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Inspiration and new ideas in a new edition of ISEM's intensive program in New York City

ISEM's New York program "Fashion Business iQ: an insight into the Industry" celebrates a new edition, loaded with inspiration and ideas for retail in a post-cool world.

Photo /visit to Carolina Herrera

22 | 07 | 2022

They say that when it's three o'clock in the afternoon in New York, in Europe it's nine o'clock ten years earlier, which is why it's the perfect place to return to for the latest trends in the fashion industry. In its streets coexist emerging brands and heavyweights from around the world, such as the Spanish Mango, which in 2022 has opened its new flagship store on 5th Avenue. 

Once again this year, Fashion Business iQ has brought together professionals from different countries around the world for a week in the Big Apple, to share a unique immersion in the cutting edge of retail. The ISEM program combines theoretical sessions by academics and fashion professionals with visits to stores and offices of leading brands.

The classroom environment is also intended to facilitate the assimilation of content. For three days, they were held at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), the world's first fashion school - it was founded in 1944 - whose classrooms have been visited by top American designers such as Calvin Klein, Nina Ricci and Michael Kors. The other two conference, the students went to the IESE Business School building at plenary session of the Executive Council Midtown, where the famous 1980s TV series "Fame" was filmed.

But... What topics have been covered in this edition of the program? Who have been the teachers and hosts? Below is a summary with the keys to each workshop:


Keanan Duffty is a British designer based in New York who throughout his degree program has created collections at partnership with Reebook, Dr. Martens, David Bowie... In 2019 he joined the prestigious Parsons School, where he directs the fashion programs. 

He was joined by Russ Winer - professor at NYU Stern -and Marina Larroude - former fashion director at Barneys and now an entrepreneur with her brand Larroudé -to kick off an inspiring week.



Formal and informal visits have been one of the highlights of these days. The first of them was to Carolina Herrera, where the VP of development product, Ludwig Heissmeyer, showed exclusively the workshop and the collection that will soon be on sale, and explained the "journey of a dress": from the concept to the production of each product in Carolina Herrera. Together with Heissmeyer, Ashrena Ali -HR Talent Specialist- showed the showroom and answered all the students' questions about human resources and opportunities at work .

Back in the classroom, participants were able to delve deeper into the shopping process of major U.S. retailers with Delia Folk, consultant and former buyer at Barneys. Catherine Geib - professor at FIT - provided the more academic view of the day, presenting the results of her research on fast fashion and social average.

Finally, Leonor Silva, director of International Office of ISEM moderated a colloquium with Deborah Soss - for 20 years VP Divisional Merchandise Manager of Bergdorf Goodman - on the role of merchandising and some tips for brands and entrepreneurs to enter and grow in the American market.


The future of retail will depend largely on brands being able to deliver the same shopping experience to their customers, wherever they are. Obsess, a virtual reality company business that is creating customized products for luxury brands, makeup, food... Justin Stankiewicz, sales leader of the company, showed the students some examples, such as virtual stores that border on the metaverse, where you can walk, choose clothes or put them in the cart. Or brand experiences in gaming. 

Also about technology, although different, Jon Harari, CEO Windowswear, spoke. Their business started by collecting photos of shop windows of the world's biggest fashion brands and now also includes email marketing campaigns, Facebook ads, Instagram stories... which makes them the largest retail, visual merchandising and e-commerce database in the world. One can subscribe to their service to have those data as inspiration or to know what has worked and what hasn't. As Harari said, Windowswear's next step is to include machine learning to help predict trends and demand.

On the other hand, the other two presentations of the day were on very different topics. On the one hand, Sonali Vanjani -Head of product at GAP-explained the business model of this international brand that works with the franchise model and how they choose the products that can sell best in each market. On the other hand, Boston University professor and consultant Barry Horwitz, spoke about entrepreneurship and branding.


In June, the FIT Museum inaugurated the exhibition "Dior + Balenciaga: The Kings of couture and their legacies", which puts in conversation the heritage of these two giants of fashion. A place that program attendees could not miss. 

That same day, they also enjoyed two other visits. The first, to the Kule store at plenary session of the Executive Council Rockefeller Center, where its Head of retail, Kara Love, explained the brand's growth strategy. The second, to Bloomingdale's with Sarah Shaw, who until last week was the General Manager of the flagship store on 59th Street-Lexington Avenue, and is now Head of Customer Strategy. 

To end the workshop, Joshua Williams, professor at Parsons gave his vision on omnichannel VS. multichannel and on the future of brands.


The "Fashion Business IQ 2022" ended with a final round workshop , which opened with a visit to Tapestry, the group of which Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman are part. In the Hudson Yards area, near The Vessel, the giant sculpture in the form of stairs from which you can look out over the entire neighborhood, Benoît Tordeur, DVP of Visual Experience at Coach, played host and explained how they work at their department and how they integrate the digital and physical worlds.

The day's theoretical sessions were two. The first one at position by Barbara Kahn, professor at Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) and former dean of the University of Miami, who explained what academic research on retail trends reveals; and another one with Robert Rizzolo, Chief Merchandising Officer (CMO) of Marc Jacobs, to explain how each generation works when it comes to shopping. Rizzolo also talked about Heavn, the sub-brand with which Marc Jacobs wants to conquer generation Z.

To end on a high note, the group went to the historic Woolworth building in the Financial District, where Altuzarra is headquartered. There, their COO, former ISEM student and now ISEM professor, Marta Lastra, gave them a tour of the offices and gave a class about the production process and organization of the business to bring the final garments to stores. Recently, the luxury brand changed its calendar to produce only two collections a year (instead of four), in autumn and spring. In addition, Altuzarra is preparing to open a new store on Madison Avenue.

So much for the program strictly on paper. We would still have to add the walks around New York, the mythical pizza dinner in the Dumbo area (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), the stores, the beers in Lower Manhattan... and all the possibilities offered by the city that never sleeps, according to the taste of each consumer.

Next year, more!