How to achieve your dream career at one of Paris’s luxury brands

For American Urna Biswas, a career with a Paris-based luxury brand was a lifelong goal – albeit not one that she thought she'd achieve so quickly. That would change in the space of one exciting week.

How to achieve your dream career at one of Paris's luxury brands
Paris is one of the world;s most beautiful cities in which to study. Photo: Getty Images

Having spent a number of years in the field of business development, Urna joined ESSEC’s Global MBA cohort at their Paris campus in 2020. She opted to pursue the Luxury Brand Management major, in the hope of securing a job with one of the glamorous, iconic brands she grew up admiring.

“It was always an industry I wanted to make a career in, and that dictated my choice to study business and French. The goal of working in Paris never left my head for over a decade, so eventually, I decided to swallow my fears and enrol in the ESSEC Global MBA.”

Urna enjoyed coming to grips with new ways of thinking and doing business in Europe as part of the challenging programme, and was soon learning from some of the luxury industry’s top talents. She also relished building a new life in France: mastering the language, finding an apartment, making new friends and exploring all that Paris had to offer.  

“While I studied French at university, it was also another thing entirely using it constantly for the first time! The French you use to get around Paris is completely different to the French you use in a professional context, and to develop your networks.”

One of Urna’s favourite elements of the MBA were the ‘case competitions’ – competitive team problem-solving events, drawing on a vast library of business case studies. These competitions were designed to immerse students in the real-life workings of famous brands and were often judged by senior executives. 

ESSEC Global MBA students work with real-life case studies from the world’s most exclusive luxury brands. Discover how you can join them

“Nobody’s travelling. What do we do?”

One of these case studies involved luxury luggage brand Delsey, which was facing a Covid-19-related quandary.

“This was as the pandemic was impacting everything and they told us, ‘We’re Delsey, we make luggage. Nobody’s travelling. What do we do?'”, Urna remembers.

“Luckily, I was able to spend a week with my team preparing non-stop, all hours of the day. We were incredibly focused! There were lots of coffees and late nights.

“We created profiles for four different types of pandemic consumers, and this helped us to identify how Delsey could refocus their line of products to appeal to the market. More backpacks, for example, and luggage designed for those who needed to keep travelling, despite delays and reduced checked baggage allowances.

“We were all able to bring our separate talents in strategy, presentation and design together to create a really strong digital plan that we presented to Delsey Chief Marketing Officer Miriam Hendel.”

So impressed was Hendel that she awarded Urna’s team first place for their presentation at ESSEC, noting that it was better than many pitches by established agencies,

Hendel also kept in touch with Urna and when hiring picked up as the pandemic eased, she brought her on board as Marketing Manager and Media Planner – an astonishing feat, considering the competitive nature of the luxury brand space. 

Urna says: “I’m so lucky to be at Delsey, I really love my role. I still have a close bond with Miriam – a strong female director who kicks ass – and I really enjoy the trust she places in our team. It’s a small team and we’re able to support one another and share ideas all the time. We also spend a lot of time together outside of the office.

“It’s so different from corporate environments in the United States. We work hard here, but there’s a lot of time for discussion and finding a better, or more effective way of doing things. It’s a good balance and I find it really rewarding.”

Want a career working with luxury brands? ESSEC’s Global MBA in Luxury Brand Management will open up new paths to success

Following graduation from the Global MBA programme, Urna secured a job with luxury bag brand Delsey. Photo: Supplied

Understanding the DNA of luxury brands

Beyond the case studies, Urna says the ESSEC Global MBA programme as a whole gave her the skills she needed to succeed in working for a luxury brand.

“We simply don’t employ the same kind of marketing strategies in the United States as we do here in France. We have fewer luxury brands and fashion houses. It’s a different world, in some ways. The MBA was crucial in helping me understand how luxury brands in Europe really operate.

“The ESSEC Global MBA was also so structured and focused, in such a way that we could really analyse the ‘DNA’ of luxury brands and apply what we learned to changing market trends. I also developed the ability to employ strategy, rather than just my own thinking. This really helped me, as I’ve always valued taking a qualitative, analytical view of things.

“I also have to stress how valuable it was working in really international classes. We had such diverse teams, with so many different experiences and points of view. My cohort taught me so much about the luxury brand space in places like Asia, and this helped shape a truly global point of view.”

An experience that doesn’t fade

While she’s now busy in her dream role and with enjoying life in Paris, Urna hasn’t let her time at ESSEC fade into the background.

“Although we’re all over the world, I still connect with my class – a group of girls in Korea, for example – and we continue to share our experiences and learn from one another all the time,” she says. “It’s an incredibly valuable resource.

“I’m also keen to help new cohorts establish themselves in Paris and get settled in. Who knows what they could achieve, with the lessons and skills they learn at ESSEC?”

ESSEC’s Global MBA in Luxury Brand Management is your gateway to a career with the world’s most iconic luxury brands

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Can parents take children out of French schools for a religious holiday?

Pupils in France do not go short of holidays - but what is the situation if you want to take your children out of school during the term-time?

Can parents take children out of French schools for a religious holiday?

In France, children must be in education between the ages of three and 16 years.

Students must attend scheduled classes, unless they have legitimate reasons for their absence – and going on holiday outside of the standard vacation periods set by the school calendar does not constitute a legitimate reason.

“It is not possible to envisage à la carte vacations that would disrupt the functioning of classes and harm schooling”, according to France’s Education Ministry.

Religious holidays, on the other hand, are acceptable reasons for a day off.

A circular published in 2004 stated: “Authorisations of absence must be able to be granted to pupils for major religious holidays which do not coincide with a day off and the dates of which are noted each year by an instruction published in the Official Bulletin of National Education.”

This would include festivals such as Yom Kippur or Eid al-Fitr, which often fall during the term-time in France. The list of major religious holidays for 2022/23 is available here.

The big events of the Christian calendar usually coincide with either a school holiday period (Christmas) or a public holiday in France (Ascension or Assumption).

READ ALSO Why does secular France have Catholic holidays?

Otherwise, according to the Education Code, the only legitimate reasons for absence from school are the following:

  • illness of the child 
  • communicable or contagious illness of a family member
  • a formal family reunion
  • or temporary absence when children are obliged to travel with responsible adults

This does not necessarily mean that taking a child out of school for a holiday is completely banned. You can ask the school principal for permission to take your child out of school during term time, and explain why you are doing so.

The principal may agree, or may ask you to submit a formal request for authorisation of absence, which they will send to the regional Academic Director of the National Education Services.

What if you just take your child out of school?

Official sanctions are rare – cases don’t often get that far – but in the most serious cases, parents can go to jail if they fail to give adequate reasons for repeated absences.

After four half-days of unjustified absence in a month, an educational team will investigate the causes of the absenteeism and propose support measures to the parents, if required.

If the absences continue for more than 10 half-days in a month, the headmaster may refer the matter to the Academic Director of National Education Services (Dasen) who will summon the parents and issue a formal notice to ensure their child attends school. 

After that, if absences continue, the matter may be referred to the public prosecutor, who will decide what action to take – the usual step would be a €135 fine.

But, in the most serious cases, parents risk two years in prison and a fine of €30,000, under article 227.17 of the Penal Code, if they are convicted of failing to educate their children.