From Paris to Shanghai, the students of IFA Paris often see Patrick Kouzmine-Karavaieff, their president, walking around the school corridors. But do they really know him?
The almost crystal-clear echoes in his voice show just how his emotions take over when he talks about the creation, nearly twenty years ago, and the subsequent growth over time of his school: IFA Paris (International Fashion Academy), created with co-founder Olivia Chai. It has become one of the most cutting edge fashion schools of the Parisian scene, and its branch in Shanghai is currently the best known fashion school in China.
Patrick Kouzmine-Karavaieff talks about the "relentless desire to succeed" that he has felt since the 1990s in Paris, when he realized that yes, it was indeed possible to create a new genre of fashion design school.
IFA Paris was built with so much patience and passion that it has been able to branch out to the rest of the world so soon, especially to China. It couldn't have been any easier to be honest. But Patrick Kouzmine-Karavaieff, a trained lawyer and former human resources manager for several large international groups has always been, in his own words, "methodical, and organized". "And that fit in perfectly with what was to follow", he adds. “For as well as the encounter with Olivia Chai, which brought about collaboration, and ideas and skills that complemented one another, it seems that I already had the Asia bug inside me. I lived in Singapore between 1994 and 1996, working for French group Sanofi. But I also had the bug for fashion, as I grew up with it. My father was the General Manager for Nina Ricci for many years. As a child I remember this fashion house very well, with the 'Haute Couture' atmosphere and the prestigious fashion shows. These things certainly leave their mark on you! "
As the Paris school was taking off, the idea of setting up a school in Shanghai came very quickly. The two founders made their decision almost instantly: "We chose Shanghai for many reasons. The dynamism of this city had already really impressed us. Large cities are often bogged down with too much administration. Shanghai had already bounced back economically. It's a city steeped in history and culture, focused on the arts and creativity. We could really feel its potential”.
Patrick Kouzmine-Karavaieff and Olivia Chai started making more and more round trips from Paris to Shanghai, as well as important connections. They were looking for a partner motivated by their project. The vital moment came in 2001. "We had very good contact with the representatives of the Shanghai University of Engineering Sciences (SUES), especially with Mrs. Wang Hong, the dean of the university. It turned out to be a decisive encounter as SUES became our partner and has been ever since. Mrs Wang Hong is a lady of great value. She has been an ardent defender of the interests of SUES of course, but she has always been very loyal to us. And this was how our school opened in Shanghai in September 2002, with the aim of growing quickly. "
As is often the case in China, everything went very quickly. Patrick Kouzmine-Karavaieff looks back: "Our progress has been solid and swift. In just a few years, the number of students has reached the 800 mark. This was a crucial moment, as a few weeks after that, we took over a fashion school in France, the 'Institut Paris Modéliste'".
Meanwhile, Patrick Kouzmine-Karavaieff had the honor of receiving the Magnolia prize which is awarded by the municipality of Shanghai to fifty foreigners each year for their contributions to the development of the city!
In any case, the dream at the beginning of opening a different type of fashion school, focusing on a contemporary vision of fashion design, and based on the fundamentals of the profession and the rich heritage of French fashion, has become a reality. ”Today, IFA Paris is a fashion design school capable of competing with the ten best fashion schools in the world”, says Patrick Kouzmine-Karavaieff. “The time has now come for us to become better known in Europe”. A new milestone was reached in 2013 when IFA Paris moved to the Quai de la Marne, a much larger site in an up-and-coming district, considered by Parisians to be particularly "trendy" - the start of yet another new adventure! ./. Michel Temman
Patrick Kouzmine-Karavaieff: 7 key dates
1946: born and raised in Paris, attended the école primaire du parc des Princes, the lycée Claude Bernard and then the lycée Pasteur
1965-1970: Law degree (Master)
1969-1988: HRD of various International groups
1988-1997: HRD of the heath department of SANOFI in Paris and Singapore
1997: Creation of the "International Fashion Academy" (IFA Paris)
2002: Inauguration of IFA Paris in Shanghai in partnership with SUES
2008: The number of students at the IFA Paris Shanghai campus reaches 800
2013: IFA Paris relocates to its Quai de la Marne site in Paris