NYC Baby!

I’ve lived in a number of cities in my life: London, Salt Lake City, Chicago, and DC.  No matter where I ended up I was always drawn back home to New York. I grew up in Upstate New York in the Albany area, but my love has always been The Adirondacks, only a short drive away from my parents home.  My heart settles into its place whenever I am surrounded by the peaks and valleys of The Adirondack scenery. So it seemed logical that the next city I dip my toes into should be New York City, close enough to home I can still make it to the Adirondacks but far enough that I felt like I was in a new world.  

Part of choosing Stern was choosing NYC.  Stern directly benefits from the city it is located in, from unparalleled faculty to access to industry leaders. This is especially evident in the Fashion & Luxury program. Where else could you study the business of fashion in the epicenter of where fashion is happening?  I can take a night class with a retail analytics industry leader spending his “spare” time teaching at Stern. I spend my Friday’s with my Stern Solutions fashion client in their downtown headquarters talking about strategy and watching people walk through their store. When this is done I can go shop in midtown at the same Ferragamo store location where I had an immersion session with the CEO and leadership team.  The possibilities are literally endless in NYC when it comes to Fashion & Luxury. Where else could you do site visits with any major store you can think of, usually all in one NYC neighborhood?

The benefits of NYC don’t end with Stern possibilities. It is also a huge part of the Stern culture.  Whenever we want to spend time together as a class we have an enormous number of restaurants, and bars to explore.  If we want to take it easy and enjoy the weather we can meet in Central Park to people watch. When it’s colder we can explore any of the 100 museums in NYC. If for some reason we want something outside of NYC, we are also close to 3 major airports and have taken trips to Spain, Croatia, Mexico, and soon Miami for a change of scenery during the program.  Best of all, our classmates are at most a 30-minute train ride away, while most are walking distance from school.  If we need each other at a moment’s notice, we can be there for each other ASAP.  I can speak from personal experience that I have texted our F&L cohort asking for help carrying something up my 5 story walk up and have immediately gotten responses.  When I need comfort I have friends who bring me a sweater and sit for brunch within a moments notice. Stern Fashion & Luxury provides us with a tight-knit community and big city benefits.

 

NYC may not have the peaks and valleys I am used to. They aren’t green and changing with the season.  But they are still stunning enough to take my breath away and settle my mind.

A Peek into my Pick 6

A regular question I get as a GA is what to put in a Pick 6 application.  Are certain photos too cheesy or regularly seen? Should it still be focused on my work experience or qualifications? What is Stern really looking for in this part of the application?

Don’t overthink it. Stern wants to know and understand you as a person! There is a reason our slogan is IQ + EQ.  Part of emotional intelligence is being empathetic and curious about the people around you. The Stern community is as diverse as it is cohesive, a big part of that is Stern selecting people with unique backgrounds who are as excited about everyone else’s unique background as they are in Stern.  The ‘Pick 6’ is your chance to show who you are outside of work and outside of a resume. We want our community to be built off of seeing the whole person, not just a resume. This is evident in Stern Speaks, an event where students talk about their life outside of Stern and work, and in Stern Chats, a podcast featuring Stern students, professors and administrators who share their life stories.  We want to see who you are in this part of your application and what you are going to bring to our community.

So when it comes to picking photos, choose what makes you unique and special.  This doesn’t have to fit any specific format. Some people used photos of food to describe their heritage, some focused on their favorite cities, and I focused on my family.  During this whirlwind application season use this time to stop and think about who you are, your values, and what makes you proud of your life. This reflection is going to serve you well in and out of business school.  I know regardless of any job, external accomplishment or failure, my family will always be my number one priority and a big part of what makes me, me. Here are two of my ‘Pick 6’ about my family, and I hope it can provide some inspiration to your own Pick 6.

“Almost every summer my mother, brother and I go on a cross-country trip to explore a new national park – being in nature and climbing mountains is one of my favorite memories and daydreams.”

I am lucky enough to be a part of a combined family, the oldest of four siblings – one biological and two step; getting all of us together for holidays is my favorite time of year and also the loudest.”

Know that Stern is so excited to find out about who you are!

