Connie Yeung arrived at Grenoble Ecole de Management knowing little French, but the ambitious Hong Kong native wanted to get into France's luxury goods industry anyway, and she's made it at an exciting new firm!
Connie, 27, left Hong Kong for Grenoble Ecole de Management in 2010, to join the one-year MSc in Business Development. She had a couple of years of experience behind her as a planning manager at Chinese garment manufacturer Esque Enterprises, but the Grenoble programme propelled her forward and she now heads operations at L’Exception, a cutting edge e-commerce platform that showcases independent French designers.
Connie was busy at work because of the holiday season but she took out some time to share the story of how she has risen so fast at the award-winning fashion platform.
Connie joined L’Exception as their first member of staff. Her boss, Regis Pennel, interviewed her in his kitchen and offered her an initial three-month internship. Pennel worked with French designer Celine for four years and at L'Exception he is in charge of selecting the designers and beautiful pieces found on the website.
Connie's role during her internship spanned managing orders and deliveries, overseeing the supply chain and customer services, meeting designers, and building a growth strategy for the brand. She made an impression and was asked to remain on the team.
The company grew quickly and Connie’s role evolved into Chief Operations Officer. This was despite the fact that her French was poor and suggestions that it woud be impossible to break into the French luxury fashion world without speaking fluent French.
Connie told us that focused networking helped her get her foot in the door. She was a member of the Rotary Club as a business student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She joined a local club when she arrived at Grenoble and through the network was offered several opportunities to meet people in the luxury industry.
The first thing Connie did when she landed the internship with L'Exception was to work hard to improve her French. She also drew as much as she could from what she had learned working for textile firm Esuel Enterprises in Hong Kong, and of course the MSc in Business Development at Grenoble.
L’Exception is just over a year old now and the team is trying to grow it into a lifestyle platform. They’ve started to branch out into cosmetics and now make creams to order. They also sell champagne!
The company is already making waves in the e-commerce and fashion world. In September, they won the Grand Prix Stratégies / Amaury Media du Luxe in the E-commerce category. They were in competition with big names such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Van Cleef & Arpels, it was the first time a multi-brand store had won the prize.
They also won the silver award at the W3 Awards for web creativity and were one of the six finalists of the Espoir de la FEVAD prize organized by the Federation of e-commerce.
Connie says these awards have helped them opened more doors internationally. They've translated their website to Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese, as well English and French, and are working on translating it into Japanese.
Of the 150 designers on their platform, around 10 have shown in Paris Fashion week. Some of Connie’s favourite designers are Les Prairies de Paris, Chalayan and French duo Mal-Aimee. Popstar Lana Del Ray loves Mal-Aimee too and was recently spotted in their white dress in her video hit 'Summertime Sadness'.
Connie is eager to help Grenoble students who are interested in luxury fashion. She’s been closely involved with the school's new Masters in Fashion, Design and Luxury Management and works with career’s services to scout for interns suitable for operational, marketing and public relations roles. She’s also in discussions with Grenoble to write a case study about L’Exception to be taught in class.
Connie says her French is now nearly fluent. She adds this to the sense of accomplishment she feels at seeing a start-up grow from nothing.
We had to let Connie get back to dealing with her valuable holiday shoppers but she did leave us with a little shopping incentive. If you’re in Paris, L’Exception provides deliveries on the same day.
During the holiday period, they can wrap your gifts using special gift paper and place them in lovely gift bags. You can include a personal message written with Connie’s own calligraphy!
Read more stories about students, alumni, and programmes at Grenoble Ecole de Management here.