“My story isn’t one of those inspirational stories about how I always loved fashion and wanted to pursue my dream. It’s the contrary actually!” explains the dynamic, adventurous and mind-exploring talent Fiona Shang, Senior Account Manager at Digital Luxury Group (DLG) – always ready to take the next challenge.
Michel Temman: How were you able to join the Digital Luxury Group? And what were your previous experiences?
Fiona Shang: I had a few twists in my career path and Digital Luxury Group (DLG) was a kind of pleasant coincidence. When I first came back to China in 2012 after living overseas for almost six years, I realized how isolated I had been. The country changed dramatically and I’ve completely lost understanding of the market and consumers here. I decided to join a local advertising agency as a planner, trying to emerge myself and learn from the local team. It was my first job in China; ironically, the reverse cultural shock was stronger. On the other hand, I think my straightforwardness was sort of refreshing to my co-workers! After a year, I started to miss the international perspectives and luxury industry. Luckily, I was approached by an indirect IFA Paris contact and asked to join a luxury consulting firm as a planner. I worked in market research, rebranding, market entry and PR strategies. It helped me to grow strategic thinking and presentation skills. However, I started to see brands shifting towards digital and was fascinated by some campaigns. Plus, new things always trigger my curiosity, so I started looking for different opportunities to learn more about digital. That’s when DLG happened. DLG was looking for a candidate so I met my current Managing Director Pablo Mauron. We discussed about my strengths and weaknesses, his vision for the company and how I could fit in it. I felt I really shared his vision and decided to join the company. I had other options that some may feel were better opportunities – more secure and stable, but that would probably bore me. Today, I am really glad I made that choice.
“I never thought I would be in fashion or luxury industry. I had never owned a designer bag and didn’t even know who Karl Lagerfeld was!"
M.T.: What is your position and exact role at Digital Luxury Group?
Fiona Shang: I am a Senior Account Manager at DLG. I have been lucky to work with incredible brands such as Christian Louboutin, Carl. F. Bucherer and the Kempinski Hotel. Now, I am fully dedicated to Four Seasons Hotels and I love their company culture. For each client we work on different projects, including social media, digital campaigns, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), website localization, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), event on-site support and various consulting projects. Sometimes, we also work with our colleagues in Geneva for international collaboration. When I first joined DLG, we had a small team, so I had the opportunity to learn and work on almost everything, it really helped me to improve my digital knowledge and skills in a short period of time. Now we are more structured and therefore my work is more focused.
M.T.: When and how did you decide to join IFA Paris and how was your MBA in Luxury Brand Management valuable?
Fiona Shang: My story isn’t one of those inspirational stories about how I always loved fashion and wanted to pursue my dream. It’s the contrary actually! I worked in San Francisco for a year after I finished my bachelor degree, but didn’t see the potential in my job back then. I was a bit confused and didn’t know what my next steps were. I really missed my exchange year in Paris and just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love (by author Elizabeth Gilbert), so I thought: “Hey! I should go live in Paris or Italy!” I started browsing programs online and found IFA Paris! Shanghai and Paris couldn’t have been more perfect. It may sound really cliché but this program changed my life. I never thought I would join the fashion or luxury industry. I had never owned a designer bag and didn’t even know who Karl Lagerfeld was. But during the program, I was drawn into this world I once thought was so distant: the creativity, inspiration, heritage and refinement just blew my mind. The studying experience itself is incredible: not everyone gets to cross Ponte Vecchio or walk along the Seine every day to class. I also met lifetime friends. Since I came back to Shanghai, the networking of IFA Paris has been very helpful too. The circle is really small and somehow everyone is indirectly connected.
M.T.: Your very adventurous mind must be quite helpful when time comes to take life changing decision?
Fiona Shang: I think that I am a bit crazy, lol! I love adventures and always try to find my next challenge. I left China when I was 18, arrived in the airport of San Francisco without knowing where to stay that night. I travelled to close to 40 countries. But the fact is that diverse cultural experiences has changed me forever and made me addicted to perspectives and ideas exchange. I don’t like to take myself too seriously. I can be quite competitive, but against myself. I get anxious if I feel life is getting too comfortable. I love boxing, dancing, playing the piano, and I’m bit of a bookworm!
M.T.: Fashion and luxury sectors depend more and more on digital tools to promote their brands and products. How did the trends evolve recently?
Fiona Shang: I think that personalization is now the bigger thing ever. Luxury brands have been excelling in this for ages. Now, with technology, we can achieve personalization through automation. It’s one of our key CRM project at the moment. Moreover, I always believe digital should be integrated in the overall brand strategy, not just “Okay, here’s the idea, now what can you do with it on digital?” And it almost makes me sad when traditional marketing or retails see digital as a threat instead of a partner. Omni-channel has been a buzzword for years, but it’s still changing to implement. I believe that there will be more seamless integration. And we can’t talk about digital trend without mentioning Virtual Reality (VR). Many fashion brands have been using VR for fashion shows; hotel groups are shooting VR films to promote the destinations. I think more brands will start to integrate VR with the product functionality. I am a bit scared of social VR though. It’s already sad enough that we are all chatting on WeChat instead of meeting in person!
M.T.: What advice would you give today to some students passionate by fashion and luxury industries wishing to join the digital sector?
Fiona Shang: I don’t like to give advice as everyone has a different path. I can however share what has worked for me and hope it can help someone to figure out his or her own way. To begin with, when I started working in “digital”, I realized how general this term is. It’s like going to a restaurant in Bordeaux asking for a glass of red wine. The confused waiter will probably stare at you for a while then bring you a long list – it happened to me! I find it quite helpful to get an overview of different sectors, try out a few of them that seem interesting, and then decide which one you want to pursue and focus on. What really helped me was the willingness to experiment and curiosity for learning new things. I had zero digital experience when I first joined DLG but I didn’t let that hold me back. Of course, I was lucky that my boss was willing to give me the opportunity. The world is changing so rapidly especially in the digital industry that maybe you will become an expert of something that hasn’t been invented yet. I always try to keep up and never miss an opportunity to learn and ask questions. Final words, and if this is the only thing you take from this interview, this is it: stay authentic! This is a very seductive and overwhelming field: on one hand, it’s all about «me, me, me», to stand out and get noticed; on the other, people try really hard to impress everyone. We can easily get buried in the noises and forget what is truly meaningful to ourselves. I remember during my program at IFA Paris that I was given an assignment – to go out and take pictures of one place, one piece of accessories and one kind of food, then combine them to create an image that is really you. I don’t know if it makes sense but it led to a lot of self-digging. It has become a lifetime project for me and I encourage you to try it out as well!
To learn more about the program taken by Fiona Shang at IFA Paris: MBA Luxury Brand Management