ESSEC GMBA participants - Savoir-Faire visit to École Lesage

 “Fashion and Craftsmanship: Two inseparable stories” 

Maison Lesage, where excellence meets unique craftsmanship, is France’s most revered haute couture embroidery workshop. Since its creation in 1924, the maison and its embroiderers have been using unique savoir-faire to embellish houses like Madeleine Vionnet, Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Cristobal Balenciaga, etc.

Housed in the unique building of 19M, Lesage pays true homage to the Métier d’arts, Mode (fashion), and Main (hand; artists and savoir-faire). The visit was a unique opportunity for the participants of the Luxury Brand Management track to travel through the evolution of fashion and learn about the indispensable role of craftsmanship in bringing a designer’s vision to life. In 1992, the company founded an embroidery school, Ecole Lesage, open to anyone who is passionate about learning the savoir-faire of embroidery. ESSEC participants witnessed a live demonstration of a complex technique by one of the teachers of the école. This illustrated how the complexity of this savoir-faire elevates ordinary clothes to haute couture. The director of Ecole Lesage shared some extraordinary samples from maisons Michonet, Elsa Schiaparelli and Chanel from their beautifully preserved archives.

Post a lively lunch in the 19M canteen, the visit continued to the workshops of the Maison Lesage, where the participants observed various steps involved in bringing the vision of a designer from ideation to conceptualization. It is here that you witness the countless number of hours spent, hands involved, and all the tassels, rhinestones, ribbons, pearls and crystals that make up in bringing together an haute couture creation that would in some weeks glide through the runways of the fashion world.

A shimmering crystal in the fabric of Maison Lesage is Vastrakala, a fine embroidery workshop created in 1993 in Chennai, India by Jean-François Lesage. The workshop symbolizes a unique synergy between the unique savoir-faire of French master embroiderers and the immeasurable talent in Indian hands.

The visit concluded with a workshop, where the participants had the opportunity to recreate a small piece of embroidery, which they were able to keep as a souvenir, under the masterful guidance of the craftswomen of Maison Lesage. This manual activity reinforced the immeasurable skills, dexterity and expertise mastered by the true craftsmen and women of haute couture. This visit was one of the most fascinating and crafty of them all!

On to the next one…

Written by Japanjot Kaur, ESSEC GMBA student

The ESSEC Global MBA participants visit La Samaritaine

The ESSEC GMBA Luxury Brand Management class of 2023-2024 had the opportunity to visit La Samaritaine in Paris at the beginning of November. DFS has been one of ESSEC's GMBA partners for over 15 years now in Hong Kong, Singapore and now in Paris at the recently renovated la Samaritaine just as the Christmas season was beginning to come alive! Many might recall the majestic rebirth of La Samaritaine in 2021 after its closure for 16 years. With the iconic sun-flowered colored façade with extravagant art nouveau decorations, la Samaritaine has finally opened its doors to Parisian clients and international tourists.

Founded by Ernest and Marie-Louis Cognacq-Jay in 1870, la Samaritaine has been the symbol of the Parisian Spirit at the heart of Rivoli Street. The group first received an introduction to the history of La Samaritaine and later went down to the physical retail space to uncover the hidden brand stories, DNAs, retail, and marketing strategies. La Samaritaine was first founded by a visionary couple, Ernest Cognacq and Marie-Louise Jaÿ. However, how La Samaritaine expanded and developed to its current structure involved the couple’s encounter with artists, architects, and many other individuals. The rich history behind the department store tells a unique heritage la Samaritaine inherits.

Coincidentally, the day of our visit was the eve of the Samaritaine Christmas campaign, ‘Paris Jubile’. In collaboration with the film ‘Wily Wonka’, the store was decorated with colorful and sparkling ornaments with a playful spirit. The main entrance was decorated by the candy cane chandelier, with beautiful Christmas wreath all around. The entire building was filled with cheerful and bubbly atmosphere, making all the consumers smile as they enter the store.

Not only the emotional elements, but la Samaritaine operates under a unique positioning that contrasts with other department stores in Paris. Not only they provide special customer experiences for the local Parisian clients but also for the international tourists. La Samaritaine provides a different entrance for big group of tourists in the basement floor, which is characterized by a long concourse furnished with long monitors highlighting history of la Samaritaine. They have also prepared a dedicated tax refund corner with little refreshment corner, where a group can spend time relaxing after a long day of shopping.

The overall experience was very intimate and heartwarming. It was valuable to experience the brand spirit of la Samaritaine, and learn about the history and the current strategy from the business perspective.

