People with ambitions to enter the fashion industry have greater options to study a specialised MBA course in the top business schools globally. However, the fashion industry is reducing the total number of visits to campus’s year on year for graduate prospects, which poses the question, ‘Is it necessary to study an MBA in the Fashion Industry?’.
A US based employment service company that is recognized globally for in-depth research of graduate starting salaries, Transparent Career, confirmed it is close to impossible for MBA students to secure the job in fashion industry. Among the 352 Stern MBA students who graduated last year, 3 % currently work in retail, luxury or fashion sector; however from the graduates’ point of view, the course indeed provides different opportunity for those who want a career change.
The fashion industry has another words to say. According to Andrew Tudor, sales planning manager in French fashion house Chloe, it is good to see if the MBA graduates could provide any potential fashion skill from the course, if not, it is ok to just focus on consultancy career.
The luxury and fashion MBA is likely to be a niche choice, Mr Carr concedes. “We are looking to start with 20 students,” he says.
“If in a few years I can bring in 60 who are passionate about the fashion industry and get them into this business that would be an absolute qualified success.”
India-born HEC alumna Bhavna Suresh understands the risks of trying to break into the fashion industry. The 29-year-old mechanical engineering graduate applied to the Paris school’s MBA course in order to switch careers. Fashion seemed a good market and HEC had industry connections.
Six months into the two-year course, Ms Suresh co-founded online clothing rental service StyleBank, with support from tutors and classmates. But the venture lasted less than two years before it folded. Ms Suresh went on to make use of her experience as a tech entrepreneur rather than pursue another fashion career. She was hired by Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based start-up group. Her HEC tutors warned about the “shortcomings” of the fashion sector, such as the difficulty in matching demand and supply for garments and the risk of dead inventory, Ms Suresh says.
Alumni networks and partnerships are often the best ways to help graduates move into the fashion industry. Katherine Wadsworth arrived on the MBA course at LBS having worked as a consultant and investment manager. She left as a senior manager at Farfetch, the London-based online luxury retailer. LBS opened doors to internships with the fashion label Emilia Wickstead and the retailer Harvey Nichols.
“It gave me a language with which to converse across business lines [at Farfetch],” she says. “People management is one of the skills learnt on the MBA that I use daily.”
Classmates were interested in moving into fashion, but they were a “small subset” of the group, according to Ms Wadsworth.
Of those, barely three in 10 are now working in fashion. But some do make it. Andrew Tudor, a sales planning manager at French fashion house Chloé, was an accountant at KPMG Canada when he was accepted on to the MBA programme at HEC Paris. He admits that he knew his ambition might not work out so he took a generalist course. “It was a case of let’s see what you can do with the MBA. And if doesn’t work out maybe look at consultancy,” he says.