Why the Fashion and Luxury MBA?

Getting an MBA has always been a goal of mine, but the Fashion and Luxury program here at Stern offers so much more than that.  My name is Ally Reiner and I am part of the programs inaugural class.  Prior to Stern, I worked in the fashion industry at Ralph Lauren in sales and merchandising.  In my day to day work, I was yearning to utilize my analytical side of the brain and also knew that growing my career required strong business skills.

Picking Stern was a no brainer for me.  The community is magnetic, you instantly feel welcome by just stepping on campus. There are so many ways to get involved and the strong Alumni community was just proof of how much this experience at Stern matters to the students.  Although I knew I wanted Stern, picking the program required a little more debating.  Ultimately, I chose to apply to the Fashion and Luxury program and it could not be a more perfect fit.

Focus

Compared to the two-year MBA program, this program is extremely targeted.  I am very focused in my career ambitions and know exactly what I want to do upon returning to the fashion industry.  Having this expedited program allows me to have that focus academically, taking classes that are specifically formulated to my interests.

Immersion

What also attracted me to the focused MBA was the experiences through the immersion programs.  In the two-year MBA, I would have one internship.  In the Fashion & Luxury MBA, I view it as having a multitude of internships where I am involved in different companies doing different functions; thus, enhancing a variety of my skills.

Connections

The connections within this program are one of the most impressive aspects.  In our mentorship program, I got matched with the CEO of Tommy Hilfiger.  The industry is excited about this new program and helped aid in shaping the curriculum to develop us as the new leaders of retail.

Resources

Additionally, being a part of such a small program allows for impeccable visibility.  The Stern faculty and professors are known for their guidance and help, but, being one of only 60 students here during the summer, we got to take advantage of these resources to the fullest.

Being Welcomed onto Campus

The one year program is unique to the two-year program, we start in the summer, May to be exact, and with a cohort of 30 instead of 400. The two Focused One Year Programs, Tech and Fashion & Luxury, have their own orientation program in the spring where we first meet before starting classes. We then have a whole summer to bond over classes, our immersions, and our dedication to our focused programs. While the campus feels small over the summer with just the 60 of us, it feels booming starting in the fall when the two-year program comes back to campus. Suddenly the 60 students in the Fashion & Luxury and Tech cohort are surrounded by another 800 students. This seems like it could be overwhelming, except Sternies are a welcoming group and not only were they excited to meet us, they were enthusiastic about mixing us into the larger Stern culture.

First, as we started our new semester I wanted to reach out to other MBAs in Stern who interned in the Fashion & Luxury industry over the summer. Everyone receives a list of students with their internship, past experience, and contact information as Stern encourages coffee chats across programs. In this spirit, I emailed six people assuming maybe 1-2 would respond and be able to set up a meeting. Within 12 hours, every single person I reached out to had responded and worked with our crazy schedules to set up a coffee chat or phone call. One student and I got bubble tea and walked around Washington Square Park (NYC location benefits!) while we talked about retail startups. Another gave me a call to go over his internship and interests in sustainability, which led to me applying to be on the conference committee of SISA. Everyone is excited to share their experiences and wants their peers to succeed!

Another way our Focused Program integrated into the larger Stern culture is through clubs and leadership positions. Since we are in the Fashion & Luxury program it makes sense that we would want to be a part of the Luxury and Retail Club, LARC, here at Stern. The leaders of LARC were incredibly excited to integrate us into the club. They set aside a number of Vice President, VP, positions specifically for focused one year students so we could be more involved. Being on the board of a club allows us to get to know our fellow 2 Year, Full-Time MBA students better and mingle with other students interested in the same industry as us.

The last, and maybe the most fun, way we mix in with the 2 Year MBA students is Beer Blast and other mixers. Every Thursday a club hosts a Beer or Bar Blast that takes place at or near Stern. Everyone from the 2 Year , Part Time, and Focused Programs come together to socialize and talk about their week. The first Beer Blast I went to I met a number of the first and second year  MBAs, one who even helped me with my Fantasy Football Lineup! It’s an incredibly fun way to meet new people and mix into the larger Stern culture. The Focused One Year MBAs may be a unique program, but there is nothing separating us from joining together with everyone else at Stern!

