Professor Thomaï Serdari is an international luxury authority with a unique background encompassing design, humanities, and business. She specializes in luxury marketing and branding, helping clients launch and manage luxury brands with a focus on creative innovation. As the Academic Director of the Fashion & Luxury MBA at New York University, she draws on her interdisciplinary training to foster the next generation of industry leaders. Prof. Serdari’s expertise is reflected in her contributions to various publications like Luxury Daily and VOGUE Business. She is the editor of the academic journal Luxury: History, Culture, Consumption and the host of the POPULUXE podcast, exploring luxury through unique objects and stories of desire. Her book, “Rethinking Luxury Fashion: The Role of Cultural Intelligence in Creative Strategy,” further delves into her method.
Popular belief holds that an academic spends her summer away from classrooms, books, and students. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially for those of us teaching in NYU’s Stern School of Business Fashion & Luxury MBA, a program that starts in mid-May. Ours is the first and only North American MBA focused on fashion & luxury, built on a unique curriculum designed to respond to changes in the marketplace.
It has been five years since we launched this MBA. Having been involved with the program since its inception and leading its academic content since 2019, I gladly paused for the milestone celebration. I had the opportunity to take short jaunts in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states over the summer and took the time to reflect on what makes this program special. Absorbing the architecture of the region crystallized for me an important realization.
There is a special type of ingenuity that is seen in the way early American homes were built. I am not referring to their foundations. What defines the integrity of these houses, what has helped them survive for almost four centuries is their fireplaces. They usually form a very strong core with hearths on three sides. The wooden house is then built around these hearths and the rooms are designed in such angles so that each fireplace is used to its maximum utility warming up the rooms around it but also those in subsequent expansions either up or out.
Remarkably, this is precisely the structure that has been put in place for each one of the candidates that chooses this program for career advancement. The foundations are there, of course. After all, this is a Master’s in Business Administration degree taught in the same classrooms, by the same professors, with the identical material used to teach the core curriculum in NYU Stern’s full-time and Langone MBA programs. The foundations are those of a top ranking, global research institution in business. Even though fully attached to the MBA core curriculum, the F&L subject areas are enhanced with material that addresses specific challenges in the fashion, beauty, retail, and luxury sectors and helps students apply the frameworks they are learning to real market situations. Electives from Stern’s impressive roster of world-class innovative courses that help the business world embrace the future round up a candidate’s education.
The uniqueness of the program stems from its design as a three-sided hearth. Each side represents a different aspect of this structure: A. Our partners; B. A Fashion & Luxury Council; and C. A network of industry professionals from our own community.
A. Our partners (companies like PVH, LVMH, Kering, Richemont, Estée Lauder Companies, High Snobiety, Tapestry, L’Oréal etc.) offer instructional support through live cases, on-campus visits to meet our students at conferences, coffee chats, and formal recruiting events (when these occur) and hosting at their headquarters and boutiques for us to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day challenges and breakthroughs, either in New York City or abroad.
B. The Fashion & Luxury Council consists of current and former executives with industry experience and a genuine interest in mentoring our students. With a one-on-one match based on common backgrounds and career goals, each one of the F&L Council members plays a pivotal role in helping our MBA candidates solidify their career direction, gain clarity over their recruiting approach, and grow the confidence needed to succeed. While traditionally fashion and luxury industries have groomed talent internally, today’s intense competition has contributed to a change of the guards and a new mindset that values and welcomes MBA holders as new recruits, the next generation of industry leaders.
C. Finally, in the last 12 years I have been teaching at NYU Stern, I have taught, mentored, and got to know many talented persons who are now happily employed in the industry and always happy to connect with the new Sternies, who are equally passionate about fashion, beauty, retail, and luxury. Our community of professionals is going strong, without even counting the rest of Stern’s global network.
If you intend to pursue NYU Stern’s Fashion & Luxury MBA, you should keep the visual of the three-sided hearth in mind while you envision a school year filled with unparalleled opportunities to learn about the industry and your role in it. The city’s fashion district, its adjacent industries of fashion shows and media, and the new economy of the city as a tech hub coalesce as the full expression of what drives the creative economies, right here, all around Gould Plaza. It all happens in New York City, the creative capital of North America, and a place we affectionately refer to as the “NYU campus.”
We will teach you the foundations. We will give you access to a three-sided hearth to ignite your journey. We will help you imagine the unique essence of your own blueprint in the now and into the future. What will your signature mark be as an industry professional?