Business Seminar: What you didn’t know
Your cheat sheet to business knowledge – and know-how.
The Festival’s Ideas program hit its pinnacle yesterday, with the Business Seminar delivering a day of wisdom with a global outlook. The day’s speakers hailed from all parts of the world, with business reach in countless countries across stretching continents.
While their names were well recognised, their individual stories of success were yet to be surfaced. Find out how these industry frontrunners established their brands on an international scale.
Guillaume de Seynes, Executive Vice President, Hermès International
“It was very important to experience the real world and try to be successful without being the son, or the grandson, of whoever.”
Guillaume de Seynes originally worked in the wine industry (champagne, no less), where he “learnt the negative impact of short term vision.” But with Hermès’ history spanning 181 years, it was important to switch mindset before de Seynes secured his role in the company. “If you don’t respect what the brand means, you’re not doing your job,” he said.
“My earliest memory [of Hermès] is of hard work.”
Guillaume de Seynes, a sixth generation Hermès entrepreneur, barely survived three days in the workshop. As with any top-level executive, de Seynes spent time with one of the top craftsman to create a leather good. While he couldn’t put the thread through the needle, he weaved a respect for the craft and the skill of the Hermès family.
“Hermès is not a house of marketing. It’s a house of pure creation.”
Hermès was one of the first brands to establish an e-commerce site back in 2001. Fast forward a decade, and de Seynes is still set on mimicking that same level of relevance. In today’s climate, with new customers and markets, the need for change is crucial. “In terms of communication in general, we try to be as creative and exciting as we are with our products. We want to do things differently,” de Seynes said.
“Everything changes, nothing changes.”
De Seynes shares the “same values from previous generations,” but has seen the luxury brand through steady growth. In 2017, Hermès saw 5.5 billions euros worth of sales, with 13,000 staff employed across the brand. Two hundred and fifty to 300 jobs are created in the leather department each year, with 85 percent of goods still produced in France.
Wen Zhou, CEO and Co-Founder of 3.1 Philip Lim
“I got my first pair of shoes when I was nine.”
Wen Zhou was born in Ningbo, China– a then poor area, with her village totalling just 50 people. Her family eventually immigrated to New York, where she began working in a sweatshop at just 13. After a stint at McDonalds, Zhou’s next role saw her cutting fabric swatches for designers.
“Philip was one of my first clients.”
Zhou established her own fabric company at age 21. Philip Lim, Zhou’s now co-founder and label designer, was a loyal client of the company. It was a while before the two met and forged their own label, but before long Lim had moved from his home in LA to Zhou’s New York apartment.
“We had both just had our 31st birthdays.”
Both Zhou and Lim had celebrated their 31st birthdays in the same year they were brainstorming ideas for their brand name. The number ‘31’ was too daunting, so they placed a quaint dot in the middle followed by Lim’s full name– and so 3.1 Philip Lim was born.
“My mum wakes up at 6am. She makes my lunch, and brings it to me.”
The brand began with five members in its first season, mostly comprising of Zhou’s family. With the brand now shipping to 55 countries with over 400 stockists, the need for internal growth was paramount. “I had to fire my mum. That was the most difficult thing to do,” Zhou said, “but we kept the company growing with a family dynamic feeling.” The brand is proud to keep 95 percent of production in China, providing jobs and incomes for local workers, and honouring Zhou’s mother’s previous work as a home sewer.
Jarrad Serafine-Clark, Partner/Director Creative Services KCD INC
“I love this job as much as I love the first day I was a volunteer dressing backstage.”
Before executing “impossible dreams” for John Galliano at Maison Margiela, Jarrad Serafine-Clark put in the hard work locally behind the scenes. But it wasn’t long before Serafine-Clarke gave up taping shoes, to make global steps in the industry.
“We were an oxymoron. We were not taken seriously. People were not proud to wear Australian fashion.”
Before Australia established its own fashion weeks, events and large-scale programs, it was a passing blip on the radar of international fashion. At 23, Serafine-Clarke established Australia’s very first fashion week. “Australia has now seen six fashion platforms in one generation,” Serafine-Clarke said.
“Today, there’s so much data and information. It’s about the designer and the story they want to tell.”
Serafine-Clarke has hand painted show sets from a shade of pale blue, to an ever slightly paler blue just hours before a runway was set to begin. It’s this attention to detail, and high level of respect for the designer, that creates a fashion event representative of a designer’s entire vision. He also pressed the importance of storytelling in a world of number crunching and data collection, to promote growth within a brand while maintaining consumer connection. “Fashion is about change, it’s about adaption to change. It’s about your ability to embrace technology, and bring it into your brand,” he said.
“The people I get to meet with every single day are visionaries and always challenge the status quo.”
From Galliano to Hilfiger, Hong Kong to New York, Serafine-Clarke has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to manifest the vision of the world’s top fashion leaders. But it’s the up-and-comers he finds most interest in. As part of this year’s Festival, Serafine-Clarke collaborated with Australia’s emerging designers to bring the National Graduate Showcase to life. “Working with young designers has always been a fascination, because the young mind is not polluted,” Serafine-Clarke said.
Fanny Moizant, Co-Founder, APAC VC, Director of Communications of Vestiaire Collective
“One day I was reading French Elle and I was struck by something I read…”
Fanny Moizant hailed from a family of entrepreneurs and had completed a business degree, but was unwavering in her pursuit of a job the fashion world. Reading Elle magazine on day, she discovered bloggers who were advertising their pre-loved goods, to be bought and sold by readers of the magazine. As Moizant had two young children at the time, physically visiting the buy-and-sell market was impossible. It was that moment Moizant embraced technology, and created a secondhand marketplace in a digital sphere.
“We were in this reselling industry, we wanted to disrupt it.”
Before Vestiaire Collective was born, the market for secondhand luxury goods provided no protection for the seller, or the buyer. From the outset, the company made a commitment with the luxury fashion houses to implement a rigorous testing process to prove authenticity of the goods coming through the site. Each product that is sold through the website is examined before reaching its new home. “We have the luxury to refuse 30 percent of what comes through everyday,” Moizant said.
“Think global from day one. We’ve been too French.”
Vestiaire Collective began in France, with roots strong in the European market. After a slower than expected start to the company’s new London audience, Moizant packed a suitcase and relocated to the UK. The company is now expanding to the Asia Pacific region, with a new office opening in Hong Kong. Understanding the climate in each market is core to expanding a brand that reflects the habits of its customers.
“Fashion can be a smart and sustainable investment.”
Sustainability is at the core of Vestiaire Collective. By promoting pre-owned luxury goods the company, in turn, refuses the fast fashion trend. Moizant promotes investing in a quality pieces. Unlike previous sentiments, you can still buy at the rate of the current consumer, while rethinking the final resting place of your product. “Buy with the resale value in mind,” Moizant said.
Presented by AMP Capital Shopping Centres and Visit Victoria, Supported by Wish Magazine.
Written by Anastasia McInerney