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How I Used The HEC Paris MBA To Launch A Career Fighting Fast Fashion

Clare Cartwright used the HEC Paris MBA to pivot her career to the fashion capital of the world, landing a job with Vestiaire Collective, the online fashion marketplace tackling fast fashion


Fri Mar 5 2021

Clare Cartwright doesn’t have your typical MBA background. She grew up in the UK, studied English Literature at Trinity College, Dublin, and aspired to launch a career in journalism. 

Her writing career took her into the fashion industry after her undergrad, and soon she was hooked. The HEC Paris MBA grad began as a product writer for luxury fashion retailer NET-A-PORTER, then worked as a content manager for Tommy Hilfiger before joining communications agency Karla Otto as digital account director.

Though she was keen to stay in fashion, Clare decided that she needed a more formal business education than she had already gained through her work experience to accelerate her career: an MBA was the missing piece.

After graduating with an MBA from HEC Paris, she started working as the senior global marketing manager for fashion-tech disruptor Vestiaire Collective—the leading global app for pre-loved fashion. 

Here’s how Clare orchestrated her transformation. 

Why MBA: HEC Paris

Clare was getting to the point in her career where she was “very happy and comfortable” but wanted more of a challenge. It was that desire, coupled with the chance to acquire a full business education, that led her to an MBA. 

“The opportunity to take a step in another direction after having worked for almost a decade was hugely appealing. After working in a traditional framework, I was ready to challenge not only the norms but also myself.” she says.

Clare’s own international heritage—her father is British while her mother is French-American—led her to consider an MBA in Europe, and HEC Paris stood out thanks to its strong international cohort. The school’s MBA class of 2019 saw 92% of students come from outside France, with 55 nationalities represented.

Another attraction for Clare was HEC Paris’ connections to the luxury industry in Europe. “I knew that my previous experience was valuable, and I wanted to return to the industry in a different capacity after graduating—so an MBA from HEC also would allow me to keep connected and achieve this,” she explains.

How HEC Paris prepares MBA students for career development

One of the ways the HEC Paris MBA allows students to tailor and micro-target their career goals is through specializations. Students can choose from Advanced Management, Entrepreneurship, Digital Innovation, Finance, Strategic Marketing, Strategy, or Sustainable and Disruptive Innovation. 

Clare chose Digital Innovation and was immersed in digital transformation and disruptive industries, studying topics including cryptocurrency and data analytics. 

She also took part in a Digital Innovation Challenge, where teams of students had to propose an original digital strategy to a major French business.

“Our value was really to bring those innovative ideas and a different mindset to the company, which I think worked really well,” she explains. To say that it went well is an understatement—Clare’s team ended up winning the challenge.

An internship in Paris with fashion startup Corto Moltedo was also a valuable learning opportunity. “Having worked with quite big brands before in London, it gave me really good insight into what it was like at the other end of the scale,” Clare says. “Doing an internship during the MBA is a great way to explore working in different types of businesses within your chosen industry.”

Clare was also President of the MBA’s Retail and Luxury Club, an opportunity that gave her the chance to network with major luxury and fashion brands in Paris. This, combined with further practical experience she gained as a project lead for the HEC Consulting Practice, set Clare up to thrive at Vestiaire Collective post-graduation.

MBA Jobs: Joining a digital disruptor 

“I’ve gone from working in traditional luxury communications in the UK, to working for a French tech company that is disrupting the wider industry,” Clare explains. “Without the MBA, I don’t think I would have necessarily been able to make this switch.”

The Paris-based company, Vestiaire Collective, is a global fashion resale platform focused on making the fashion industry more sustainable. The company had previously spoken at a Luxury Club conference, and Clare got in touch with an HEC Paris alum who worked for them.

“Although I wanted to remain in the luxury industry, I turned down offers to return to a more traditional route,” she admits. “The more I learned about Vestiaire Collective, the more excited I was about their business model. I really believe it’s the future of the industry.” 

Clare’s MBA journey prepared her well for the role at Vestiaire, not just in the practical learning experience but also soft skills.

"I really learned how to be more entrepreneurial and to be a better problem solver,” Clare explains. “Those are the two key skills that I use every day at Vestiaire.” 

How to make the most of an MBA

Clare advises other prospective MBA students to have some areas of focus in mind before starting their degree. “I liked giving myself a bit of a structure, because I felt there was no way I could get the best out of my experience if I didn’t,” she explains.

At the same time, remaining flexible is important too. “Half the point of the MBA is to really open your eyes and challenge yourself in ways that you wouldn’t have been able to in your life beforehand.

“Although I had an international upbringing, it was nothing compared to the international outlook and awareness of different cultures that I gained through the MBA—this perspective is something that I’ve absolutely put into practice in my global role at Vestiaire.”

HEC Paris is also a space for everyone, regardless of your background. ‘Untraditional’ MBA candidates are highly sought after.

“Whether it was someone like me who had more of a creative background or someone who already has a solid background in business, I always had the impression that each individual skillset is highly valued.

“At HEC Paris, they really encourage people to break the mold and explore new opportunities, and you can see that in the variety of careers that people go on to have.”

Student Reviews

HEC Paris




On Campus

Cultural experience

I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.




On Campus

Internationality and diversity of opportunities

About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.




On Campus

Great selection of people

While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.





Best in France for Grande ecole

A prestigious business school. Languages ​​are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.




On Campus

Diversity and quality of fellow students

Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.




On Campus

The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs

The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.




On Campus

HEC Paris awaits you

HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.





A dream institute

Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!




On Campus

Good choice for a career boost

The classes were extremely practical and relevant to the current challenges that businesses are facing. You have access to a wide range of professionals and good career prospects once you leave the university.

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