June 12th, 2018.
One year ago, I was starting my internship in Hermès. At that precise time, I had no idea of how significantly this experience was about to change my professional life as much as my own person. I had no idea of the incredible experiences waiting for me and the amazing person that I was about to meet. One year ago, I was freshly arrived in Paris as a “country girl », still growing up, not completely confident, unsure of what her future would look like, and still very naive and innocent. For my one-year anniversary of love and tumults with both Paris and Hermès I have decided to post this article summing up my great adventure. Additionally, most of you asked me to write more about my professional experiences and journey. Thus, this article is a good way to come back to fashion contents. Soon enough, I’ll also post a feedback about my Chanel experiences. Then it will be easier to compare them, and to probably oppose them in one same article (coming soon). As luxury and fashion oriented articles are enjoyed by many of you worldwide, I thought it was more convenient for everyone to write this one in English.
Finally, thank you guys for being a growing community and for all your positive feedbacks and comments, especially following my last article “opération à coeur ouvert” which has been the most enjoyed so far, I am pleased knowing that it helped and inspired some of you . Your support and loyalty mean a lot to me and push me far from my comfort zone. Thanks to you I feel motivated and I’ll try to post more articles answering your needs and wants.
Seeking for an internship, I already had precise expectations and criterion to find an experience which would probably be decisive for my future career. Indeed, I wanted to have a strong office experience in the fashion and luxury industry that would differ from selling, and if possible be related to Marketing and Product Development. Furthermore, I wished to put into perspective my last experiences and acquired knowledge from Chanel by comparing to a new similar company which I liked and admired. Moreover, I wanted to have a progressive and challenging experience regarding the missions and responsibilities. Finally, I hoped for an educational internship providing me new skills and knowledge while professionalizing myself. I decided to apply for Hermès because I admired the brand for its unique history and outstanding products and quality. Finally, I went to Paris because Hermès headquarters was there, and because it is the fashion capital. And honestly, I looked back and saw my little 10 years old self dreaming of Paris as if it was the most exotic and attractive city ever. In fact, this internship was a good way to realize both this little girl’s dream and my current ones. I still remember very clearly the day I was called back by my manager to announce me that I was hired. I was so happy and excited. It was the beginning of a whole new adventure.
Hermès brings together past, present and future in its application of traditional craftsmanship combined with the finest materials, to create innovative and beautiful products. By drawing on the strength of its roots and applying the house values to the pursuit of innovation, the company continues its steady growth, inspired by the spirit of the generations that built its history. The values of the company are at once industry and craft, international and Parisian, traditional and innovative. As Jean-Louis Dumas (previous CEO) once said: “We don’t have a policy of image, we have a policy of product”. In other words, this brand vision means that Hermès wants to offer French qualitative and sophisticated products to its customers while respecting its original roots and principles. Heritage is one of the most important core principle of the brand’s identity. To me, this is the most important value carried by the brand and even a strength. Today, it is rare for international brands not to forget where they belong and come from. This strategy leads Hermès to create timeless products being classical and modern at the same time, and always keeping the brand management as a family history. To respect these values, the brand makes sure that each item coming out under Hermès’ name reflect the passionate work put into it by the artisan. And this is priceless.
My internship took place in the Products After-Sales Center. The objectives of my missions were mainly to guide and supervise damaged, defective, and non-authentic Hermès products through a repair flow, and to improve their features and technical functioning while working with the production department and Hermès workshops. My office was a subsystem of the Product Development Department. As a Products Supervisor, I was considered as an expert of Hermès fashion jewelry and silk. Sometimes, I had to work a lot with old products: to know them and to recognize them in order to provide the good services and repairs. Finally, I also had to identify counterfeits and to apply the administrative procedures when I was discovering one in order to warn the counterfeit owner, to legally confirm the product’s non-authenticity, and to orientate the imitated product either toward destruction, either toward exhibit, or toward a return. Finally, I had to maintain good relationships with my workshops ‘partners and to find others when needed. I started my internship as a backup assistant. Starting without having an assigned geographical zone was convenient in order to help me familiarize myself with the products, and the different requests and damages according to zones. For example, French customers are older than Asian customers, they usually possess older products from past collections than Asian or Middle Eastern who are more modern, younger, and possess new products from recent collections, or more expensive or rare items. In addition, the requests and damages vary a lot according to the geographical zone. A few weeks later, the summer holidays were starting and I spent these months replacing my colleagues one by one on their attributed geographical zone during their vacations: I started supervising by myself products from South Asia, Middle-East and Canada, then I spent some weeks supervising products from France, then, I have supervised products from Europe, and I finished by supervising products from USA. After these few months supervising each zone by myself, I was completely trained.
