In the Fashion Forward series, IFA Paris alumni give insight into how their studies at IFA Paris paved the way to land their dream job. In this instalment, we talk with Ehryl O’Rourke and Eduardo Varela Gomez of OUIBRIDGE. OUIBRIDGE helps fashion and luxury brands break into new markets, and the concept earned a spot as a top 200 finalist in the Tommy Hilfiger Frontier Innovation Challenge.
Get to know:
Name: Ehryl O’Rourke and Eduardo Varela Gomez
Nationality: Ehryl: American; Eduardo: Spanish
IFA Campus: Both studied at the Paris campus with an exchange at the Shanghai, China campus
Program studied: Ehryl: MBA Fashion Management – Media Major (Formerly known as MBA Global Fashion Media).
Eduardo: MBA Fashion Management – Luxury Major (Formerly known as MBA in Luxury Brand Management).
Graduation year: Both 2018
Ehryl: Not a course, but my experience in Shanghai. However, there was the “The Shoot and the Word” class where we created a magazine from scratch. The magazine itself ended up terrible, but the experience was very fun. We did the reporting, writing, organised photoshoots, styled the photoshoots – everything that is creative. I already studied International Business so it was great to showcase my creativity with this.
Eduardo: I would say the Financial and Business Plan class. I started in PR and advertisements, so I would say I’m someone who can be very creative and can do the marketing aspects. However, I wanted to learn more about the business elements like the financials to really understand the skeleton of a company.
Ehryl: We are currently building OUIBRIDGE, a company that hasn’t been seen or done before. We’re creating an all-in-one digital platform for entrepreneurs to build and scale their businesses with artificial intelligence (AI), automated consulting, and application programming interfaces (APIs). We want to focus on the fashion industry first and expand to other industries later. We’re also focused on sustainability, pushing new designers to see how they can help the environment. We take them on a brand process and drive them towards being a green and eco-friendly business. Eduardo is in the process of contacting partnerships with verified sustainable companies so that businesses can be certified sustainable.
Eduardo: I had an idea of starting a project of my own, and I was looking for inspiration to create something with other entrepreneurs. I found Ehryl on LinkedIn and saw all the connections we had (including IFA Paris…we actually hadn’t met at school). We talked about OUIBRIDGE, I was interested and decided to join.
Ehryl: Yeah, we wanted to collaborate at first, but Eduardo became a really big part of the team!
Eduardo: I try to have the basic fashion essentials and mix and match between casual and formal pieces.
Ehryl: Imran Ahmed, the founder of Business of Fashion magazine, is pretty inspiring because he brought together the fashion industry with the business aspect. With my International Business background, it’s interesting to read as it’s knowledgeable and challenges the mind and the fashion industry image.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background – who you are, where you come from and what got you interested in studying fashion.
Eduardo: I was born in Spain and was raised by my family to go further than expected and do things outside of the box. At first, I studied advertising and PR as I’m a creative person and wanted to incorporate creativity in my life. I knew later on though that I didn’t want to work in the advertising industry.
During my last year at university, I saw an advertisement for IFA Paris, and as I was always inspired by fashion and the arts, its MBA in Luxury Brand Management really caught my eye. Creativity was already a part of me, and I wanted to have the business side, too.
Doing a part of my Master’s in Shanghai, the experience was amazing. Being able to see how different parts of the world works along with its trends.
I lived in Bangkok, Thailand, and worked for one of the biggest retailers there. I could see how the operations worked and the way the company made improvements. I wanted to apply this knowledge to small boutiques, as they don’t always have this capacity. I later moved to Paris, France to learn French, work in retail to learn how day-to-day operations functioned, and use this to help smaller shops operate on a bigger scale.
This is why I liked the business development side, it combines creativity and rationality.
Ehryl: I’m American and I was always interested in fashion but didn’t think I would have a career in fashion. I grew up in a town that had a more down-to-earth surfer vibe. It wasn’t until I moved to Boston where my idea of fashion changed.
While I was studying International Business, I met my now ex who is French. When I mentioned I wanted to learn French, he said to come to Paris for six months but here I am, seven years later!
