Studying luxury goods up close in NYC

  • April 19, 2017
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 2 minute read

Guest blogger, Victor Yaw, is a sophomore double majoring in Economics and Strategy, and Art History and Archaeology. Victor reports on his Marketing 450F course that focuses on the Luxury Goods industry. Students in the course visited a number of luxury goods companies over Spring Break in New York City with Professor Martin Sneider.

As we sat in one of the meeting rooms of Bain’s New York office, I could not help but get distracted by the sweeping views of downtown Manhattan, home to many of the companies that we visited (photo above). I quickly drew my attention back before anyone noticed, examining Mr. Jannuzzi’s presentation on the global luxury retail industry’s current growth.

Following much of the same narrative we heard from J Crew’s Mickey Drexler during our visit at J.Crew and Madewell, the “Merchant Prince,” and the news of Sears closing its stores, Mr. Jannuzzi explained the changing landscape of luxury retail with the rise of the millennial and challenge of e-commerce.

However, our visit to Kiton painted a different picture of the landscape. It seemed to me that Massimo Bizzocchi, the chairman of Kiton, levitated effortlessly above the commercial woes of the industry.

During our tour of the flagship store, he shared his near-obsession with fabric selection and tailoring history, explaining – with every bit of Italian flare – the painstaking process of handcrafting a Kiton jacket. While his clothing was exhibited on dark beige mannequins that appeared to have tanned over a summer in Naples, Massimo himself was the truest manifestation of Kiton’s DNA. His personal charm captured the Italian allure of the brand, while his sartorial prowess amplified its mystique.

We also visited Canada Goose, Bergdorf Goodman, Cartier, Brunello Cucinelli, Burberry, Coach, and Bloomingdale’s during our week in New York City.

Even though it is amazing to learn about the retail industry during a time when its landscape is undergoing a rapid transformation, the real experiences that I will remember will be the face-to-face interactions with people working in those companies, as well as the encounters with both their tangible and intangible products.

It is one thing to learn about brands in class, but another to feel the fabrics, touch the leather, and experience it with all five senses. While their prices may be exorbitant, luxury goods seem to inexplicably capture the minds of many people. Thus, it is unsurprising that this industry has been, and will continue to evolve, shaped by those enamored by its enigma.

If you are thinking of going on this trip, I would give it a 10/10 recommendation.

I’m attracted to beautiful things, yet at the same time I am actually very aware, in some sense, of their lack of value and that the most important things in life are your connections with other people.

—Tom Ford

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