September has been a very busy month: many of our workshops were reopening after their summer closure and Hermès stores worldwide were overbooked and sending to our department more products than ever. My manager and coworkers were very busy dealing with their other Hermès branches and responsibilities… Consequently, my main teammate and I were designated to supervise the whole Hermès Fashion Jewelry branch worldwide. In other words, we had to supervise each zone by ourselves, it was an huge responsibility: A work meant to be managed by 6 person only designated to the two of us… Even if we were under pressure and we had a lot of work, this period was the most enriching and autonomous moment of my internship and helps me professionalize myself. After this period, I have been promoted to the role of Products Supervisor for Hermès Fashion Jewelry USA until my internship’s end. Such a promotion offered me opportunities to get more responsibilities, to complete new missions, and to submit many personal projects to improve our department and overall processes. I was considered as a real product supervisor, and not an intern anymore. This event became the starting point of new challenges and outcomes:
The most difficult interpersonal issue I had to face during my internship was to establish my credibility as a professional. Indeed, I have never felt this strong hierarchical atmosphere in any of my internships before, but this is how it goes in fashion and luxurious brands (throwback to my article “working for luxurious brands, expectations vs. reality”). Among Products Supervisors, which is a very feminine universe, people want interns to know their places as much as in their work and tasks that in the way they interact with others and try to integrate. I spent a long time before feeling completely professionally integrated and before feeling trusted by my coworkers. Facing this situation, I had to become the mirror of what they were in order to feel integrated before being able to stay true to myself and to establish my own professional credibility. Since the day my manager gave me many responsibilities I knew I was professionally trusted and considered by the most important person I had to convince, however feeling credible among my other coworkers was also important for me to feel confident, it was a challenge that I really wanted to fulfill. It took time, but I succeeded earning their trust.
Competition was also recurrent during my internship and it taught me that luxury and fashion is a very competitive world where you need sometimes to attack first in order to defend yourself. Competition can also become a tool motivating me to do my best in order to be completely irreproachable. In fact, competition had very positive consequences on myself: it helped a lot to improve my personal confidence, my diplomatic thinking, my interpersonal skills, and the way I impose myself. Behaving a bit more aggressively was necessary to protect my credibility and to be professionally respected, and I am finally satisfied of the ability I had to do so. Struggling a lot to establish my credibility – which I finally succeeded to – gave me a taste for efforts and competition, I am not afraid anymore to do everything to be the best while always trying to honor my principles and to remain fair and ethical. It is important not to lose yourself while evolving professionally. I have understood that professional credibility and evolution is something to earn through hard work, passion, efforts, motivation, and a pinch of slyness. Finally, it was very important in these challenging moments to feel well surrounded by people you can trust and ask advices.
A 6 months internship provides an interesting duration. Indeed, this amount of time is exactly enough to take a step back about the company and the missions while still working there. I started to really think out of the box and get some improvement ideas after about 4 months. My first critical thinking was recommending my department to change their advantages policy. Indeed, today advantages and esteem are attributed on a contract and statutes basis. For example, an employee with a short fixed-term contract freshly arrived will have access to some benefits that an intern here for a longer time and working since months will not be allowed to access. Even if interns are at the bottom of the ladder, we are still here to learn and to become professional, so if we cannot be considered as so, how can we evolve? Moreover, interns from today are the permanent contracts and managers of tomorrow, so companies should give them outstanding experiences in order to motivate them and to give them a good impression for a long-term popularity. In fact, even the flaws of Hermès helped me thinking out of the box, questioning my critical spirit, and taking a step back from the amazement around a name like “Hermès”, in other words there is even lessons to learn from the company’s flaws.
During my internship I have reached my objectives and fulfill more than my initial expectations. I had the chance to work with outstanding and luxurious products every single day for months, to learn more about their features and development, and even to participate to their improvement. Furthermore, I wanted to work for Hermès because I was highly interested and impressed by their history and their great focus on quality. In addition, I wanted to learn more about Hermès products and professional policies and values of the company. After two experiences in Chanel, I wanted to open up a scope of possibilities by discovering a new designer house without going backwards by choosing a company with a lower value and principles. In my opinion, Hermès was the perfect candidate to discover and to compare to Chanel simply because these two companies are both excelling in fashion and luxury while being practically incomparable. I was expecting from this internship to have a progressive experience regarding missions and responsibilities, thanks to my manager’s trust I can proudly write that this goal has been achieved too. Finally, I wanted this experience to be educational and to give me new skills while learning and professionalizing myself. Once again thanks to my manager, coworkers, and new friends who helped me and advise me during this amazing experience I can consider this objective reached. My Hermès experience has been very educational in term of professional and technical skills acquired and knowledge deepen and learned, but also in term of personal development. My internship and the people I have met there and worked with made me change a lot. Today, I feel more mature, professional, sure of what I want, who I am, and who I want to be. This experience has been the most professionalizing, enriching, blooming, challenging, and evolving experience I ever had.
— Fashionably yours, Cece.