Summer Semester in the City

With the summer semester over, we are officially a third of the way through our course. Time has flown by and I’m amazed by how much we’ve accomplished over the past few months.

Starting school in the summer has been a novel experience. While the working world is in vacation mode, we’ve been working hard finishing all our core classes. As each subject only has six 3-hour long classes, we’ve been processing a lot of content in a short span of time. The core classes have been a mix of quantitative (e.g. Accounting and Finance) and qualitative (Leadership and Communications), giving us a strong foundation going into the fall. This jam-packed schedule of classes with plenty of readings, assignments and group projects has definitely made me sharpen my time management skills!

Despite the heavy workload, there has still been time to enjoy New York City in the summer. As an international student, I moved here with a whole bucket list of things I wanted to see and do, and I’m happy to be steadily going through it. Some of my highlights have been visiting the Heavenly Bodies exhibit at the Met, exploring the rooftop bar scene, and watching the 4th of July fireworks from East River park with a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline.

Being on campus during the summer has been very peaceful. With not many other students around, it’s been nice to have the whole building to ourselves and its always been easy to find a space to study. I expect that to change dramatically come fall when the returning and new full-time MBA students come back to school. I’m excited for us to meet the broader MBA community, return to a more ‘normal’ academic routine, and begin participating in club and social activities.

The Fashion & Luxury NYC Immersion

The Fashion and Luxury NYC immersion has definitely been one of the highlights of the summer. Every Friday over the semester, we’ve had the chance to strengthen our knowledge of the fashion and luxury industry in New York through a host of classes, speakers and field trips and leverage our location at the heart of this dynamic fashion capital. Here are some examples of experiences I found inspiring and informative:

Field Trips

From being treated to a private viewing of Sotheby’s Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art Collection to drinking Belvedere cocktails in the Magic Room at the LVMH headquarters, visiting companies off campus is always such an inspiring experience and something unique to studying in New York City. These visits are made possible due to the strong industry connections Stern has cultivated. This is also reflected in our Fashion and Luxury Council, which is comprised of C-suite executives and thought leaders from across the business.

My favorite visit was to the Carolina Herrera HQ. We were welcomed by Emilie Rubinfeld, President of Carolina Herrera, Ltd. , who gave us an overview of the company’s history and present-day status, after which we were guided through the company’s atelier. The whole experience was very on brand and every bit as exciting as you’d imagine it to be. Having such a prestigious brand to open their doors to us was truly special and such learning experiences was one of the main reasons that drew me to Stern.

Alumni Panels and Office Hours

Over the Summer we’ve also had multiple opportunities to hear directly from Stern alumni who have pursued careers in the fashion and luxury industry upon graduation and learned how having an MBA degree has benefited them. One of the most important skills they said they learned was gaining a holistic view of an organization, being able to speak intelligently to a wide variety of teams and understanding the different KPIs that each team focuses on.

Aside from panel discussions, the Office of Career Development has also hosted alumni ‘office hours’, which has given us the chance to speak to alumni in smaller group settings, enabling us to get to know them on a more personal basis. All the alumni I have spoken to have been extremely honest and helpful, and it was great hearing from people who have been in our shoes.

Why I Chose Stern

Last summer, I was sitting in the same chair as you — wrapping up my GMAT and starting to decide which business schools I should apply to. Previously working at Apple in eCommerce strategy and planning, I wanted to go back to business school to strengthen my foundation of business knowledge and continue my professional journey in an industry I was more passionate about — fashion and luxury. When deciding which business schools would make my list, I primarily looked at three factors: schools that had a focus in fashion or luxury, experiential learning opportunities that would expose me to different areas of the retail industry, and lastly, a strong, cultural fit. While many schools catered to one or two of my preferences, NYU Stern’s Fashion and Luxury MBA Program was the only program that fit all my criteria.

