When Dana Li was young, she wanted to be a fashion designer. Or at least, that’s what she would say when people asked her life’s goal might be. But as she got older, she had new experiences, developed new interests, and ultimately went to NYU’s Stern School to study business.
Yet, her love for fashion and style persisted, always in the back of her mind. So when she got involved with the Luxury and Retail Association at Stern, she felt as if she found the perfect way to combine her interests in business with her passion for fashion and the lure of such iconic luxury brands as Coach, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. The association, a student club, was founded in 2015 when Li was a freshmen largely due to the interests of students in the business of luxury goods. Being at the epicenter of the fashion business in New York, it was something of a no-brainer to take advantage of Stern’s location in the city.
This year the school has introduced a new advisory track in luxury marketing. It isn’t an official major or minor, but it’s a way for students to make sure they’re taking the right classes to prepare themselves for careers in the field. While there are several graduate programs in luxury goods at such schools as HEC Paris and Rutgers Business School, which recently launched an MS in the business of fashion, it’s rare for an undergraduate school to offer a focus on the subject.
PROJECT RUNWAY & THE KARDASHIANS: ‘PEOPLE FIND IT SEXY AND EXCITING’
“This has been generated by demand from our students,” says Jeff Carr, luxury marketing track champion and professor at Stern. “Look at Project Runway, look at all the reality shows, look at the Kardashians. There are so many things that people find sexy and exciting, and more and more students want to go into the business.”
Luxury, Carr says, is a term that has become very broad, and almost meaningless, since so many companies trying to position their products as luxury brands. But it does make for an interesting business opportunity. “Everyone wants to be a luxury brand right now. You even see the phrase attached to food,” he says.
In the past, luxury had to do with exclusivity, something that not many people could afford, he adds. Increasingly, however, people now see luxury as something they want, but don’t necessarily need.
‘LUXURY RETAIL TAKES THE GUISE OF MARKETING’
“On the marketing side, luxury has this aspect of fine craftsmanship,” says Carr. “If you look at luxury brands, they still hand-make individual items, and have been doing this for a long time. They only sell the best of the best, and I think that’s still how we need to be thinking about luxury. So working in luxury retail takes the guise of marketing, whether that’s around branding or communication or social networking.”
Li, now a junior at Stern, says she attended the Luxury and Retail club’s first event, hoping to get a sense of the industry landscape. The club provides professional development opportunities to students, supplementing their business education with panels, conferences, and talks by industry professionals. “I thought it was a good opportunity to find a network, and also to find a community I could really be part of here at NYU,” she says. She joined the club board as planning director the following fall semester, and was recently named vice president.
“They give us a first-hand account of what they do on the job, and how their previous experiences led them to their current position,” Li says. “This past semester we did the business of luxury fashion, business of beauty, and one with male contemporary streetwear, since we think that’s up-and-coming. And we also did one with a jewelry company highlighting the different business functions, so students interested in luxury and retail know there are more options than just fashion and beauty.”