PARIS — There was zero ivory tower attitude at the second edition of the IME Village, a yearly vocational fair sponsored by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Institut des Métiers d’Excellence, or institute for métiers of excellence, held at Espace 93 in the notorious Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.

Founded in 2014, the program is geared at opening up opportunities for kids from the area to discover the group’s métiers across a range of domains and learn about work/study apprenticeships done in partnership with six top French schools in jewelry, dressmaking, winemaking, leather goods, client advisory and retail design. They include the École de la Bijouterie-Joaillerie de Paris for jewelry, the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne for fashion and Les Compagnons du Devoir for leather goods.

“We want to develop their employability, and we have needs in our ateliers, in our houses. We are looking for talent to join us, and we need to train them. It’s similar to [LVMH’S] Journées Particulières, where we open our ateliers to the public, only here the aim is to fill the ateliers with the talent potential we are looking for,” said Florence Rambaud, the program’s director.

“We consider that talent has no age and no origin, and we want to prove by being here that it is possible to come from somewhere far away from Avenue Montaigne and be in our ateliers, in our stores.”

The event was open to students from schools in the area in the morning, and in the afternoon to members of the public eligible for applying to the program according to criteria set by French law, who are either aged between 16 and 25, have been unemployed for more than six months, or have a disability.

Talking to visitors at the Les Compagnons du Devoir stand, Claire Durand, who started on the program two years ago, got to work in the production ateliers of Louis Vuitton in her first year, returning to the brand in her second year to work in the after-sales department, repairing bags and small leather goods. “There’s this impression that luxury brands are untouchable, so opening these métiers up to kids in areas like this is great. Many aren’t even aware that they’re there, you don’t get access to this kind of thing at regular schools,” she said. “I also got to meet a lot of people working in other métiers at the master classes, I’ve stayed in contact with some of them on Facebook.”

“It’s a dream, I would never have thought it would be possible. It opens the doors to everyone,” echoed Dior couture apprentice Lisa Duffault at the stand of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.

For each métier, the program also offers master classes, with around 30 held throughout the year. Next month, for example, jewelry apprentices from the program will get to meet Dior Joaillerie’s Victoire de Castellane to learn about the house’s approach to jewelry and collection planning. Then once a year, all of the students are brought together in a master class to exchange and “learn from each other” about the different métiers, “having a wider approach and understanding of what the luxury métiers are about,” Rambaud said.

One took place last Friday in the Champagne region where students got to go into the vineyards and cellars of LVMH-owned Dom Pérignon before attending a master class between chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy, and Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser. “The idea is to compare métiers and know-how and also to provide ideas and inspiration to these kids for their future. Thierry Wasser at age 16 was an apprentice himself, and now he is [the nose] at Guerlain. The potential is huge,” Rambaud said.