussion less on what she does in her role as head hunter and more on what advice she wished she had been given as a student wanting to enter the fashion industry. She believes a key factor in choosing the right job is knowing and understanding what one’s personal strengths and weaknesses are. Smilingly she added: “Finding the right job is like putting on make-up: at first you do what everyone is doing without considering your personal strengths… with experience you learn what fits you best.”

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The conference was concluded with the presentation of Stefano Galassi, Lead International of Accenture Fashion & Luxury Innovation Network, who gave a compelling account of the numerical and statistical side of fashion, selling business intelligence. With a video campaign as a visual aid, he described how a consultant can assist fashion companies such as Uniqlo in creating a digital customer journey.

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With the conclusion of the speeches, the floor was opened to a Q&A session in which students could address the speakers with any follow up questions they had. A lot of students used the opportunity to ask for advice both during the Q&A session and after the event. All in all, the conference offered a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of the many different fields of the fashion and luxury industry and meet exciting individuals who have excelled in their fields.

Martina Reich
Ph.: Luca Andriani 

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