Visit to Holding Textile Hermès | Luxury Brand Management major


By Catherine Kim, Global MBA Luxury Brand Management major 2019-2020


The visit to the Holding Textile Hermès was perhaps the Savoir-Faire Conference that our entire Luxury Brand Management cohort has been waiting for. For the first time in the history of the program, we had the opportunity to witness how the famous Hermès scarves (also known as Hermès Carrés) are produced.

Watch the highlight video from the visit at the end of the article!

We began our day bright and early for our train to Lyon, where the Holding Textile Hermès is located. The visit started with an introduction to the history of Hermès. Hermès is a luxury brand known not only for its leather goods such as its Birkin bags but also its iconic silk scarves, which were to be the main focus of this visit. The visit was a great opportunity for us to rediscover the brand, learning about its brand identity and values and understanding how its range of product offerings has evolved over the different generations.

 

 

Our key takeaway from the session was certainly that Hermès is a brand that respects time and quality. We were awe-inspired to hear about the time required for a product to be completed from the production of the raw materials needed till the product is ready for sale in a boutique. For example, a carré scarf takes 2 years to produce - from cultivating silkworms for the production of silk which takes approximately 1 year to 6 months for working on the design and 6 months for engraving, it is a time-intensive process. Understanding the various steps allowed us to understand the true value of an Hermès scarf and why they are such prized possessions for many.

Learning about the family tree of Hermès helped us understand the brand on another dimension, seeing how the passions of each CEO influenced the product offerings of the company. Through the visit, I realized how this family business has enabled the one and only luxury world of Hermès.

The company also respects the community built around the business in the local region. It keeps a keen eye on every process by keeping the business size compact, working closely with the ateliers for every detail and step of the creation and production process. We also saw how the company recognizes and appreciates the contributions of each person involved in the production process, for instance regarding their suppliers as partners.


A question may come to mind - how is the company maintaining a balance between its traditional craftsmanship and savoir-faire, along with integrating technology which could be useful for the production process? Hermès has continued to maintain the human touch in the production process, using technology primarily as a tool to help the craftsmen refine their work.

The company uses the screen printing method, also known as “méthode lyonnaise”, a printing technique where a mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate, except in areas made impermeable to the ink by a blocking stencil. One color is printed at a time, so several screens can be used to produce a multicoloured image or design. (Source: Wikipedia). At Hermès, this can mean up to 46 screens for 1 single scarf which contains 46 colors identified by the engraving artist.

The process begins with the engraving artist painstakingly identifying and tracing one layer of each color they have identified. Screens are then created based on the traced areas of the design, with 1 screen for each color. A different team then prepares the ink based on the color recipes. The silk will be set on a 150-meter-long table where machines will color the engraved parts in layer after layer. After coloring, the silk is aired to let the colors dry and then to be steamed for the colors to be firmly stick to the silk. These production procedures were all done with the help of cutting-edge machines which Hermès have developed specifically for its needs.


However, as Hermès is a brand built on the foundations of craftsmanship, the human touch continues to make a difference in the production process. From folding the colored silks from the machines while ensuring there are no creases, to finishing the scarf with a rolled seam using the hand-rolled hemming technique, and last but not least the intricate quality checks, the craftsmen spared no expense in ensuring the quality of the Hermès Carrés being produced at the Holding Textile Hermès. Coming from the Luxury Brand Management major, getting to see these masters working was an amazing experience, allowing us to understand and further appreciate the savoir-faire that goes into the creation of a luxury good.

Our lesson learned from the trip was that no luxury good is made within a day. Respect for the savoir-faire, the time it takes, the people and community contributing to the process, and most of all, quality over everything, is integral for ensuring that luxury companies continue to produce products of the finest quality.

What do we learn in our Strategy course?


By Jennifer Thomas, Global MBA Luxury Brand Management major, 2019-2020
Strategy without process is little more than a wish list – Robert Filek
As future managers learning how to identify critical issues in a situation, acknowledging the challenges, making best use of your organization’s resources and implementing a focused and concentrated course of action are some of the key expectations that any organization will have from us after we join them. Often, we tend to overlap what we want to achieve (goals) with what we need to do (strategy). But like Professor Maciej warns us, goals are NOT strategy. So, how and where do we learn these nuances?

