Hidden among the designers, bloggers and chiselled cheekbones at this week’s London Fashion Week shows were some unlikely helpers: four students from London Business School, the task at hand a far cry from their usual schedule of global leadership and management accounting classes.
Carefully selected from a pool of MBA and masters students, all four were expected to practice their newfound business skills behind the scenes of Emilia Wickstead’s autumn winter 2015 presentation.
The stint with the esteemed designer, most famous for her elegant gowns worn by the Duchess of Cambridge, was the culmination of a five-month placement that ends in March. During the five months, each intern focused on one area of the brand’s operation; processes, production and wholesale or retail operations and website development.
Amanda Dargan was the wholesale and production intern, and relished the opportunity to get involved with the creative side of a luxury business. It was something she had little experience of during her previous private equity role at ARC Financial Corporation in Calgary, Canada.
“It was fantastic to be able to get my hands dirty in different segments of the business. I was working right next to Emilia’s office in the studio so it was great to be able to see the creative side as well as working on the analytics and production side,” she says.
Digital strategy intern Meghana Gandhi was relatively well-versed in the field of fashion before beginning her internship. “I worked with the New York City Economic Development Corporation... We developed business training for young designers and recruitment to bring in new management teams,” she says.
But despite this experience, the liberal arts graduate felt that an MBA at LBS was “critical”, in order for her to complete her skill set. “I had a holistic understanding of the industry I wanted to be in, but I didn’t have the tools, things like accounting and finance skills,” she says.
The interns are not alone in their praises of the partnership. Fashion designer Emilia Wickstead hails the “tremendous support” that the “professional and enthusiastic” interns have provided in various divisions of her company.
While Fiona Stubbs, senior sector manager for retail and career services at LBS, views the continued partnership as an effective way of “commercialising creativity” — a goal shared by both luxury businesses and the British Fashion Council.
“[The internship] is one example of the exciting marriage between students with an increased appetite for careers in luxury and designers who need business strategy to expand,” she says.
This is not the first time LBS has provided its students with opportunities to engage with the luxury and fashion industries. The Walpole alliance of more than 170 UK luxury brands announced plans to run a second MBA programme in luxury management with LBS this year, a programme which involves mentoring as well as a series of workshops.
“Not only does [LBS] offer a rigorous curriculum, but their Walpole programme and luxury goods club mean there are loads of opportunities to get a better understanding of the luxury and fashion industries while studying,” says Ms Ghandhi.