Barbara SLAVICH, Academic Director of the Master in Fashion Management: “I’m very proud of the solidarity between all the generations of this Master”

In 2013, IÉSEG launched its Master in Fashion Management, which almost immediately achieved great success. On the occasion of its 10th anniversary, Barbara SLAVICH, who launched this Master and has been the Academic Director since the beginning, tells us about this extraordinary story!

Barbara SLAVICH, how did the idea of creating the Master in Fashion Management emerge?
When I joined IÉSEG in 2010, the School had just opened its campus in Paris – La Défense, and was growing very fast. The Master in International Business was launched in 2003, and other Specialized Masters were about to be launched very soon… During my PhD, I started to do empirical research on the luxury industry, so I had developed extensive knowledge on this sector. I started thinking about the best way to attract talented individuals who were looking for an international career in the fashion and luxury industry. I  also involved other professor who could teach courses on fashion business in a reflection on the learning experience we wanted to offer… and most importantly, how to differentiate this Master from the other Masters proposed by other Schools.

I realized that many of the existing programs on fashion and luxury where only focusing on the business side of the industry, and the focus on the product itself was missing. For students wanting to work in positions such as merchandiser, buyer or even product manager in fashion or luxury companies, it is essential to know how the product creation and collection development processes work. That’s why we launched this Master in Fashion Management, which focuses both on the business aspect and on the product itself.

What makes this program unique is also the partnership with renowned Istituto Marangoni…
Indeed, IÉSEG is a leading Business School and provided recognized teaching in Management, Marketing, Supply Chain… but the School is not an expert in the product creation process, and this was the differentiating point of our program. The students thus study, for example, Pattern Making and Cutting, Fabrics knowledge, Art direction, which are specific creation-focused courses, complemented by management courses specialized in fashion and luxury.

So, we started to look for a partner that was also recognized as an expert in this field. That’s where the collaboration with Istituto Marangoni came into play. It is the global leading school in Fashion, most of the top designers studied there… I remember when we traveled to Milano to discuss this partnership, it was a great emotion! We decided to sign this agreement, knowing that professors from Istituto Marangoni’s Paris campus would offer courses dedicated to creation, fashion, luxury… while at the same time, professors from IÉSEG with a background and experience in Fashion and Luxury would teach all management courses related to Fashion business.

On top of that, being located in Paris enabled us to bring on board the most prestigious companies of the Fashion & Luxury industry, among which the top maisons de haute couture, and some courses are thus directly taught by recognized experts in the sector.

Thanks to all that, the Master in Fashion Management almost immediately found success…
Indeed, especially because we decided from the beginning to recruit a cohort of no more than 50 students. Students work with a tutor at Instituto Marangoni and the courses of product creation require them to cut fabrics, touch materials… so they need to work in small groups with their tutor. The high number of applications allows us to have a high level of selection.

Our strategy is also to attract international students and create a very multicultural environment. Last year, we had more than 20 nationalities represented in the class, and we try to keep this balance every year. As of today, the Master in Fashion Management counts 368 graduates, coming from 42 different countries and working all around the world, in more than 35 different countries… We are very proud of this diversity.

What does the Master in Fashion Management prepare its students for?
One of the main objectives of the Master is to give our students all the knowledge and the know-how to be able to work in the best companies in the Fashion and Luxury industry. As our students master both the management and the creation dimensions, they learn how to talk to designers, they understand the needs of a design team, and at the same time they are able to understand financial results, accounting, what sales teams would need… Our alumni are thus highly sought after for positions like Merchandiser, (a Merchandiser has to match the needs of the design team with marketing and sales objectives), Product Manager, Buyer, Brand Manager, all those integration roles where you need to understand these different organizational logics and dimensions.

How has the Master in Fashion Management evolved over time?
Of course, the curriculum has been adjusted throughout the years because it is important to follow the trends of the market that constantly evolve. As for all IÉSEG’s programs, we regularly organize a Professional Advisory Board that is composed of experts from the industry, where we talk about the program, how we can improve the courses based on market needs and on their own needs. For example, following their advice, as sustainability and digital & artificial intelligence became so important and are playing a key role in fashion companies, we decided to introduce new courses on these hot topics.

In terms of pedagogy, thinks have changed a lot too. Students work on many projects proposed by companies, as well as many creation projects in groups: to create a collection, to analyze fashion shows… In addition to “classic” courses, we also invite guest speakers to come and hold masterclasses. Students also have the chance to enjoy study tours in Italy (to visit Gucci’s creation ateliers, the Museum of Ferragamo, and many other exciting places) and they participate in exceptional events in Paris (like the Yves-Saint-Laurent exhibition in 2022, or Fashion shows…) to better understand this industry and develop their network.

Finally, companies and brands face many challenges related to topics such as artificial intelligence, the metaverse, sustainability, but also social values. Especially after COVID, companies wondered how to increase their social impact and how to create both social and cultural value. I think this is absolutely in line with what our Master offers. Finally, we are increasingly giving the opportunity to students to focus not just on fashion, but also on other industries. Beauty, gastronomy, jewelry… all those industries are related to fashion and luxury. That’s why we propose masterclasses and visits related to these sectors.

More and more students at IÉSEG want to become entrepreneurs or have already launched their company. Do you also perceive this trend in the Master in Fashion Management?
Absolutely. Some students are very motivated to launch their own brands, so they want to strengthen their competencies in the managerial dimension. For example, I remember a student in Brazil that launched her own brand over there and joined the Master because she wanted to improve the company performance and develop more managerial competencies.

So, we added entrepreneurship courses, and asked entrepreneurs to come in our Master courses and talk to students about their experience. What we always recommend to our students is to have an experience working in a fashion company before launching their own brand, because it is a way to learn and to experiment how to set up a company. Most importantly, it helps to understand the risks associated with the launch of a brand, but also the sacrifices and investments they will have to make.

The strength of the Master also lies in its alumni, who are its first brand ambassadors!
It is very important for us to be able rely on our network of alumni. What also strengthens our work is the fact that our students are contacted for an internship or, at the end of their internship, can be also recruited by our alumni. This creates a virtuous circle, because it is a very competitive industry. Our alumni now work in the most prestigious companies in very important roles as Product Managers, Global Press Influencers, Strategy Coordinators, Merchandisers, Project Managers… So, this helps our students greatly when they look for job positions and I’m very proud of the solidarity between the younger and the older generations of this Master.

IÉSEG's 60th Anniversary Badge