What does strategy really mean?
Welcome to the Strategy class at ESSEC Business School, one of the many essential subjects that form a part of the pedagogy. The sessions are conducted by Professor Maciej Workiewicz and as he puts it, strategy has become a buzz word in today’s world. People use this term to skillfully put across some plan of action that is to be implemented to hopefully bring out a positive result. However, as we have understood from the sessions we have had so far, there is more to strategy than meets the eye. Rather than being about what you are going to do, strategy is about what you aren’t going to do. It is a way of getting in to the nitty gritty of the issue at hand and not just superficially reading the symptoms.

While we have had only a few sessions on this subject, it has become evident that strategy is no longer a word that can be thrown about in meeting rooms. Rather it is an in-depth understanding of a situation, a way to identify and analyze the obstacles and then come up with a plan – a smart plan. 

A learning-by-doing approach
Professor Maciej conducts our lectures in a way that allows us to apply both practical and theoretical knowledge. Each lecture requires us to prepare the assigned case study and related questions in advance. This means reading and understanding the case thoroughly. The previous step is a requisite because each session includes an intense discussion that is imperative to the learning process. These case studies not only allow us to learn about real life situations that companies have faced, but also give us the chance to apply our grey cells to answer those questions. We learnt how Coca Cola and Pepsi have strategically kept ahead of each other while both continue to dominate the Carbonated Soft Drinks universe. We have done an in-depth analysis on what makes IKEA – a furniture retail store with humble beginnings such a success story. We have also delved deep into the analysis of the e-scooter industry and the various factors that influence this new and growing industry.

Till date we have learnt about several concepts like the Product Lifecycle Curve, SWOT Analysis, Porter’s Five forces etc.  These are terms we have come across at some point but during these sessions we have been able to understand on a deeper level what each of these concepts mean, how they are relevant to industries even today and the case studies help us to understand how these concepts applied to organizations, to work those grey cells better and to move us a bit closer to understanding what makes Strategy so important.

Get in touch with Jennifer to find out more about the #ESSECGMBAExperience.

Cracking Consulting Interviews | ESSEC Global MBA Strategy & Management major


By Visakh Ram, ESSEC Global MBA Strategy & Management major, 2019-2020

With many of us looking to switch careers into Consulting, the ESSEC Global MBA team has organized several workshops and activities to help us understand the industry on a deeper level. The most recent session was one on preparing for consulting interviews, led by expert facilitators who work in the consulting industry. 

There were 3 things on the agenda for the first of a series of intensive training sessions:
  • Quick Math
  • Case Interview Methodology
  • Fit Interviews
Quick Math - Which matters more; the answer or the process?

We started with the quick math session. The facilitator went ahead and asked us a few questions, but he didn’t want the right answers. He was focused on breaking the myth that final answers matter more than the process to arrive at the solution. He explained to us that consultants are more concerned about hiring structured and result-oriented people rather than selecting candidates who are smart on paper and give final answers with no clear thought process. The process increases consistency in the quality of answers and helps when reasoning with the client.

Case Interviews - The importance of clarifying the problem

The quick math session set the base for the next session – Case interviews. This time, the questions started becoming slightly vague: For example, estimate the size of the second-hand phone market in France (A market sizing question). We immediately started creating processes or using frameworks to arrive at a solution but the facilitator interrupted – “Do you really understand the question? What does the second-hand phone market refer to – is it servicing or sales or insurance? What is it?” We didn’t have an answer. This enlightened us on the importance of clarifying questions. Our clients might come up with vague problems. The first and foremost step is to understand the context of the problem. For that, we need to ask the right questions and understand the topic as much as possible.

Fit Interviews

In many consulting firms, the fit interview comes early on in the interview process. How important is this? For the facilitator, this is one of the key elements of the interview. Every company has its own culture and looks for candidates who share the same values. It is important for us to be truthful. A seasoned interviewer can judge whether the candidate is faking or not in the first few minutes. We discussed in detail questions like “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” and “Why do you want to do consulting?”. It was very interesting to see how the class perceived the answers to these questions.

The next series of intensive sessions are scheduled in a few weeks. We are all excited to see what we are going to explore and learn.

Get in touch with Visakh to find out more about the #ESSECGMBAExperience.

Polishing our soft skills with Charles Bennett

By Ariel Gendelman, Global MBA Luxury Brand Management major 2019-2020

This week, the Luxury Brand Management majors finally had our first meeting with Charles Bennett. Our Strategy & Management counterparts had already had their two sessions, so we were eager for our opportunity to pick up tips and tricks for navigating the ambiguity of professional networking events. We headed to the ESSEC campus at La Défense and filed into the red stadium seating of the cozy classroom, eagerly awaiting the evening before us.

