Marie Véronique Contat, freelancer at IFA Paris for several years, will manage in the coming weeks, the Fusalp repositioning project for students in the 2nd year of the Bachelor in Fashion Design and Bachelor in Fashion Marketing. Pre-sessional briefings.
Q: Marie-Véronique Contat, once again you are working with IFA Paris. What appeals to you about the different pedagogical formats offered by the school?
Marie-Véronique: What I find particularly interesting about IFA Paris is the fact that the school trains both the designers and marketers of tomorrow. This creates a real emulation among students. Marketers operate in a creative and very fashionable environment, while designers have, as part of their educational program, marketing and business courses that will be useful to them in their professional lives, as well as more technical and creative courses.
The various ” industrial projects ” set up by IFA Paris are also opportunities for students from different fields to link theory to practice, analysis to design, by working for brands, fashion and beauty environments.
Q: During your presentations, which are the most complex but also the most challenging areas for you?
Marie-Véronique: What is most inspiring for me at IFA Paris is the great variety of profiles and nationalities.
It is the only school I know in Paris that brings together so many different nationalities, with students from all five continents. This creates real exchanges of views between students and me but also between them.
The most problematic issue to manage is the diverse nature of the candidates who join the MBA program at IFA Paris. A great heterogeneity in students’ backgrounds, experiences, maturity and knowledge means that they must constantly adapt and update themselves as teachers by developing course content with several entrants, sufficiently clear, accessible and instructive for students who are very unfamiliar with fashion, luxury or marketing and also more complex, more pragmatic for more experienced and versed students. Intellectually speaking, it is a must for everyone! This is also what makes the exercise interesting!
I work with designers on courses that are, at first sight, far from their core business such as branding and I am pleasantly surprised each year to see their curiosity, their commitment and their desire to develop their skills.
Q: Technology has become essential to the communication strategy of iconic brands; in order not to be left behind and boost its image, Fusalp has just entrusted IFA Paris with the repositioning of its brand. What exactly will your action be with students during the training sessions?
Marie-Véronique: My action and commitment to this project is at several levels: first of all, I proposed this project to the manager of the Fusalp brand on one hand and to the director of IFA Paris on the other hand. The two interlocutors were seduced by the opportunity to work together.
Then, I was able to incorporate the first phase of this work on the Fusalp brand and the launching of a new Capsule collection into my “Strategic marketing” course for 2nd year students of the Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Marketing.
Another professor takes over to complete the strategic and operational aspect of the project with these students.
At the same time, I take part in coordination meetings between Fashion Marketing students and Fashion Design students.
The last step of my mission will be to help mixed groups (composed of students in Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing) to present to Fusalp a creative and strategic capsule collection project that could seduce the brand. The challenge for Fashion Design students is to present a prototype that is in line with the strategic objectives developed by fashion marketing students.
Q: What are the possible risks and/or opportunities of working with high-profile clients on real deals?
Marie-Véronique: For this mission, the main difficulty lies in the fact that three partners are involved in the project: the fashion technology company Neue Lab, the Fusalp brand and IFA Paris.
On the other hand, we have both Fashion Design students and Fashion Marketing students working on the same project.
A lot of coordination work is needed, and bringing everyone’s interests to the table can be difficult.
Working on a brand, on a tangible project, is a real motivation for students and for the project coordinators. Students are put in a real work situation, they must apply their knowledge but also take into account the realities of the company, its resources and its strategy.
Reporting back to business leaders creates pressure on students and on the school and its reputation.
This type of project must satisfy the brand and meet its expectations, but also satisfy the Neue Lab partner involved in the project. On the pedagogical level, the aim is to provide an added value to students and to enable the school to develop other partnerships with new companies.
If Fusalp is particularly pleased with the project, this could lead to further collaboration with Neue Lab and/or IFA Paris.
Q: Given your experience, how do you perceive the difference in student commitment, be it a real project or a theoretical study? Is their motivation boosted by the reality on the field?
Marie-Véronique: There is a big difference between having students work on a fictional case or a real project.
I was able to test it as well because the students involved in the Fusalp project also worked on the same type of project but in a fictive form.
As a result, the motivation is different, so is the pressure.
Their work is not only evaluated by a teacher on the basis of specific and academic criteria but also by a brand whose criteria are more subjective…
In the case of a real project, they must demonstrate other qualities than those required for hypothetical cases. The commitment is greater and the interaction with the company’s managers is motivational.
Q: How does the development of a collective project carried out under real conditions promote the educational, professional and personal well-being of each student?
Marie-Véronique: The advantages for students are great, both in terms of the development of know-how and interpersonal skills.
They get out of their classes and are confronted with the real life of a brand and the speeches of the brand’s key people, in this case the general manager and the artistic director.
Students are confronted with different aspects of the project they have to manage: timing, but also collaboration with the brand, other students, and the partner Neue Lab.
They must take into account a lot of information from different sources, select it and use it to build a coherent, realistic and brandable project.
The reflexes they develop, the reflection they have to carry out, the feedback they have to give and the feedback they receive from the brand’s managers will allow them to acquire professional experience, which will undoubtedly help them to carry out other projects in their professional lives with more maturity and confidence.
Q: Having gained such experience, what professional reflexes would you like them to adopt systematically in the future?
Marie-Véronique: There are several of them:
- Be entrepreneurial.
- Not having a preconceived idea of brands and being able to work for brands that are not among their favourite brands, being curious and wanting to learn.
- Take into account the reality of the company at the heart of the brand, its strategy, its corporate culture, its human and financial resources. Suggest brand-consistent and specific recommendations.
- Adapt and be flexible.
- Think “out of the box”: provide creative solutions, not just apply the principles and tools seen during their training.
- Teamwork and a better understanding, for designers, of the needs, vocabulary and functioning of marketers and, for marketers, of the profession and the way designers work.
This is a recurring problem for most fashion brands: the communication difficulties between the marketing or sales department and the creative teams.
If thanks to this Fusalp project, we have been able to teach designers and marketers to work together, it will be useful for them in their professional lives!
Q: It’s finally a big challenge for everyone! You, IFA Paris, the students, Fusalp… isn’t there too much pressure?
Marie-Véronique: There is, especially due to the fact that this project requires a lot of coordination because many people are involved.
The major challenge, for which we are also proud, is to get Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing students to work together for the first time because neither IFA Paris, nor Fusalp, nor the students have had any experience with this type of mixed project. This adds additional pressure.
Another challenge is to get a third party involved in the project, which in this case is Neue Lab, a company located abroad and specialized in fashion technology.
It’s a real fling for all of us! We hope that the result will be convincing, but it is also the path to get there that is exciting and it will be a great learning opportunity for future projects!