The Management Society hosted yet another successful event Tuesday evening with a presentation by Oriana Moufarrige, Head of Marketing and Digital Communications at Alexander McQueen. Ms Moufarrige gave an account of her entry into the world of fashion marketing and offered a fascinating insider’s perspective of the fashion industry as a whole.
As a horde of people shuffled into the stuffy Austen Gallery of the Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, I took a seat in the second to last row – the first seat I could snag due to the room rapidly filling up. I sat with my notepad and pen, eagerly looking towards the screen and waiting for the talk to start so that I could begin aggressively jotting things down, no doubt coming across as overly keen to my neighbours. When Moufarrige commenced her presentation, however, I found the pen sliding out of my grasp, as I instead listened with rapt attention.
Moufarrige started out with the typical story of a bright-eyed student of the arts with dreams of becoming either an art critic, a photographer, or a film director. Having been told by her parents to get a “useful” degree – in other words, not the arts – Moufarrige moved to Paris when she was fifteen and pursued studies in business and finance, despite her total disinterest in the area.
At first, I was expecting the same mantra I have heard so many times before: “do what you love.” Yet Moufarrige surprised me with her less heard-of advice: sometimes it is worth doing something you hate, struggling with it, and then coming out the other end with valuable knowledge that you would not have received otherwise.
Moufarrige spent four years in French business school at the behest of her parents, hating every moment of it. Her boredom caused her to skip classes, and she came out last in her year. After having a talk with the Dean, she decided she would finish school instead of dropping out for the sake of her parents. Ending with high marks, Moufarrige described how studying something she despised ended up setting the foundation for her to pursue careers that she actually cared about.
After graduating business school, Moufarrige worked at companies like Calvin Klein, Harrods, and Selfridges, and once even started her own business—things she would not have been able to do had she not kept her nose to the grindstone at business school.
Moufarrige’s time spent working as Head of Marketing at Alexander McQueen resulted in some of the most hectic and exciting years of her life. Alexander McQueen, as most people are aware, is not a typical fashion brand. All of their creations have an off-kilter, theatrical air about them—even the ready-to-wear collections. Because the dramatic quality comprises the brand image, Moufarrige described how her marketing techniques for McQueen are different from the marketing and visual merchandising involved with the department stores she used to work for.
Moufarrige also went on to challenge the upheld stereotypes of the superficiality of the fashion industry. She argued that the industry, in actuality, is underpinned by the analytical and innovative thinking of many intelligent individuals. The reliance that fashion companies have on trends is quite a mathematical concept requiring much research, number crunching, and commercial awareness—skills that take time and hard work to hone.
Additionally, Moufarrige warned against nosediving into a career position that you may not be prepared for. Instead, she encouraged experiencing the world before settling for anything in particular so that when you do end up with the desired position, you have already acquired the lock, stock, and barrel worldview that will prove essential to success in your chosen industry.
My notepad was completely blank at the end of the presentation, details of the talk swirling around my head along with the complimentary white wine. Not only was Moufarrige’s talk engaging, humorous, inspiring, and motivating, it also struck a chord with me and many others who relate to the never-ending struggle between having a fervent passion for the arts and dealing with the risk of majoring in an inutile field that has few career opportunities in today’s increasingly competitive landscape.
The main aim of the Management Society being to introduce professionals from as many industries possible, securing Oriana Moufarrige was a snag for prospective fashion or marketing students. Even for those uninterested in fashion, the talk was rewarding and offered sage advice on succeeding in any career. Undoubtedly, many are waiting with bated breath for the next presenter the Management Society has in store.