When you go to lvmh.com, the first thing you see is #InsideLVMH. #InsideLVMH is also featured in the “Trending” of the BoF. A lot is written on the schedule the participants had, the experiences they went through, the application process preceding all these. The only thing left out of focus is how it really was for them and how they felt – and the gap will be filled on Lustinfashion, telling the fullest story, firsthand.
We were 220, the students selected from 21 leading schools – design, business and engineering, mostly French. Probably for the Paris-based the experience was a bit more casual as it involved no travelling; we, instead, were excited even before the day X. The journey, a little reminiscent of the school trips, started when we were altogether rushing to the airport straight from Bocconi. Tired after the whole day of classes, we knew we were heading to Paris, and something exciting was awaiting.
The expectations proved to be very true, and we realized that as soon as the scheduled program began, which was early in the morning November 22nd, for each of us with an innovation-focused company visit in a Maison assigned in advance.
For me it was Berluti, a really special brand in the LVMH portfolio focused on high-quality bespoke shoes and menswear. Haider Ackermann recently took over the creative direction of Berluti, and will show his first RTW in January 2017, so now is the time of anticipation and hard work inside the company. We were literally let inside: not just the store (which also was on schedule), but the headquarters, the very heart.
If you think that the HQ of a luxury brand must be a gorgeous-looking office building in the center of Paris,.. you are so right. At least in case of Berluti. We were given a warm welcome and taken to the lounge cafeteria space to enjoy the croissants, coffee and other breakfast essentials, simultaneously getting acquainted with other students who were about to become our team for the day. The atmosphere made it hard to believe that we will be amused even more, but we indeed were when all of a sudden Antoine Arnault entered the room. Bernard Arnault’s son and the CEO of Berluti, he addressed us as casually as if his presence was nothing special, welcoming and wishing us to have a wonderful day at LVMH. We stayed in the headquarters for the short lectures on innovation at Berluti, and then were divided to see the customer experience inside the stores, one group the historical Rue Marbeuf store and another – the bigger and more modern one on Rue du Faubourg. To be short, our focus was the quality and heritage brand and its way to staying up to date, at the same time in line with its DNA and keeping the signature elements.
The experience at Berluti was amazing, and it was just the beginning. After elaborating on what we saw in-store with the company managers, it was time to board on a shuttle bus and head to the headquarters of Berluti’s parent company, LVMH itself.
The modern spacious HQ for the day became an ideal lounge zone for networking and a bit of relaxation in the middle of the busy schedule: instant photo booths, lots of finger food and finally all the participants and the LVMH managers – lunch could not have been better. But as soon as everyone had time to refresh (a bit) the doors opened and it was time to enter the workshop room, where in an hour we were to come up with a pitch on innovation in the company we visited, incorporating what we heard and what we thought.
Time was limited, the pressure of presenting to LVMH managers was high, so when this part of the day was over, the winners were announced and we were back to the buses, there was almost full silence. Still, tiredness left place for anticipation: we were going to Fondation Louis Vuitton.
Seated in a huge conference hall, we were waiting for the speeches of the company representatives. Rumor had it there would be the one from Bernard Arnault; still, even after a day of surprises it was hard to believe. But he came.
This was a real honor, and even though we were all exhausted, everyone couldn’t stop exchanging the shocked glances with the new pals. It was an inspiring talk about the values of the company, the way it sees the future, the way it has all started and no way the growth would stop. We had a chance to listen to a legend of the fashion&luxury world being so literally close (and it also felt like close emotionally), and at the end of the dedicated time there was a session of Q&A.
The day finished with a networking dinner with all the managers taking part in the event (and yes, Mr. Arnault also stayed and was open to be approached). There was a lot to discuss and share and a lot of interesting people with shared interests, both company employees and students. The evening ended up with a touch of art and culture, as we were free to see the Shchukin collection, a real gem currently exposed at the Fondation.
If I had to sum up the day in one sentence, I would just say it was one of the most impressive experiences in my life.
To provide a full insight of the whole event, exceeding my own schedule, I asked some other Bocconians to share the experiences inside the Maisons. Here is what they had to say:
Lwula Rakotoarison (visited Guerlain):
“I was always familiar with Guerlain and its iconic products, but not so much with the brand’s history. It was impressive to discover the Maison’s roots and learn that the first Guerlain perfume was created in 1853 for Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugenie. This visit quickly put us to work – we had to design the The Perfume Boutique of the Future, and although it was stressful to pitch it in front of Guerlain executives, it was definitely exciting!”
Veronica Yang (visited Chaumet):
“I went to Chaumet that day, whose Muse is Joséphine, Napoleone’s forever love. Nowadays, Chaumet is innovating in every way, to let us know every girl can be Joséphine.”
Yancong Wang (visited Givenchy):
“Visiting the old headquarters of Givenchy was definitely an amazing experience. The office of Haute Couture was decorated with modern floor and remained with its ancient tubes and sculpture on the ceiling. We were honored to hear presentations from the training manager, merchandising manager and the CEO to enrich our knowledge about the development of such a special brand with contrast and disruptive design and successful transition from Haute Couture to “Street Couture”