Update from Layla, March 7, 2009
Due to difficult economic times that also effected the fashion industry, Layla was laid off from her position at Anna Sui in the end of December of 2008, but because of her skills and experience in the international arena, she received the very prominent position, of which she speaks above within just two months. Layla told us:
For those of you who haven't heard, I got a new job! On March 16, I'll be starting at Scripps Networks, home of Food Network, HGTV, DIY, Fine Living Network, etc. I'll be an Executive Assistant to the President and Vice President of the International Division. I'm so excited as it sounds like a very dynamic and exciting opportunity with room for growth and great benefits to boot!
French was a key to pursuing my dreams and I know that I wouldn't be where I am today without it. French has always held a special place in my heart having lived in Paris when I was very young. If I hadn't pursued French at NMU, I never would have had the opportunity to study in Paris, one of the fashion capitals of the world. I feel very fortunate to be where I am - watching the new Spring 09 Anna Sui collection go down the runway at fashion week last week reminds me of how hard I worked and how my French studies landed me where I am today!
My mother is a language teacher so I feel that I have always been taught to value language and the opportunities that it can provide. I did a study abroad program between my sophomore and junior year at NMU - it was an intensive 3-month French program at IFALPES, located in Chambery. I stayed with a host family, which I would highly recommend - they spoke no English, so that was an added bonus for me since it definitely forced me to make the effort. After graduating from NMU, I didn't know what I wanted to do, but knew that I was interested in fashion. It seemed out of my reach somehow - I guess because the fashion industry often comes across as a glamorous, out of reach industry. With my dual degree in French and Marketing from NMU, I was accepted to ESMOD - Paris, into a fashion marketing /merchandising/ communicating program - it was their accelerated 3-year program condensed into 9 months.
All of my classes were in French, and although I felt confident in my speaking abilities, the first week of classes I just remember being physically exhausted from the sheer concentration of listening, taking notes, comprehending, etc.
I really enjoyed my coursework and the hands on approach - for example, merchandising class projects included doing analyses on different boutiques, such as Lanvin and Colette. While living in Paris, I did two internships - one was a short-term sales internship at the men's Yves Saint Laurent boutique, on rue Faubourg St. Honoré, the second was a 4-month internship at Richemont, a luxury fashion group, known primarily for their watch and jewelry brands, such as Cartier.
I participated in editing studies on consumer behavior and the luxury market in China as well as one for India. These studies were in French, and included a lot of psychological and cultural interpretations of the sociologist who worked on the study. It was a rewarding challenge being able to translate what they meant from French into English. Probably the best compliment I received while living in Paris was that no one could guess that I was American when I was speaking French!
That experience afforded me very rich internship opportunities, and I actually met the VP of Sales of Anna Sui in Paris. I assisted her with her sales when she came to Paris for a few seasons, and she was the one that suggested I try New York after my studies wrapped in Paris. After working for a month and a half in the Anna Sui boutique in the Soho neighborhood in New York, there was an opportunity open at the corporate office, as Assistant to the President. Under his guidance and mentorship, I became exposed and understood the daily operations of the company, the ins and outs of the industry, working with international distributors, licensees, handling counterfeit cases - it brought me so much more than I expected! I have worked at Anna Sui for two and a half years now; my boss has just recently retired, but my position had morphed into much more while working for him. A year and a half ago I was promoted to Director of HR & Administration, as well as still acting as an assistant to the Executive Office.
I can't stress enough how important it is to take advantage of a study-abroad program or any intensive, total immersion program. Of course with anything, you get out what you put in.