The Fashion and Luxury MBA Program was perfectly designed to broaden my exposure of the retail industry, challenge conventional thinking, and build an invaluable network of Sternies who are retail-minded and intensely collaborative. The retail-focused and core curriculum would allow me to build upon my existing knowledge of digital retail from Apple. Stern Solutions would provide me with invaluable opportunities to network with professionals in the industry, and put my in-class learnings to action by partnering with global retailers. Lastly, the school placed a high emphasis on a IQ + EQ and stressed the importance of collaboration both inside and outside the classroom.

Fast forward to today, I can say that Stern has surpassed all my expectations. Classes such as Leadership have taught me frameworks to be an effective leader in the retail industry. Through Stern Solutions, I have had the ability to engage with industry leaders in roundtable discussions and networking sessions. And lastly, the Stern community – classmates, alumni and professors – have been more supportive than I ever imagined.

Even though I am a couple months into the school year, I know that Stern was the right decision for me. When choosing which business schools you want to apply to, if the reasons outlined above appeal to you, definitely make sure to add Stern to your list – you won’t regret it!

INTENDING

Given the structure and intensity of the one year MBA, I realized very early on that intentionality is key to maximize my experience and fully take advantage of everything Stern has to offer. Being intentional helps to set goals, from which I can work backwards to develop an actionable plan to success. Most importantly, this attitude will hopefully serves as a GPS, navigating me through my career transition and personal development while at Stern.

Intentional about goal-setting
Coming into Stern, I was absolutely sure about one thing – absorbing as much information as I can to enable my career switch from finance to brand management. With that, I looked into resources at Stern that would widen my network and introduce me to new opportunities. For example, I’m excited for Stern Luxury & Retail Club’s various events to start in the Fall semester, especially the Annual Stern Luxury & Retail Conference. I also look forward to building a relationship with my mentor Elana Drell-Szyfer. Professor Carr had set up the mentoring program where every student in the Stern Fashion & Luxury (F&L) MBA program is paired up to a mentor from the Stern Fashion and Luxury MBA Council. Beyond these, I made a list of activities and clubs that would help in my career transition. Although the list is constantly adjusted as I receive more information and develop more interests, having a concrete goal to strive towards set my sail straight in these first couple of weeks at Stern

Intentional about choosing classes
Choosing classes for the Fall semester is one of the most stressful things I have done thus far. Knowing that I only have one year and a finite number of credits for electives, I was initially overwhelmed by all the options. And even more so after talking to fellow students and alumni on which classes they found most intriguing. After dreading and avoiding the task for a week, I turned to my trusty old friend Excel and made a matrix. I went through the course catalogue, researched different professors and read samples syllabi. Eventually, I came up with a short list of classes that were interesting and listed (even color coded) them by professors, reviews/ratings and which specializations the classes fulfilled. This list saved me from multiple potential nervous breakdowns! Ideally, I’d like to graduate from the F&L program with specializations in Luxury Marketing, Strategy and Digital Marketing (very aspirational, I know). Because I am looking to expand knowledge in specific functional areas, being intentional with class selection was extremely important for me. With this list, I was able to assess how classes stacked up against each other and which ones maximized exposure to brand management and marketing skills.

Snapshot from my handy class selection list

Intentional about finding your tribe
The world isn’t just rainbows and butterflies and things get rough more frequently than we’d like. And so it takes a village to succeed. I’m so glad to share my MBA journey with these classmates and look forward to getting to know each other better in the course of next year. It’s crazy to think that we will be spending almost (if not) every day together for the next year. Cheers to friendships, shared experiences and growth!

BECOMING


Michelle Obama recently announced that her autobiography, Becoming, will be released in November 2018. I love the book’s title – there’s an air of sincerity in expressing one’s transformative progress. To quote a friend, “becoming” is moving towards the fullness of one’s existence, and I couldn’t agree more. As we truck through the various stages of our lives, we’re constantly becoming something else, something new, and something different. I, too, am excited for a new chapter in my life and what I will become.

Becoming Unemployed
Leaving Coty, my former employer, was harder than I thought. I had found a group of people who supported my development and decision to go back to school even if it was against their own interest. Someone once told me that early 20’s is for launching our careers. As we accumulate experiences and establish our network through 20’s and 30’s, there will be a tipping point where our careers will suddenly take off. For me, taking the next year to explore new opportunities and acquire a wider set of skills and knowledge will enable my transition from finance to brand management. It is a step in the right direction as I integrate my passion for female empowerment with my professional aspirations by using the beauty industry as a platform to reach women of all backgrounds.  