Over time, my fashion style has changed to portray who I really am. Fashion is not just about the material used, it’s the expression of oneself. I wrote my capstone project on transgression fashion actually, with the notion that fashion is wearing what you want to wear and how it expresses you, without feeling like there’s judgement from others. Slowly but surely, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the fashion industry.
What are you currently doing and what’s most exciting about it?
Ehryl: We’re building something from scratch, a project called OuiBridge, which is a subscription-based platform like Shopify. We’re growing as a team (there’s now six of us), and we love and really believe in the project.
The entrepreneurial journey itself is a ride, and we’re going on this journey but at the same time, building a platform for someone else to go on theirs.
Eduardo: I think it’s the same for me, being able to start something from the bottom and helping other people create their paths. There’s a lot of untapped potential for people to create something but they may not know how to do it or where to start. This platform can help people achieve their fashion business dreams.
What skills did you learn at IFA Paris that helps you in your current role?
Eduardo: At IFA Paris I gained knowledge of how the fashion and luxury industries work. Being at an international university like IFA Paris opened my mind. Sometimes when you come from Europe or the United States, you think you’re at the centre and don’t necessarily see the potential in other parts of the world. At IFA Paris, it’s not just academic knowledge – it’s eye-opening to others’ potential and gaining different inspirations.
Ehryl: My experience at IFA Paris was also really eye-opening on a personal and educational level. With the MBA, I could be more creative and express myself more, and I realised I couldn’t do that before in my studies in Boston. This led me to the idea that I could create something, that there was an itch to create a project and make it well known.
It’s really great to have the smaller classes with intimate education. There are field trips as well which are very cool because it’s a real-life experience you get first-hand rather than via a computer. I utilised all the knowledge I gained from all the different classes and implemented it into OUIBRIDGE.
Ouibridge showroom with IFA Paris alumni Chandhani
In FOUR words, describe your IFA Paris experience:
Ehryl: Invigorating, creative, international, community
Eduardo: Challenging, educational, eye-opening, fun
What words of wisdom do you have for current and any future IFA Paris students?
Eduardo: Don’t be afraid to ask questions – contact the teachers and ask them for help if you need it! I would go to them regularly and the energy I got back from them was great. Also, don’t be afraid to connect with the teachers via LinkedIn professionally. You could potentially find some good connections.
Ehyrl: I have to agree with that as well. Also, keep an open mind and don’t be shy to express yourself as school. At first I was too shy to showcase my work because I didn’t think it was on the same level as others, but I realised that everyone is on the same level.
If you could choose three things to include for an IFA Paris “survival toolkit”, what would they be?
Ehryl: Bring an open mentality and be open to new things – open to France and China’s culture, because they are very different. There’s no time to be homesick.
Eduardo: Passport (I travelled so much between Paris, Shanghai, and Bangkok and it will enrich you more if you travel), good wi-fi (portable wi-fi sometimes!), Business of Fashion subscription
Top tips for: Paris
Ehryl: For me, the Marais and the 11th arrondissement around Parmentier and Oberkampf. There’s an Israeli restaurant called Miznon, and it’s delicious! Not super cheap, but affordable. There’s also MELT which has pulled pork that reminds me of home.
Eduardo: If you go to the Marais, there are plenty of places there. For me, the Lebanese restaurant Chez Marianne is super nice. There’s also the kebab places (L’as du Fallafel and its competitor Mi Va Mi across the street) which are good and cheap!
Place to hangout with friends:
Ehryl: I really like going to the Seine.
Eduardo: I like going around Pigalle and Montmartre. It’s always changing and new places to discover.
Ehryl: By bike.
Eduardo: I would say that also.
Ehyrl: Or a scooter! Anything that has wheels except for a car.
Eduardo: Park, book, sun and sunscreen. You have to take care of yourself.
Ehryl: I try to relax but doesn’t happen! I’ve been trying meditation and sleep hypnosis lately, which does help rejuvenate me.
Favourite word in local language:
Eduardo: Truc (thing) you use it for everything.
Ehryl: C’est mignon (it’s cute).
If you are an alumni and would like to be featured, or know someone who should be, don’t hesitate to let us know at [email protected]