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Design, Fashion Focus Gives MBAs An Edge In Luxury Jobs Market

The MBA in design, fashion and luxury goods at Italy's Bologna Business School helps students kick-start management careers.

Professor Angelo Manaresi, director of the MBA in design, fashion and luxury goods at Bologna Business School, says in this interview that the business model of a luxury company can be understood only by those with relevant skills in areas of business administration.

Bologna, based in Italy, is one of a growing number of leading global business schools to offer luxury management courses.

The full-time English language program is taught over 12 months and includes a 500 hour internship.

The growth of jobs in luxury management is driving up applications to these programs, with jobs typically in areas such as marketing and retail management, and career opportunity strongest in emerging markets like China, say business schools.

Why are MBA students attracted to the luxury sector?

Because they see two interesting opportunities: on one hand it’s a business opportunity; they see and read that in both industrialized and developing countries, luxury goods are increasingly a successful business. But more importantly, they try to follow their passion for a specific product category or craftsmanship, and to try to transform that passion into a job.

How would you describe the current luxury jobs market?

There is a historical clash, almost a conflict, between people who have a strong focus on the creative side and those who are more focused on the managerial, marketing or financial side.

The paradox is that in many companies, the two groups of people fight with each other to impose a point of view that is too extreme — either an obsession on the product with not much interest on the marketing and financial side, or a very strong focus on sales and financial results with little interest for the identity of the company.

These two points of view need to be considered as complementary, and each managerial program to train future managers must allow each group to understand the other and speak the “language” of the other, so that they will be able to collaborate.

Which luxury companies are hiring the most?

The big luxury groups are still hiring the most from the good business schools, but in the last few years medium and sometimes smaller firms have hired people with strong managerial education, as they realize that they need to look out of the domestic market to address growing transnational luxury segments.

In which areas of business are MBAs in the most demand?

Marketing, product management and retail management seem to be the most critical areas. Fast-changing markets require younger people with fresh ideas who can also take innovations from one sector of the luxury industry and bring them into another sector.

Which regions are MBAs being recruited to work in?

The United States, France and Italy are the countries where people go and work in the luxury business, as most companies are based there.

What are the key skills luxury groups look for in recruits?

Ability to work in international teams and language skills seem to be key to recruiters. A good balance between technical competence in marketing and finance and a strong passion for the industry is another strong asset, which will impress recruiters.

What growth have you seen in applications to the luxury specialty at the business school?

The interaction and joint analysis of product management and retail marketing is one of the strongest [backgrounds we are seeing on applications to the program].

We run an MBA program specialized in design, fashion and luxury goods and not just a brand management course because we believe that the business model of a luxury company can be understood only by providing skills in the different areas of business administration.

By doing so, when we run cases and when we do projects with companies, we can understand and show how a manager can be successful — which is by communicating their ideas and developing them in multi-functional teams.

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