When each one of us studying the Global Fashion Media program at IFA decided to partake, we all had a different reason. Either Paris or Shanghai appealed to us, we wanted a Fashion industry insight, to clear our path for the future and being from all over the world, having heard about the cool IFA Paris programs, we knew this was the right place to be. So we decided to go to the best person to talk about the school, learn from his experiences and ask some wacky questions. Jean-Marc Chauve is the Managing Director of the Paris campus and here is the interview with some pretty cool advice for fashion starters. Enjoy!
1. Tell us about yourself; what is your professional background?
My professional background is a bit unusual. I mixed the business and creative part. I did a masters degree in Business and Finance, did another masters degree in Sociology & Semiology of Fashion, and later I studied Fashion Design and Pattern Making, even if I knew before how to make garments: my grandmother was a dressmaker, she was already retired when I was a child but fashion was a part of my “family culture”.
I started working in ‘Nelly Rodi’ trend agency in the marketing department. My job was to meet the brands, try to understand their demands and needs and guide them.
I was a bit frustrated by the marketing part and when I gave the feedback to the designers my job was finished and that was my favorite part. So I started working as a freelance designer in very small companies, then got a job in Martin Margiela after they were bought by the Diesel group in the beginning of the 2000s.
After I started working at IFM (Institut Français de la Mode) in the department for executive education (education for professionals that can goes until consultancies) – I had the opportunity to work for many very different companies like Le Printemps, Dior, Galeries Lafayette, Courir, Agnes b, Gucci, L’Oreal, Paul Smith, the Vivarte group, etc. They asked me to do some classes and this is when I discovered that I was really interested in education. Then I met Mr. Patrick Kouzmine who wanted to renew the IFA school in Paris and this is how I landed the director position at IFA.
In between all these jobs, I launched my own brand called: “Sept” I didn’t do any shows but it was quite expensive and creative. It worked quite well; I had a few clients in Japan and other Asian countries, in the United States and in Europe. Unfortunately it did not last long since it’s very hard to manage a brand alone and it was too small to have people working with me and too big to do it as a hobby.
Now I work with the haute couture designer Imane Ayissi.
2. What is special about IFA compared to other fashion schools?
I feel like IFA is the middle ground compared to other Parisian schools. It is not focused only on luxury nor only on mass market. It’s a mixture of both, we train our students to each segment of the fashion industry. We are the only school with an approach that mixes the business program and the creative programs – we don’t separate them. For the creative part we let our students be creative but want them to stay very realistic at the same time.
IFA is also professionally orientated. All our teachers are professionals even in the bachelors programs. That’s why we try to develop collaborations with brands and organize visits to keep the students’ vision fresh and understand how this industry works today and what exactly is a fashion or luxury company. Relevant examples are LASH magazine, and the Uniqlo lingerie brand Princesse Tam Tam
IFA is also the only international school in Paris in which all the programs are taught in English. This results in the diversity of students that we have, more than 50 different nationalities, which is very enriching.
3. What are your most successful programs?
I would say the bachelor in Fashion Design because it is where we have the biggest number of students and it is the oldest program. It is also a success because we started seeing some graduates with very interesting jobs, in Alexander McQueen and Matthew Williamson for example. We also have last year’s graduate Ria Keburia who is now on her third collection in Moscow Fashion Week. As a school director it’s very gratifying to see the evolution of our students: we usually take them very young in the 1st year of a bachelors degree. They sometimes have a lot of fashion clichés in mind however 3 years later they are professionals able to design a collection.
I know there are more success stories but it is hard to follow all of them because they come from different countries and sometimes it’s hard to stay in touch. We are really interested in communicating with our alumni, so we are trying to focus on that.
The MBA in Luxury Brand Management is also very successful. Even if it is quite new, the success is somewhat related to the big growth of the luxury industry in the world.
4. Do you have a memorable story about IFA (students or staff)?
I can say when I saw the first collection of our student at Moscow Fashion Week, it’s still a very good memory. To see her show her first collection on a professional catwalk -it was actually moving, especially that the collection was really great.
5. What advice do you have for people starting their fashion careers?
Be courageous. The fashion industry is now very competitive. In the 80’s I saw all the new designers emerge and develop. Now that I’m older I know that it was easier and people were curious to start new brands, which is less the case today, the big luxury brands take up so much space.
But there is a lot to do in emerging countries, which don’t have an old industry with big brands, here everything has to be built, so be creative. Not only in the design but also in the business point of view. You have to create new strategies, so it is very important to understand the society changes and the new markets and reply to their demands.
6. What is your personal style like?
I wear mostly black because it’s easy and it’s almost a rule in the fashion industry in Paris. I also really like creative fashion. I usually have a view on clothes as a professional in which I consider a garment like an art piece, but sometimes when you like a certain brands you want to participate, you buy the pieces of the designers that you admire.
7. What is the thing you love the most about Paris?
Of course the history, but for me, since I’ve traveled quite a lot, I feel like Paris is the most cultural city in the world. You have so many choices everyday; concerts, theatres, exhibitions. When you’re in fashion, this is ‘food’ for creativity. Most of the time, you don’t have time to see everything but even still you can experience the culture in the streets all around you.
8. Your favorite place to go in Paris?
I really love the Theatre de la Ville. They have shows almost every night, especially contemporary ballets.
For a place to relax one of my favorite places is a very Parisian tea garden in Petit Palais with really nice XIXth century architecture in a middle of a quiet garden.
I also feel like Paris is made up of ‘small cities’ – depending on the area you see different people. I sit in Chatêlet for hours and watch young people with quite crazy looks and from different backgrounds. The Marais is also very interesting, you can feel that there is a generation of urban people trying to create a new way of life. But if you want to discover the elegant and chic Paris go to Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
In the neighbourhood of the school ( the 19th arrondissement) you have Point Éphémère and Le Centquatre. Le Centquatre is owned by the city of Paris and it’s one of the most exciting place for culture. For me it’s interesting because it is not the typical Parisian people that go to these places because they’re quite new but here is where you can see all the newest creations, concerts of young rock bands and experimental exhibitions.
9. What is the thing you love the most about Shanghai?
You feel the energy for new things, it’s not the same energy as in Paris. In Paris you feel that people are always in a hurry. In Shanghai, there is always a new project, the future is open. I like the Shanghai French Concession area with buildings of the 1920s and 1930s. It is almost like the Marais but with Chinese energy and atmosphere, really interesting.
10. Your favorite thing to do in Shanghai?
Since I don’t go very often I like to discover the new places and stores that have opened during my absence.
11. Can you finish this phrase for us (be creative): If I were the most powerful person in fashion I would….
… create a magazine only for emerging designers with barely or no advertisements at all. Appoint editors who are curious and passionate for design. Magazines today are ruled by big brands so it is very difficult to have a fresh point of view on design and overall creation.
By Sima Maalouf and Bárbara Menéndez