The Italian fashion and furnishings sector has been, and continues to be, one of Italy’s flagship areas of excellence throughout the world. It brings together the best in Italian virtues: creativity, flexibility and the ability to render beautiful and functional objects that are part of daily life, from clothing to footwear, jewelry, eyewear, lighting systems, furniture and furnishing accessories. Learning how to manage companies active in these sectors by combining passion with method, has been, since 2001, the goal of the Master in Fashion, Experience and Design Management of Bocconi University – an Italian training success story that this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary. What is well- and beautifully-made is studied in Italy and then applied throughout the globe. In these first 10 years, over 450 students have passed through MAFED’s doors, 80% of which international students from over 30 countries. Among course attendees, nearly 60% have found work abroad in both Italian and foreign companies. MAFED classes have included not only managers, but also the sons and daughters of businessmen destined to lead family firms, as well as fledgling entrepreneurs who have gone on to launch their ideas on the market.
In the words of Stefania Saviolo, the founder and director of this course: “MAFED was launched at a time when these companies were in need of young managerial talent, and it occupies a unique place within the international spectrum in terms of localization (Italy, and more specifically, Milan) and broad mix of industries covered (not only fashion, but also design and products with a high level of expertise). Program content is also solidly operation-oriented and in continuous evolution, following the development of best practices in these sectors thanks to strong ties with the business world. The decision to start immediately with an English-language program opened the global market for us.”
Since year one, the Fondazione Altagamma has supported and actively contributed to the program through collaboration in projects and placement of course participants. In the words of Altagamma, MAFED “creates professionals who bring together expertise and general management techniques with the management of the intangible aspects which constitute the unique nature and added value of Altagamma companies.”
Over these ten years, the world of luxury goods, fashion and design have experienced epoch-making changes that have impacted on placement:
• Reduction in the time to market which has shifted the frontier of competition from the product to corporate vision and the ability to foresee how the market will evolve. Companies require marketing intelligence specialists who can analyze the evolutionary process in terms of customers and competition. The role of the business analyst as a support to top management is a role in which MAFED has always excelled.
• Market saturation and the needs of Western markets, and the shift towards emerging markets with the development of the Chinese market, in particular. Corporate requests for graduates from China, both for business activity in Europe as well as the local market, continue to grow. In the MAFED program, student enrolment from this country has risen from 2% in 2002 to 20% in recent years.
• Progressive integration of companies into retail, with the resulting evolution in the critical importance of roles (the roles of retail and store manager are on the rise) and competencies (people management skills being fundamental). In MAFED, graduates involved in retail have grown steadily and in 2010 accounted for 35% of the total.
• The emergence of new distribution channels (online, retail travel, outlet, contract) and communications (digital) with the demand for new managerial figures specialized in the new transnational channels (online and retail travel), as well as specialists in digital marketing for fashion. Design companies look to MAFED for specialists in the contract channel on an international level.
• Import competition in the low end of the market that creates the impetus for de-localization of supply chains, which in turn impacts on the new role of the supply chain manager capable of managing complex, global supply chains. In this area, MAFED has trained buyers who are able to operate within international buying offices.
According to director Stefania Saviolo, “Managers of the future in these sectors must be able to handle growing complexity in terms of products, channels and markets, balancing analytical skills with an aesthetic sense, relational skills and team management, together with entrepreneurial capabilities. And all on a global scale.”
To ensure that course content meets the needs of the market, each year 80 guest lecturers are invited to speak as part of the MAFED program, and there is a close working relationship with both Italian and international companies in the form of case studies, practical experience and projects. New, cutting-edge themes are explored in specialized seminars, such as those examining “transmedia storytelling”, “entrepreneurism in creative sectors” and “evolution in design languages”. And, each and every morning, students become used to entering the classroom to share ideas with their Chinese, Brazilian, Norwegian and Iranian colleagues.