Written by Akiyo Hayashi, current ESSEC GMBA participant

ESSEC's Global MBA participants visit the historical Louis Vuitton family home

As part of the ongoing savoir-faire visits throughout the year, the Luxury Brand Management cohort from
ESSEC’s Global MBA had the unique opportunity to visit the historical Louis Vuitton family home in Asnières-Sur-Seine. Warmly welcomed by Thierry De Longevialle, Directeur de la Maison de Famille et du Musée Louis Vuitton, this experience opened the doors not only to one of the most important sites in the maison’s history, but also to a rich understanding of its tradition and longstanding commitment to design and innovation.

Synonymous with luxury and sophistication, Louis Vuitton traces its roots back to the industrious spirit of its founder, Louis Vuitton himself. Born in 1821 in Anchay, a small village in the French Jura region, Louis began his career as a packer for elite clientele. His impeccable craftsmanship and an unwavering commitment to quality caught the eye of Empress Eugénie de Montijo, Napoleon III's wife. In 1854, harnessing his expertise, Louis Vuitton founded his eponymous brand in Paris, revolutionizing travel with his innovative flat-top trunks that were not only stylish but also stackable, a stark departure from the bulky, rounded designs prevalent at the time.

The second era of Louis Vuitton's legacy ushered in a defining moment with the creation of the iconic LV monogram, the first ever branded logo created and still present to this day. This distinctive pattern, renowned for its intertwining initials and floral motifs, was conceived by Louis's son, Georges Vuitton, in 1896. Georges drew inspiration from the Art Nouveau movement, and the monogram quickly became a symbol of exclusivity and refinement. Amidst this period, the Louis Vuitton House in Asnières, a charming suburb of Paris, became the epicenter of creativity. The atelier, established in 1859, remains a testament to the brand's commitment to craftsmanship, where artisans meticulously bring designs to life, embodying the spirit of innovation and tradition.

Alongside the house and atelier, the visit was completed with a private tour of the Louis Vuitton Museum, containing one of a kind pieces from the maison’s beginnings to its more recent collaborations and designs. With a special emphasis on leather goods pieces and a collection of uniquely designed trunks, the overall experience transmits Louis Vuitton’s vision for creative freedom throughout the ages, while highlighting some of its most iconic innovations like the patented Tumbler lock system, introduced in 1890, embodying both functionality and elegance with a system that changed the history of travel and service from then on.further solidified the brand's reputation for security and exclusivity. The Louis Vuitton Atelier in Asnières continues to play a pivotal role, serving as a constant reminder of the brand's commitment to craftsmanship and heritage.

As Louis Vuitton continues to redefine the boundaries of luxury, its storied past, marked by visionary founders, iconic designs, and a dedication to craftsmanship, serves as an enduring source of inspiration. From the quaint beginnings as a packer's workshop to its current status as a global symbol of sophistication, Louis Vuitton's journey is a testament to the timeless allure of elegance and innovation.

An immersive journey at the renowned Atelier John Lobb


During November, the 2023/2024 cohort of the ESSECGMBA Luxury Brand Management had the privilege of visiting the Atelier of John Lobb, the bootmaker company belonging to Hermès. Situated on rue de Mogador, this workshop is not only historic but also one of the few remaining bootmaker workshops in Paris. The cohort was given an introduction by the company’s International Commercial Director, Sylvain Joubert, followed by a privileged and informative walkthrough of the atelier for bespoke shoes.

John Lobb was founded in 1863 and was named as the bootmaker to the Prince of Wales, before opening the brand’s first bespoke boutique on Regent Street in 1866. In 1899, John Lobb evolved its international presence, opening its first Paris boutique. In 1976, the brand was acquired by Hermès, and in 1982 it first launched a ready-to-wear collection. Today, the label has a retail network spanning 19 global stores, from New York to Beijing, Dubai to Tokyo.

The Parisian Atelier we toured specializes in creating custom-made boots and shoes. Crafting a pair of bespoke shoes involves a meticulous process that spans approximately 6 months, encompasses 190 steps, and requires the expertise of 15 artisans, each possessing unique skills. In contrast, the creation of an Hermès bag only involves the craftsmanship of a single artisan. John Lobb is dedicated to producing enduring boots and shoes by utilizing premium leathers, employing a distinctive construction method known as "Cousu Trépointe”,  and ensuring that the shoes are entirely repairable.

During our visit, Mr. Joubert provided insights into the company's rich heritage, its organizational structure, the ready-to-wear line featuring iconic pieces like Lopez, William, and City II, as well as the intricate craftsmanship involved in the bespoke offerings. A significant part of our conversation delved into the contemporary challenges facing the House, particularly in maintaining a delicate balance between tradition and modernity. We explored the notion of preserving brand identity and staying true to historical roots while remaining relevant in today's dynamic landscape. This discussion was exemplified through an examination of the House's recent communication campaign, embodying the motto of "being serious but not taking ourselves too seriously." Ultimately, our dialogue extended to the key challenges that the House anticipates addressing in the years ahead to ensure sustainable growth amid the evolving business environment.

