Yesterday, the BS4F team as well as students who demonstrated a keen interest in the field, had the chance to speak to and learn from Steve Trow, the CFO of Hermes in Milan. Having a fairly atypical path to the luxury industry, he offered us insights on what it takes to succeed in not only fashion, but in every professional environment. Here is what we learned from him.
Mr. Trow comes from a very modest background stating that his high school was ranked at the bottom 5% of all UK schools. He worked at a supermarket, as a factory worker and as a cleaner to pay off his student debt, saying “If I have to work, I’ll work.” He then worked as an auditor at PwC where he was first exposed to the luxury industry and accepted at job as an internal auditor at Gucci. He is now Chief Financial Officer and Human Resources Manager for the Hermes Group in Italy.
Throughout his professional career in luxury, he noticed that students out of university were unprepared to work in companies because they lacked the soft skills necessary to survive and thrive in a work environment. He stressed that the academic skills acquired as a student simply get you a foot in the door, and that the interpersonal and intrapersonal soft skills determine your success in a company.
Patience, stress management, self awareness, resilience and self confidence are all critical intrapersonal soft skills. Mr. Trow improved his self-confidence first through a public speaking club called Toastmasters and then through theater which he is still involved in. The interpersonal skills include leadership, teamwork, management, communication, selling proposals, networking and negotiation.
We then looked at examples of job adverts proving these soft skills are demanded for most positions in the luxury industry, such as Safilo, Luxottica, Dolce Gabanna and Kering. To demonstrate these soft skills, Mr. Trow advises students not to state them directly is their CVs but rather include professional or travel experiences where these skills are demonstrated.
Mr. Trow divides career success into three different categories: Performance, Image and Exposure. The level of importance of each was incredibly surprising! The study showed that Performance was valued at 10%, Image at 30% and Exposure was the most important at 60%.
He then answered a few questions relating more specifically to Hermes and its strategy saying that quality is always the most important aspect of production and how Hermes always values quality over cutting costs. It’s a family firm that puts an emphasis on traditional craftsmanship with a creative spirit, giving the example of the collaboration with Apple for the Apple watch bands they sell.
Before concluding the discussion, Mr. Trow states that to be successful, you either know what you want to do and pay the price, or if you don’t know yet, keep learning, growing and having as many different experiences as possible. He recommends a career in luxury as its a safe industry for the future presenting a graph showing that the number of millionaires in the world is increasing.
Ph.: Luca Andriani