When nine members of the 2019-2020 cohort from Poole College of Management’s Global Luxury and Management (GLAM) Program accepted US-based internships this year at Louis Vuitton, it was unprecedented. Never before had nine interns been placed at one company, let alone iconic Louis Vuitton.
The students also kicked off their internship in unprecedented times. The spread of COVID-19 led to temporary store closures in some locations, and limited hours and customer access to brick and mortar retail in others.
Still, Kristie McGowan, director of Poole College of Management’s GLAM Program at North Carolina State University, said the program provides interns with the skills needed to adapt and react in this new normal.
“Our program provided Louis Vuitton with a direct path to hires,” McGowan said. “These are students who have a passion for luxury, are well prepared and are ready to hit the ground running, especially in the current environment.”
By spending time in a retail operation, interns learn about the product, the consumer, and the front-end and back-end operations involved in running the business, McGowan said. It also allows them to work in a different geographic market than they may be familiar with.
“Students can also see how a company is handling themselves during a pandemic and all of the considerations that they need to take into account,” she said.
These internships are the culmination of the GLAM program. Students enrolled in the GLAM program receive a Masters in Management with a concentration in Global Luxury from NC State, and a Master of Science in Global Luxury Management from SKEMA Business School in France. They spend the fall semester in Raleigh and the spring semester in Paris, followed by four months of combined thesis and professional work.
The interns themselves talk about a rich variety of experiences, from gaining a deeper understanding of the product to meaningful experience with the luxury clientele to first-hand experience with visual merchandising.
“Being exposed to so many different facets of the business, both from the corporate side and the customer and product side is really setting them up for success in their future careers,” McGowan said. “Most executives will say retail experience is essential and develops important transferable skills that will transcend to future corporate roles, and most executives have retail experience in their backgrounds.”
The nine GLAM program students at Louis Vuitton US locations include two in Atlanta, Niani Harris and Anna Owen, one, Grace Isley, in Charlotte, Antoine Lanoe, Jose Perez, Megan Bohm and Benjamin Lowry, all in Miami, Kate Luna in Tampa, and Jessica Roner in New York.
The internships are ongoing. A few of those students talked recently about their experience so far.
Niani Harris, Atlanta
Niani Harris pursued an undergraduate degree in fashion design, deciding by her junior year however, that fashion was right for her, but design wasn’t the right path. The GLAM program appealed to her with its global focus on luxury, and the opportunities to study at two schools in two different countries.
When it came time to look at internships, Louis Vuitton stood out as the first luxury brand her cohort had studied in the GLAM program. Harris felt a personal connection as well, having visited the family home during the spring semester in France.
The internship also fit with her interest in visual merchandising, client relationship management, learning about consumer insights, initiatives based in different regions and overall crafting of the luxury customer experience. Ultimately, Harris said she’d like to transition into marketing and believes these insights and skills will translate well.
Harris focused her thesis work in the GLAM program on the influence of black culture and black-owned luxury brands within the fashion industry and uses that research in her voice at Louis Vuitton.
“As a black woman, I don’t see a lot of people like me,” she said. “I want this space to be more diverse, to be more inclusive, to be more open-minded and to truly reflect the global outlook that it presents itself to be.”
“With everything that luxury embodies, it still has to meet the needs of a global client, and I want to advocate for that.”
Antoine Lanoe, Miami
Antoine Lanoe’s internship at Louis Vuitton is the culmination of a long-term plan that began as a student at SKEMA. Lanoe, one of the SKEMA recruited students in the GLAM program, was also drawn to the global nature of the GLAM program. So much so that he took a gap year from SKEMA to secure the necessary internships and experience to assist him in getting admitted to the GLAM program.
Lanoe, who was born on the island of Martinique, had his internship affected by COVID-19. He was required to self-quarantine for two weeks at the start of his internship. Since then, Lanoe said he’s had the opportunity to see all sides of the business. He’s been front-of-house to work with guests, assisted in store operations, shadowed sales associates, and enjoyed learning about operating a retail store and supporting its clientele.
Skills he learned during the GLAM program have been essential, Lanoe said.
“I understand cultural differences, and how to be able to adapt to anyone that’s in front of me,” he said.
Of particular importance right now, the GLAM program taught him to adapt, Lanoe said. That is crucial whether it’s meeting the needs of customers, or dealing with changes brought on by COVID.
“Even though we’re selling items, really, we’re selling an experience and creating relationships – that’s the most important part,” he said.
Kate Luna, Tampa
Kate Luna first heard about the GLAM program as an undergraduate in the Wilson College of Textiles at NC State.
“I thought it would be amazing to have a global experience, and to study alongside international students,” she said. “You learn about your own strengths and weaknesses, how you can help others and others can help you – that was something that really excited me about the program, and once I started, it was something I really saw come to life.”
An internship at Louis Vuitton is the perfect complement to that experience, Luna said. Louis Vuitton’s recruiters went out of their way to offer her an internship in Tampa, where she was already living, Luna said.
She now sees retail in a new light, thanks to the internship.
“My coworkers are treated like business owners of the brand,” she said. “They’re empowered to make decisions on their own, and do whatever they can to make the experience exceptional for the client.”
Louis Vuitton invests in its interns and shows them a path to upward mobility, she said. The GLAM program prepared her well to take those next steps.
“Understanding how to develop client relationships and how to create an incredible experience for clients through my classes has really helped me,” Luna said. “That’s something Louis Vuitton strives to do every day.”
“Luxury clients have high expectations and that’s how brands maintain loyalty.”