PERFECT PITCH: Executives from leading French luxury firms gathered at the École nationale supérieure des arts appliqués et des métiers (ENSAAMA) design school in Paris on Thursday morning to check out the projects submitted by students enrolled in courses supported by French luxury goods trade association Comité Colbert.

Guests included Françoise Montenay, president of the supervisory board at Chanel SAS; Guillaume de Seynes, managing director at Hermès International; Michel Bernardaud, chief executive officer at porcelain maker Bernardaud; perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, and Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, Germany’s ambassador to France.

The show featured projects by 26 master’s degree students based on briefs from six French luxury houses: Chanel, Hermès, Christian Dior Couture, Bernardaud, pastry chef Pierre Hermé and luxury home linen brand Yves Delorme.

Since 2011, 120 people have graduated from the course, of which 14 percent were hired subsequently by one of Comité Colbert’s 81 member houses.

In parallel, the Colbert International Design Workshop brought together 20 students from ENSAAMA with 20 counterparts from Berlin’s Universität der Künste to work on projects uniting 10 French and German luxury firms, including Dior, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, Glashütte Original and Lorenz Bäumer.

Montenay listened attentively as two students ran her through their idea for a floating Chanel pop-up store.

“There were so many interesting aspects to their project that, who knows, once our interior architects take a look at it, they may work with these youngsters. We hire people from the school virtually every year,” she said afterwards.

Montenay said Chanel was keen for design students to be creative with briefs. She deplored that marketing graduates, on the other hand, tend to lack originality.

“Marketing courses are creating drones. I worry about it. I find that all these young people we talk to, whether in schools or shortly afterwards, say the same thing: ‘Back to the roots.’ I mean, it’s always the same argument. And it’s a real shame, because we actually want them to think outside the box,” she remarked.

Kurkdjian, attending his first official event since joining Comité Colbert in November, said he often recruits interns from French design schools for positions in departments ranging from design to marketing, sales and communication.

“Since we are a growing company, if the candidate matches the profile of the house and has the capacity and the desire to come on board, then it’s a very attractive proposition for us, because we train someone during the internship and we hire them directly afterwards. It works out great,” he said.

Elisabeth Ponsolle des Portes, president and ceo of Comité Colbert, said the education partnership allowed the French luxury industry to tap new blood.

“Some of our members are several hundred years old, but they must also embody the 21st century, and therefore our objective is to show how French luxury is about know-how, of course, but also design, creativity, innovation and modernity,” she said.

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