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Olin B-School Students Tour Fashion Capitals to Study Luxury Goods Market

Coco Chanel never took a marketing class, but she’s helping teach one this semester at Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis.

Students in the new course, “Luxury Apparel-Marketing B53” are examining case studies of brands that make up the $237 billion industry that has its roots in Chanel’s famous perfume and little black dress.

Researching the strategies, financials and business models of Europe’s prominent luxe apparel and accessory marketers is in preparation for a two-week tour of fashion’s Meccas — Milan, Rome, Paris and London — that will include meetings with executives from Armani and Prada to Hermes and Burberry.

During their stop in Paris, the 15 undergraduate students and their professor, Martin K. Sneider, will meet with Chanel’s president of fashion activities, Bruno Pavlovsky, and tour Coco Chanel’s private apartment above her legendary boutique at 31, Rue Cambon.

Burt Tanksy, former CEO and chair of Neiman Marcus Group, is serving as course adviser and providing valuable introductions to fashion houses from Italy to England for the class tour.

In a lecture to the class in April, Tansky talked about nurturing aspirational customers and what it takes to grow the luxury goods business. He also discussed the pressure designers face is coming up with quality products season after season.

During their European tour, May 15-28, teams of students will “adopt” a luxury brand to understand its positioning, marketing strategy and financial metrics. Teams will brief fellow students before visits to each fashion house and conduct interviews with brand executives.

Students also will be responsible for observing, evaluating and analyzing retail stores in each of the major cities visited.

The final project for the course will require an in-depth exploration of a critical issue or challenge facing the luxury goods industry and its key players. All projects will involve a situation analysis, financial modeling and outlook for the future resolution of the issue or challenge.

While in Europe, the class will travel to Rome, Solomeo, Milan, Paris and London to visit the fashion houses of Brunello Cucinelli, Armani, Zegna, Gucci, Loro Piana, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes and Burberry.

Editor’s note: Sneider and the students are available for interviews while in Europe. Reporters can request to accompany the group on visits to the fashion houses, pending approval of the host company.

To arrange interviews, or for a full trip itinerary, contact Neil Schoenherr at (314) 935-5235 or

Neil Schoenherr | Newswise Science News
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