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Laetitia Girard, CEO of Vendôm, is a seasoned luxury industry professional. We had the opportunity to interview her and learn more about her path and her views about the luxury sector.
Ecole Ferrières (EF): What is the professional achievement you are most proud of?
Laetitia Girard (LG): I believe that my greatest satisfaction is to have achieved actions that are in line with who I am and my values, to have been able to balance career, motherhood and womanhood. I experienced failures and successes, as is the case with anyone, but I always remained faithful to my dreams and commitments.
My professional integrity led to a few setbacks, but that was instructive, and I think they made me more focused. Collaborating with Vendôm on a demanding project such EXCELLENCE is very rewarding, as the project involves a lot of human values in which I firmly believe in.
EF: Who was your role model before you chose your path?
LG: I am surrounded with many inspiring people. My great-grandmother was a very talented, knowledgeable and business-oriented woman. She ran a movie theatre and was very successful in her business. She was energetic, which brought joy for all the family, on a daily basis. I also admire Richard Branson, whom I had the chance to meet. I respect people who are true to themselves and at the same time respect others. I wish we all acted the same. We simply need to change our mindset and our actions and care and support each other’s decisions.
EF: After the COVID crisis, people developed new behaviors. Do you think people will turn to necessity goods? Where will the luxury market stand in the future?
LG: I don’t think these two offers contradict each other. Of course, people are looking for security, better relationships with their loved ones, and a better connection to their environment. At the same time, we all need to fantasize; to escape this distressing reality and luxury tends to bring the aesthetics and the sense of uniqueness for those who can afford it. Others may also access it mainly through social networks.
Luxury should not necessarily be considered as something trivial. We should not forget that many major luxury brands and groups are committed to conducting research to launch the sustainable practices for the future. The luxury sector has historically acted as a window for propelling new trends, since it is generally responsive to societal developments and often even anticipates them.
EF: The human component is instrumental in the luxury sales experience. How did the crisis affect the consumers? How did you sustain this human element while communicating remotely?
LG: Surprisingly, online interaction seems to reinforce bonds between co-workers. During this pandemic, we had to overcome the fact that physical contact was impossible. While we thought that digital technology was refraining us from communicating, it has actually allowed us to maintain relationships and collaborations.
For luxury consumers, the online experience was already something familiar before the crisis. Many companies took this opportunity to develop their online sales and enhance their image and maintain their customer base; creating new online channels. When analysing the figures of groups such as LVMH or Kering, we realize that luxury is one of the least affected industries by the crisis, for it had already adapted to the digital shift and explored this whole new sector.
EF: During lockdowns, luxury brands succeeded in coping thanks to their online strategy. How can the hotel sector secure guests’ loyalty through remote marketing?
LG: Let’s take Ultima Collection for instance which had an excellent winter season in the Swiss Alps. In my sense, this proves that the hospitality industry is able to perform well and be creative. We have seen many prominent Chefs succeed in finding alternatives and be able to engage with their customers, through take-away sales. Many of them also developed charity kitchens dedicated to front liners and people in need.
The solidarity and social awareness have long been one of the pillars of the gastronomy industry. Massimo Bottura’s, for instance, “Food for Soul”, is a successful model.
Finally, small hotels with a limited number of rooms will certainly be the first to benefit from this crisis, due to their flexibility and their readiness to provide a high-level of safety to guests looking for less interaction with others.
EF: What is your take on the current sustainable practices in the luxury industry? Are they enough or could we do more to lessen the environmental impact?
LG: Luxury does not only have the resources to promote sustainable concepts for the future – particularly through the development of R&D departments within their firms – but is also mindful of its customers’ expectations (which depends, of course on their lifestyle) and can respond through reducing the environmental impact of their brand. Let’s not forget that luxury is all about human connection. It has an aura and a language that the mass consumer industries don’t have, which, by the way, learned a lot from luxury brands.
EF: How do you describe luxury? What are the values you promote?
LG: Luxury is a combination of emotion, scarcity, uniqueness, elegance, craftsmanship and knowledge – it is timeless. My values are ones that are common to a lot of people: integrity, good performance, attentiveness and awareness, thriving for excellence, and working with passionate people to drive excellence. We, as luxury professionals, trigger emotions and that never ceases to amaze me 😉.
EF: We have a new MSc major “Luxury branding and e-business”. Any word of advice to the students enrolled in this program, or to those starting their journey in the luxury sales industry?
LG: Always be flexible and eager to progress. Constantly be keen to explore and improve, as the luxury industry is constantly evolving and is flexible. Remain focused on this versatility. Learn to have a diversified cultural background, given that most prominent brands have a heritage, an identity and a story behind their brand.
Finally, everyone must treat others like they wish to be treated. Even if online communication seems to be the way to go in the future, the fundamental values of luxury rely on the human component, be it social, cultural, personal, or professional…
You can find out more on The Vendom Company by clicking here.