MBA Luxury Brand Management

MBA Luxury Brand Management
Class of 2016-2017

Monday, May 2, 2016

International New York Times Luxury Conference Day 1 - Afternoon Sessions

By Joshua Tierney, MBA in International Luxury Brand Management 2015-2016, United States

Versailles, France – The New York Times International Luxury Conference at the Trianon Palace Hotel was a veritable royal court of the global luxury business. 

Lunchtime roundtable discussions were hosted in the ballroom, bringing executives from different sectors and functions together to discuss key challenges facing luxury businesses today.  I was seated at a table with Simon Nyeck, Academic Director of both the MBA in International Luxury Brand Management and the ESSEC Center of Excellence in Luxury, Art, and Culture.   Simon challenged participants with a discussion focused around the topic of how luxury brands can communicate around traditional savoir-faire with a new generation of consumers — the omnipresent Millennials — as well as how companies can blend traditional craftsmanship with technological innovation.   The participants at the roundtable discussion, executives from luxury beauty, fashion, wine, jewelry, and watch brands discussed the challenges of connecting with Generations Y and Z, who have changed the paradigm of top-down communication with luxury brands.  The new generations require an open dialogue with brands, a result of the ongoing digital revolution.  

As the discussion progressed, Simon shared that real innovation comes from the confrontation of different points of view — technology and innovation; craftsmanship and technology; old and new.  It became clear that to have maximum understanding of markets, luxury managers must always have their finger on the pulse of the dominant, receding, and emerging generations of consumers to remain relevant.  

After lunch, thought leaders and industry experts continued panel discussions on the importance of sustainable leadership, the necessity of sustainable business practices for people and the environment, and corporate social responsibility as a core value (and expectation) of the Millennial generation.  In a particularly lively discussion featuring Brunello Cucinelli, chairman and CEO of the namesake Italian luxury brand.  Mr. Cucinelli explained his holistic philosophy of sustainability, which touches all aspects of the company, from supply chain management, to human touch points including employee quality of life and compensation issues.   The business model of the company is built on a foundation of sustainability.

The afternoon culminated in a discussion around patronage of art and culture in the luxury sector, as luxury brands increasingly underwrite cultural institutions, and in extreme cases, open their own museums.  This all led up to the keynote speech, delivered by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, provocatively entitled, “Art is Not Luxury”. The artist’s work has been commissioned by Chanel and other luxury brands to create one-of-a-kind site-specific works for their retail shops.   Whether or not art is luxury or not is up for debate – a visit to the websites of Sotheby’s or Christie’s might suggest differently than Mr. Othoniel’s argument.  The afternoon concluded with a private visit to the gardens of the Château de Versailles to view a permanent installation of Mr. Othoniels’s work. 

Nevertheless, discussions at the conference highlighted a central concept of luxury brand management.  While the challenges of brand managers are constantly changing, they remain the same – to respect brand heritage, DNA and codes while remaining relevant and modern.