Becoming a Sternie
It’s been almost two months since all 27 of us gathered for the first time at orientation as the inaugural class of Stern Fashion & Luxury MBA program. We have received an incredible amount of support from faculty and were welcomed to the overall Stern community. One month in, classes are well underway. My favorites so far are Leadership taught by Professor Pettit and Fashion & Luxury NYC Immersion. The classes are extremely engaging and I’m constantly challenged to think beyond my experiences and encouraged to develop a holistic and equitable view. The lectures are a collection of concepts and perspectives that I may be vaguely aware of but couldn’t have articulated myself. As I’m having these “aha moments” every so often in class, I realize that a big part of my education at Stern is re-learning how to think so that I’m able to conceptualize things around us and apply that in both my personal and professional life.

Meeting like-minded people who share similar career aspirations and interests is another reason why I chose to pursue my MBA, especially since Stern offers a focused Fashion & Luxury MBA program. Almost all of us come from retail or fashion/beauty, albeit in different functional areas. Because of that, classroom discussions are usually detailed and in-depth as students with merchandising, marketing, operations, and finance backgrounds exchange and share knowledge.

Tech MBA students also started the sametime as us and it’s been really fun getting to know 33 other students who collectively as a group couldn’t be more different than us. As we get to know each other and build deeper relationships, we realize that we share more things in common than we thought. I’m looking forward to many more afternoons in Central Park or hangrily wandering around University Place while looking for a suitable lunch spot for a group of 10.

Friday afternoon happy hours with Tech MBA students

Becoming a better version of me
I came to Stern with a goal of transitioning my career from finance to brand management. By the time I left Coty, I realized that those with the most influence are usually people who can tell a good story and sell that. The story that I want to tell is still developing. But I am excited for what’s to come, excited to see how Stern will play apart in my transformative progress of becoming a better version of me.  

The Power of Iconic Products

One of the main aspects that attracted me to Stern’s Fashion and Luxury MBA was the emphasis placed on experiential learning. As part of our Summer NYC Immersion series, we’ve had opportunities to hear directly from industry experts on their career journeys and real-world business insights.

Last week we had the pleasure of meeting Donald Kohler, CEO Americas & Chief Global Retail Officer at Salvatore Ferragamo, and Nicolas Topiol, CEO of Christian Lacroix. Something I learned from both these sessions was the importance for luxury fashion brands to have icons and emblems that consumers can immediately associate with their brand.

For Ferragamo, one of their most iconic products is the Vara shoe, which was originally designed by Salvatore Ferragamo’s daughter Fiamma back in 1978.  To this day, it’s a classic style and has been worn by modern day fashion influencers like Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung. The shoe’s grosgrain bow is so iconic that is has also been applied to other product categories, like their Signora perfume.

Mr. Kohler spoke about how constant reinvention of iconic styles like the Vara shoe will always be an integral part of the Ferragamo assortment, however there is also a rich brand archive that designers can dip into and create new styles from. It’s important for luxury brands to strike a balance between heritage and relevance – i.e. using emblems and motifs from a brand’s history in a modern way. An example of this would be Gucci’s use of bees and other nature symbols, which were always part of the house codes but have been reinvented by Alessandro Michele in a very cool and relevant way.

Icons have a very different story in the case of Christian Lacroix. While Mr Lacroix himself became globally renowned as a master couturier, his brand did not have a logo, specific stylized attributes (e.g. Chanel’s pearls or camellia) or distinctive pattern (e.g. Gucci’s monochrome print). Mr Topial acknowledged that this was necessary for a luxury brand, especially when it comes to expanding into new product categories (e.g. homeware, stationary, etc). Hence the brand developed its butterfly logo and its signature “Paseo” motif.

In an age where customers are exposed to multiple brands on multiple touch points, having iconic logos, emblems and products are important in making a brand stand out and remain front of mind.