With a laser focus on fashion, Olivier Roux knows a thing or two on what makes a brand worth sticking around for.
After graduating school, Roux spent almost three years at Chirstian Dior in the menswear department before moving to go to Francesco Smalto as Director of Licensing and Development. From there, he worked for everyday-fashion retailer Morgan, before stepping away to focus on young-brand consulting and teaching.
Roux revealed that during his time advising, he saw a lot of brands forgetting that there is more to fashion than beautiful clothing. In order to have a successful business model, you need to remember that your customer has to buy the product before they can even wear it.
“Some young brands have trouble in understanding that there’s a difference between a collection they find nice and anyone would find nice, and a collection that will achieve a turnover,” said Roux. “It’s quite different. To make a turnover, your products have to be attractive, but sellable. To be beautiful, your collections have to be just beautiful. So they hardly understand that they should make a collection that includes both style and sellable things.
There is often a cultural divide between the United States and Europe’s take on fashion and who does it better. Roux’s take is each country’s fashion is perfectly tailored (no pun intended) for their specific market.
“To me, Europe and the U.S. are quite different. The way they consider fashion is not the same because the attitude is not the same,” said Roux. “We are very different. I feel it when I go to the U.S. and I guess American people feel it when they come to Europe. So, I would say American people are definitely the best for the American market and European people are the best for the European market. We consider brands and collections in a very different way.”
Roux teaches students going to school for business or fashion, more specifically students getting a degree in luxury management or brand management. According to him, these cultural differences don’t stop in the classroom.
Where does the biggest difference occur? The act of criticism seems to be a foriegn concept to some young American students. While many from the U.S. appreciate the technique of “oohing” and “ahhing” over beautiful work, those from France tend to skip the compliments and drive straight into what needs to be changed.
“We value what is not good because this is what should be changed. If it’s good. It’s good. No need to spend hours on saying it’s good,” said Roux. “We prefer focusing on what should be improved. And for that you’ve got to be critical. And you’ve got to speak very frankly. So it’s not always nice to hear. But you’ve got to hear it once so that the next time you will not make the mistake again.”
Moving onto the topic of fashion journalism, Roux expressed his distaste for a common criticism against all iterations of Vogue, that their reporting revolves around celebrity scandals which have little to no connection to the business of fashion.
“I think Vogue knows perfectly what they are…. I’m not expecting business from Vogue, from Vogue I’m expecting some beautiful pictures showing some garments,” said Roux. “I want to learn something in something I’m not professional at. That’s to say images and pictures. Maybe storytelling about brands, not business. You’ve got lots of newspapers for that.”
Roux then went on to describe what he prefers to read in order to stay updated on fashion through the lens of journalism, which is a helpful list for those inspired to gain the same cultural awareness as a veteran to the fashion industry.
“I should say American head office magazines but usually I’m reading their foreign editions. I like to read Vogue, try to read, I don’t have so much time… I try to read Vogue twice a year, the French edition. I try to read the Japanese edition, the Chinese edition and the September issue of course, because it’s quite a large review of the profession,” said Roux.
This above is a list that he reads in addition to many independent French magazines that focus themselves thematically, building fashion photography around a base story.
Roux continues to teach the knowledge he has gained from years of experience to students with a hunger to learn. The best part, he says, is that he gets to learn a thing or two from them.
“I never feel offended when they don’t agree with me. I love when they do not… I may change my point of view. I may change their point of view and what their classmates are saying, and that I think that’s very interesting,” said Roux.
Elizabeth Coyne, our former Arts & Entertainment editor, studied abroad this past summer with the fashion program at Sacred Heart. This is just one of her five interviews with different industry professionals.