Alumni Panel on High Fashion and Beauty:

On Wednesday, February 27th the Luxury Goods and Design Club welcomed a panel of young and entrepreneurial Alumni to share their experiences in the high fashion and beauty industries. Yael Melamed (MBA 2005), Mary Ruisanchez (MBA 2005) and Katlyn Gao (MBA 2007) commented not only on the “emotional aspect” of selling luxury products, but also advised students on how to maneuver in an industry still new to MBAs. Co-Director of Speakers, Amanda Krawitz (NB) drew on her personal experience in consulting and retail to moderate the panel.

After working on the marketing and operations sides of established brands, Bumble & Bumble and Polo Ralph Lauren respectively, Melamed and Ruisanchez have now catapulted themselves into entrepreneurial ventures. A believer in free expression of self and ideas, Melamed described the particularly unique tension in the industry between education and business. The fashion and beauty industries often value experience foremost, and higher education degrees like the MBA as a distant second. Melamed learned quickly that in order to excel she had to “play by ‘their’ rules.” Highlighting the value of having a brand name, like Paper Denim and Cloth, on her resume, Melamed advised students to get the initial industry exposure regardless of the role – this exposure and brand name opened doors for her post-HBS. Now armed with industry savvy and indispensable experience, Melamed is excited to be independently consulting for several emerging beauty lines.

Like many students in attendance, Ruisanchez arrived at HBS with a background in consulting. Those of us aspiring to pursue a career in luxury goods and high fashion should be encouraged to know that Ruisanchez’ consulting experience and applications were highly valued running U.S. operations for Polo Ralph Lauren. In an industry that “loves to hate you,” Ruisanchez downplayed her HBS degree and focused on listening and learning. Eventually, Ruisanchez could no longer deny her entrepreneurial spirit, and is independently launching Angelita, her online boutique that will feature gift lines celebrating significant moments in a woman’s life. Ruisanchez is the idea, the design, the operations and CEO all-in-one! Angelita is due to launch in May 2008.

When asked about the one thing she wished she knew while at HBS, Katlyn Gao responded without hesitation: “I wish I paid more attention in LEAD class tag heuer replica for sale !” In addition to managing colleagues at Coach with vastly different experiences from her own, Gao stated that she has become even more humble and has learned to listen more than to speak. “The product is the bread and butter of the company,” and she advised that students should learn as much about the product as possible.

These three women exposed some of the harsher realities of the luxury fashion and beauty industries. Yet, by virtue of their challenges and marked success in a highly competitive and frankly “catty” industry, Melamed, Ruisanchez and Gao further encouraged myself and fellow students to break into the creative breitling superocean replica. The take-away: there is hope for the creative-spirit that lies in many of us with similar aspirations. As she has herself done at Coach, Gao encouraged us to allow “[our] trays of creativity to take over the analytics.”