Presentation by Nicole Comeau, General Manager and Chief Strategy Officer of Olivier Theyskens

By Emilia Wilson, Global MBA Ambassador 2018-2019, Luxury Brand Management Major

During our weekly Alumni Conference, the Luxury Brand Management participants had the wonderful opportunity to meet Ms. Nicole Comeau (MBA in International Luxury Brand Management Class of 2006), General Manager and Chief Strategy Officer of the fashion house Olivier Theyskens. A woman with a wealth of experiences in the luxury industry, Ms. Comeau was able to share with us her career path, which provided us with another great success story of a graduate of this program. Further to hearing about her story, we learned about Olivier Theyskens, the man and the label, as well as her take on the global market of luxury retail.

Having pursued her undergraduate studies in fashion design and business, Ms. Comeau started her career in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), but soon moved to Coty, the global cosmetics group that creates beauty products for such brands as Burberry, Gucci, and Tiffany & Co. After a couple roles away from luxury, Ms. Comeau decided it was time to dedicate herself to the industry by way of pursuing an MBA in International Luxury Brand Management with ESSEC Business School. After graduation, she consulted on retail strategy for such luxury brands as Balenciaga and Gucci for several years before moving to New York City in 2007 to take on the position of Director of Marketing Services & Customer Relationship at Cartier North America. It was in this role that Ms. Comeau helped Cartier understand the intricacies of eCommerce and define their key performance indicators (KPIs). While in New York, she connected again with Gucci Group to work alongside Daniella Vitale, President & CEO of Gucci America, on special projects concerning consumer experience. Throughout this time, her creative tendencies led her to start her own luxury fashion & culture blog, The I on Fashion, as well as her consulting work in photography, editing, and strategy. A few years later, she was approached for her current role with Olivier Theyskens, that started with the relaunch of the brand in 2016. This was a role in which Ms. Comeau had the chance to act as an entrepreneur, a role she was comfortable with after her extensive consulting work, while also having more solid assurance, given Mr. Theyskens’s already renowned creativity in fashion. 

Mr. Olivier Theyskens had a very early start in the fashion world. In 2017, in line with his 40th birthday, a 20-year retrospective exhibit of his work entitled She Walks In Beauty was shown at fashion museum MoMu in Antwerp, Belgium. In this retrospective, visitors traveled through his extraordinary career in fashion. Mr. Theyskens founded his namesake brand in 1997, which caught the eye of Madonna, who wore a dress of his to the following year’s Academy Awards. The spotlight landed on him and he was quickly recruited by Rochas for the role of Artistic Director. He later spent three years in the same role for Nina Ricci, and then for Theory. During his time with Theory, he grew the brand from $500 million in sales to over $1 billion. Once achieving this goal, Mr. Theykens decided to take some time to himself before relaunching his brand in 2016, when his story became intertwined with that of Ms. Comeau. His creative talents combined with her strategic insights were a perfect match.

Ms. Comeau saw the opportunity to build this nascent fashion brand to a global luxury name. Over the last two years since her appointment as General Manager & Chief Strategy Officer, she has been the yin to Mr. Theyskens’s yang. With an ability to see through both a creative and strategic lens, Ms. Comeau has helped to define the brand DNA & the brand’s personified muse and to push the brand to the world. Picking up on certain threads in Mr. Theyskens’s story, such as his Belgian roots, they have been able to create an original and authentic brand heritage, even in this short amount of time. The brand’s muse is an ageless woman, who is young in spirit, with an intellectual and rebellious personality. She is a woman who loves romanticism, allure, and black leather and lace. Having such an identification allows Ms. Comeau to identify four major growth pillars that are designed to suit their muses’ lifestyles. 

It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the challenges of an entrepreneurial role within the luxury fashion world and how an education from ESSEC helped to effectively adapt and problem solve. I would like to extend to Ms. Comeau a deep gratitude for taking the time with us to discuss your career path, the Olivier Theyskens brand, and your thoughts on the industry as a whole. On behalf of all of the Global MBA Luxury Brand Management participants, thank you so much!

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