Coco Chanel said “fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” That may be why her namesake house was ranked tops by far in a WWD survey to answer a simple question: What is the most desired company to work for in fashion?
Chanel’s quote reflects a deeply embedded passion that people have for the industry — which might be especially true for Millennials, who crave authenticity as well as belonging to something larger than themselves.
This story first appeared in the April 6, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The survey, which was conducted in late February and early March, was comprised of two separate polls: one via WWD’s social media networks that garnered more than 2,000 responses and the other via a survey sent directly to students in leading fashion and merchandising schools in the U.S. and Europe that attracted 405 student responses. There were more than 200 companies, brands and designers cited along with their responses. We ranked the top 25.
The schools invited to participate included The Fashion Institute of Technology; Savannah College of Art and Design; LIM College; Pratt Institute; Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising; University of Westminster; University of Creative Arts; University of Brighton; London College of Fashion, and the Royal College of Art, among others.
The survey included a list of companies from which respondents could choose, and they also could write in their own selection.
In the social media poll conducted through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the top five firms were Chanel at number one and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in the second spot, which was followed by Christian Dior SE in third and Alexander Wang and Diane von Furstenberg in fourth and fifth, respectively. Sixth was Kate Spade, which was followed by Marc Jacobs and H&M. Ninth was Burberry Group plc, which was followed by Prada SpA in 10th.
By comparison, the students’ top 10 picks swapped out Christian Dior SE, H&M, Burberry Group and Prada with Calvin Klein, Salvatore Ferragamo SpA, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. and Armani. Chanel and LVMH held onto their top two positions in the student responses. For the complete list, see page 36.
Key themes emerged in the responses for both polls, as well as in one-on-one interviews. For example, in describing why they chose the companies, participants’ responses were highly emotional and passionate as well as thoughtful. There was also a high level of conviction.
Respondents used words such as “dreamy” and “iconic” as well as “amazing” in describing their more desirable fashion firms. This idealism was blended with preferences for companies that practiced sustainability, offered a positive work environment and helped employees grow and develop their careers. Respondents were also in awe of the legacy of the companies cited as most desirable.
“Gabrielle Chanel is my icon and I love her work, and what she did with fashion — she changed the world with her work and to work for the brand she created is a dream,” one respondent said. “And let’s not forget Karl [Lagerfeld]; he’s another person I look up to, so there’s no other place that I’d like to be working.”
“During Mademoiselle Gabrielle’s time, women were expected to dress according to cultural norms, which included gowns,” wrote another respondent. “She broke that norm with her unique masculine twist to women’s clothing. Chanel has continued to break fashion norms for women. But then again, as breaking the rules in the fashion world became regular, this iconic brand stuck to the classics of the modern woman, which are the skirts, blouses and blazers. It shows that tradition never fades…whatever Chanel invents shall never be forgotten.”
Many of the “why” responses were social in nature. One respondent cited Chanel as desirable because, “I am a feminist and so was she,” the respondent said. “Tracing the steps.”
Another, who cited L’Oréal as a highly desirable employer, said so because, “As the number-one beauty brand in the world, I would love to work for a global beauty brand who is dedicated to empowering women all over the world.” Another favored von Furstenberg because the brand “stands for strong, confident women.”
Although not on the top lists, one respondent said BCBG Max Azria was most desirable because the “company values their employees. That is shown through their pay, their training and their will to develop their employees.” Of Kering, one respondent noted, “I currently intern for a Kering brand and I find the company to be very sustainable. It is a positive work environment.”
Students from New York-based LIM College who were interviewed in-person echoed many of the same sentiments seen in the online comments. These fashion merchandising and marketing seniors said they would seek industry jobs that offered opportunities for growth while providing a collaborative work environment led by managers who were invested in their employees and supportive of their career development.
Tatiana Patterson, a visual merchandising senior at LIM, is part of the school’s co-op program, which has students working 28 hours a week at major retailers and fashion apparel firms. About half the students are offered positions upon graduation. Patterson is placed at Lululemon Athletica and described the experience as being “like a family.”
“It’s also an outlet for my creativity,” she told WWD. “And [for consumers], it’s more than just about buying clothes. It’s about inspiring people. You’re creating a community.”
This idea of the fashion industry as a community of people and products was shared by Patterson’s classmates, who also said narrative and storytelling were critical in the process of delivering fashion apparel to consumers. They described the process in terms of creating memorable experiences for everyone involved, and not just for consumers. LIM students said they wanted jobs that they looked forward to going to each day. After all, they would be spending more time at work than with their own families.
“The workplace is important and pay is, but you want to love want you do,” said Samantha Svorinich, a fashion merchandising major from Staten Island.
Top 25 Most Desirable Brand, Designer or Company to Work For
|Rank:||Company, brand or designer:||Score:|
|2||LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton||8.50%|
|3||Christian Dior SE||7.90%|
|5||Diane von Furstenberg||6.20%|
|9||Burberry Group plc||3.30%|
|11||Hermès International Société||2.60%|
|12||Ralph Lauren Corp.||2.20%|
|19||Levi Strauss & Co.||1.60%|
|21||Under Armour, Inc.||1.20%|
|25||Lululemon Athletica Inc.||0.96%|