With its $22 billion luxury goods industry, it’s no surprise that France is often hailed as the luxury capital of the world.
Home to famous brands from Louis Vuitton to L’Oréal, France is the perfect locale for professionals with a penchant for all things high-end.
For Kristine Geronimo, it was the ideal place to undertake an MBA. Having always harbored an interest in luxury fashion, Kristine left a legal career behind in 2018 to study luxury brand management with ESSEC’s Global MBA program.
Kristine began her career as a lawyer, before becoming a legal advisor with Deloitte. Practicing in her native Canada, she covered diverse legal areas, including business law, civil law, real estate, and compliance.
Although the work was engaging, she soon began to gravitate towards other interests. “I became passionate about sustainable development within the luxury industry,” she explains.
By supplementing her legal background with an MBA, Kristine hoped, she would be well-positioned to pursue this passion.
After five years in the legal world, Kristine began researching her business school options. With its ties to the luxury industry, and campus in the heart of France, ESSEC stood out.
The school’s industry partners include Audemars Piguet, Chanel, Estée Lauder Companies, Firmenich, Gucci, Lancome, the LVMH Group, Pernod Ricard Luxury, and Cartier. A specialization in luxury brand management is on offer, covering topics like luxury marketing, consumer behavior, design management, and sustainability in luxury.
“I was fortunate to have a friend in the program,” Kristine adds. “She had told me a lot about her experience at ESSEC.”
The same weekend that Kristine caught up with her friend, a member of ESSEC’s recruiting team happened to be in Toronto. “He and I met for a chat,” she recalls, “and he connected me with other Canadians in the program.”
Hearing from current participants sealed the deal for Kristine, and she soon set out on her MBA journey.
Although France is usually considered the world’s luxury capital, ESSEC’s Global MBA program doesn’t limit participants to the French market for its syllabus.
Participants also have the chance to explore major luxury markets around the world, through business trips to New York, Hong Kong, and Italy.
For Kristine, these visits were a highlight of the MBA. “These experiences really immersed you within the industry,” she says.
“You get a flavor for how luxury operates in other locales.”
ESSEC’s practical approach to learning also struck a chord with Kristine. “I would say that the Digital Week Competition and my capstone project were the most memorable learning experiences,” she says.
During the annual Digital Week Competition, ESSEC's MBA participants work in small teams to develop solutions for real case studies on digital-related challenges faced by partner companies. This year, cases were presented by brands including Coty Luxury, Moët Hennessy, and D'ESTRËE Paris.
For every case, sustainability is a key consideration. This gelled well with Kristine’s fascination with sustainable luxury and fashion, which came about well before her time at ESSEC.
In 2016, she volunteered for Project Just, an online resource that helps consumers find out how retailers produce their clothes, allowing them to make ethical decisions.
At ESSEC, Kristine had the chance to pursue this interest further, with the school’s EthiWork workshop on sustainability in luxury, and her capstone project.
“It’s a six to eight week program where you work with a brand on a specific consulting mission,” she explains. “I was fortunate to be selected for the DFS and La Samaritaine project.”
La Samaritaine is an iconic Parisian structure that started life as a department store. Since it was shut down for safety reasons in 2005, a huge renovation project has been underway.
During her capstone project, Kristine worked with boutique retailer DFS, helping them plan the launch of their luxury department store inside the refurbished complex.
Sustainability is at the heart of La Samaritaine’s redevelopment. The finished design will be much more environmentally friendly than earlier incarnations, and contain 96 social housing units. As well as this, La Samaritaine’s reopening is expected to create 4,400 jobs.
In her spare time, Kristine further immersed herself in the sustainable fashion world, volunteering at the 10th annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit, where, fashion leaders gather to discuss sustainability and ethics in the industry.
An open future
Having completed her MBA program, Kristine finally feels ready to pivot her career. “Now that I am equipped with business knowledge from the program, I feel more confident making this transition from law,” she says.
Although she remains open minded about what her new career might look like, she is sure that sustainable development in luxury will be at its core.
“As I explore life post-graduation, I’m excited to see where this ambition will take me,” she says.
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