To get things started, Charles asked us to introduce ourselves by stating our names, where we’re from, and a fact that no one knew about us. It was a great reminder that even though we’ve spent the last two months bonding and feel like we’ve known each other for decades, we’ve just barely scratched the surface—there’s always something new to learn about a friend.


After that, we jumped into the good stuff! For starters, Charles urged us to redefine small talk in our minds—instead of treating it like idle chatter, use it as a teaser to entice your audience so they’ll want to know more. By using small talk as a forum to ask open-ended questions, you create the possibility of sparking a deeper conversation. To do this, you must perfect your 30-second pitch by honing in on your USP (Unique Selling Point); the thing that makes your personal brand special.

Everything you do is relevant; you just have to find the way to apply it.

We practiced our pitches on each other, complete with video recordings. Charles explained that we often have little unconscious habits that can put people off, so watching and analyzing videos of ourselves allows us to reflect on how we come across to others.

After making the connection, we were advised to follow up the pitch with a question like:
  • Tell me about your experience in this company. What has been your career path?
  • What has been your experience with this company?
  • What is the mobility like within your organization?
  • What are the current needs of your organization?
  • What are you expecting this current year?

We were given lots of practical advice about everything we’ve been struggling with during our previous networking endeavors: how to enter tightly sealed circles, exit strategies for stale conversations, and guidelines to setting boundaries for those who have none. 

Charles closed the evening with some sage career advice:

Never be afraid to ask for what you want. Remember everyone needs to start somewhere. You are your own unique brand so don’t try to be like anyone else. Don’t be afraid to reach out and always offer value first. 

If you don’t share what you’re bringing to the table, who will?

Dress for Success Workshop with Charles Bennett


By Huang Yu, Strategy & Management major, Global MBA 2019-2020

This week, Charles Bennett conducted his second workshop titled “Dress for Success”. We were happy to have him back to talk to us about key soft skills that MBA participants need for their career development. This time, he focused on the dress code and other codes of conduct in various professional conditions. 

Before the actual workshop, Charles invited everyone to talk something unique about himself or herself. As a group of MBA participants, we are very familiar with each other professionally. Hence, during this exercise, we spoke about our personal interests, hobbies, or anecdotes that we never shared with others before. It was a great moment that allowed us to be more connected with each other with empathy and understanding, after sharing our stories and ideas from our heart. 

After that, Charles moved on to the main topic of the day, the dress code. The dress code “Business Casual” is a frequently-seen required dress code in different professional events such as networking sessions, “Casual Friday”, company dinners, etc. Yet, the actual definition of “business casual” is not well-defined. The challenging part of the definition is that the line between business formal and business informal (or casual) is not clear. The company culture, or the general culture of a country, is unique. The dress code in a company or a country may not be acceptable in another. 

During the workshop, Charles discussed various rules to follow and here are just some takeaways:

  • Our dressing is part of our identity and value. Hence, it is important to be consistent in our dressing and our behavior.
  • Dressing in the correct way is also showing respect to others. 
  • If you are new to an event and curious about the dress code, ask the HR for guidelines. As an alternative, you can always ask and learn the dress code by observing other people at similar events.
  • Over-dressing is always better than under-dressing because it is easier to “downgrade” your dressing rather than “upgrade” it.
  • To match the colour of your dressing/suit is less critical. The golden rule of “business casual” is to dress as close as you can to business formal, but adding your own style. 
  • Looking good does not mean spending lots of money. The trick is to buy something relatively affordable, and get a tailor to make it perfect for you. 
  • Your tie node is important. It is the “face” of your dressing/outfit.

Besides speaking about dress codes, Charles also mentioned various codes in other professional situations and here are some highlights:

  • In France, being polite and formal in emails and phone calls is extremely important. You can only earn respect from others when you respect others in the first place.
  • Whenever your supervisor asks you for a coffee break, go for it. It is a good chance to enhance your professional relationships.
  • Patient is always the key, in both emails and meetings.
  • Always be punctual for any meeting. 
  • Don’t use your mobile phone during meetings.

There are also many questions during the Q&A sessions and Charles answers all of them with his insights. We look forward to meeting him again for the third session.