Being granted the opportunity to make this visit was truly an honor and a privilege, underscoring the significance of craftsmanship and the passing down of expertise in the realm of luxury.

Inside Maison Krug - An ode to joy

The October afternoon sun shone warmly on Maison Krug’s golden bell. The entrance was so unassuming that we almost thought it was a regular mansion in Reims. But the doors painted in Krug signature dark cherry red gave it away. It was through these doors that we were about to embark on a sensory journey, to enter the world of champagne created by Joseph Krug…

This was the very first savoir-faire visit organized for the 2023-24 class of ESSEC GMBA program. Around noon on October 6, 2023, our train arrived in Reims, a tranquil city known to many as the ‘unofficial champagne capital of France’. After a brief visit to the historic Halles du Boulingrin where we were introduced to Reims specialty food, we enjoyed a lovely luncheon at the private lounge of Petit Comptoir. For more than 25 years, Chef Thierry Sidan passionately presents a changing menu that highlights the variety of French cuisine with seasonal ingredients. He welcomed some of us to take a sneak peek at his newly renovated kitchen, making this intimate lunch more special.

Walking through the cobblestone streets, we ended up at the renowned Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Reims before our visit to Masion Krug. We marvelled at its imposing structure, but what appealed to us the most were the stained-glass windows created by modern artists such as Marc Chagall and Imi Knoebel. The Cathedral was a perfect illustration of a harmonious blend of the past, present, and a futuristic vision, and this is exactly the essence of Maison Krug.

Luxury is to create dreams. In 1843, when founder Joseph Krug established the champagne maison, his dream was to create the finest Champagne possible, year after year, without being affected by the fluctuations in climate. Today, after six generations, this dream continues, and it keeps evolving. At the spacious, tasteful private lounge of Maison Krug where Anne Sophie de Guillebon, Family House Ambassador, received us, we curiously explored a collection of the maison’s relics on display. On the wall hang portraits of the Krug founder and his family, photos of historic events, and antique tasting notes. Above the fireplace, a large selection of gastronomy related publications and photos of Krug Ambassade Chefs showcase Krug’s ambition to blend heritage with modernity. De Guillebon explained to us, each year, Krug invites renowned chefs around the world to create food pairings to accompany the latest Édition of Krug Grande Cuvée and Krug Rosé, celebrating each year one humble Single Ingredient. Through creative dialogues, champagne, and cuisine, Krug aims to spread the joie de vivre.

‘Santé!’ After enjoying a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée around a replica of Joseph Krug’s legendary dark cherry notebook enclosed in a leather suitcase, we ventured down to the network of cellars underneath the family house. As we arrived, we are met with aisles of racks which seemed never-ending, each cradled numerous bottles of Krug aging gracefully. Around seven years were needed for the complete richness of flavours and aroma to unfold in a bottle of Krug. In these dark cellars, Krug specialists carefully examine the fermentation process
using traditional techniques and tools, quarter-turning each with precision only when the time is right.

“Il y a des oeuvres qui font passer le temps, et d'autres qui expliquent le temps.”, some works let time pass by, others explain time. This famous quote by André Malraux guarded Krug’s ‘Sanctuary of time capsules’, housing the reserve wines of the House of Krug dating back to 1880. The Krug philosophy remains the same, but each bottle expresses its distinctive personality. “At Krug, there is no hierarchy in champagne, individuality is at the heart of the savoir-faire”, explained de Guillebon.

There is an analogy between Krug champagne and music, both creating harmony with elements which sometimes seem contradictory. Krug Cellar Master Julie Cavil, therefore, becomes the conductor who isolates each vineyard plot - 400 in total - to hear its voice, and decide which ones combined will create a harmony. In the Krug tasting room, next to The Wall of 400 Wines, participants of our cohort were able to experience, for the first time, an immersive, sensory adventure that combined champagne tasting and music. Eyes closed, we listened to soundscapes created exclusively by IRCAM (French Institute for Acoustic and Musical Research) for Krug, characterizing the individuality of wines used for champagne making, while sipping Krug Grande Cuvée or Krug Vintage 2008. Light-hearted like Chardonnay, or unexpected like meunier, the tailor-made soundscapes indeed help us better understand the individuality of Krug Champagne. It demonstrated the power and art of blending at Krug.

Sunset painted the sky with rosy, honey, and apricot hues, echoing The Wall of 400 Wines in the tasting room. We left with a deep understanding of maison Krug, our hearts filled with joy.