Two master’s degrees, one Dior project: What it’s like to study at a B-school in Paris

lady dior
Playing with Barbie dolls as a child let to Smith's passion for fashion and eventually drew her to apply for the GLAM Programme. Source: Tanaysha Smith

Playing with dolls and reading Vogue magazines as a kid sparked Tanaysha Smith’s passion for fashion. Wanting to further her knowledge in this industry, she decided to apply for the GLAM Programme at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and SKEMA Business School.

The GLAM Programme is a dual master’s degree one that helps students prepare for careers in high-end luxury industries. Here, students learn about the art of negotiation, business communication strategies, and luxury digitalisation, among others. Smith is set to graduate with a Master in Management with a concentration in Global Luxury and a Master of Science in Global Luxury Management. 

Currently at the Paris campus of SKEMA Business School, Smith is in the most strategic location to dive into this industry. Being at the home of many luxury brands and close to big trade shows has its perks. For one of her group projects, Smith is marketing the iconic Lady Dior bag — a favourite of late Princess Diana — to Gen-Z consumers.

After successfully completing that project, Smith has plans to work through offers and interviews in her pipeline. She also has plans to continue working on her creative consulting business that she has been building in addition to her studies while enjoying what she can of the  country. Below we talk to her about what life in France is like and SKEMA Business School:

What made you choose to apply for the GLAM Programme at NCSU and SKEMA Business School?

I was working for my second company undergraduate school and I knew I wanted to return for an advanced degree. I was studying for the GMAT and applying to MBA programmes. 

SKEMA Business School

Being based at the home of many luxury brands and close to big trade shows has its perks. Source: Tanaysha Smith

One was specialised and focused on fashion and luxury. During this time, a colleague was enrolled in the GLAM Programme and I saw the projects, coursework, and experiences. This made me curious. 

I asked for more information. The slogan: “Two degrees. Two continents. One powerful year,” officially sold me to the programme. 

Where does your interest in global luxury and management stem from?

When I was a child, I eagerly waited for my Vogue magazine delivery. I used to flip through the pages and romanticise the beautiful clothes, shoes and handbags. 

I played with my dolls and used arts and crafts around my house to produce fashion shows. Luxury was always something I dreamed about but never imagined I would be studying and preparing to work in this industry.

Walk us through your campaign #TheyDior at SKEMA Business School. What are some key concepts you learnt from this project focused on Lady Dior?

#TheyDior was one of the greatest projects I have ever worked on. Our objective was to create a digital campaign to market the staple Lady Dior bag to the younger consumers: Generation Z. 

For our concept, we used consumer insights that showed the freedom, gender fluidity, and selflessness of this generation. We used these to create a marketing strategy using virtual reality and the popular video game “Among Us.” 

Through this, we appealed to this generation. Not only did we familiarise them with Dior and the bag, we also prepared them to be loyal clients in the future. One of the key concepts I learned is that if you have a vision and truly believe in it, pursue it. 

Our ideas were out of the box and we received pushback. The question that stands is: is anything remarkably notable ever conventional?

SKEMA Business School

A Lady Dior in shiny turquoise and navy ombre graded lizard leather. Only 19 are made in the world, estimated between US$12,000 to US$15,000 each. Source: Robyn Beck/AFP

Besides your studies, what do you like most about France?

France is such a beautiful country and very different from the US. What I like most are the pastries and how there are boulangeries everywhere!

The French culture and way of life is something truly special. To stroll through the park and take long meals is not common back home. This is something I will try to incorporate into my lifestyle. 

Can you share any non-academic experiences in France thus far?

Having a picnic lunch with my friend and an impromptu photoshoot at the Eiffel Tower stood out for me. This has been a bucket list activity I have always dreamed about before coming to France which comes from watching movies. 

Tell me about your hometown. Where would you take me to visit?

My hometown is Rockford in Illinois, not too far from Chicago. Rockford is a very unique place and has special food spots. I would take you to see The Symbol, a permanent red abstract structure along the Rock River. 

I would also show you the shops downtown and pick up souvenirs at the Rockford Art Deli shop. There are so many things to eat but my list would include an “Unusual” from Benny’s Dariette (a sweet and flavoured ice cream with nuts and sprinkles). Also, you’d have to try the buffalo chicken sandwich and cheddar fries from the fast-food chain Beef-a-Roo.

What’s the local food in the US compared to France like? Give us your most and least favourite.

The local food is very different because it’s so fresh. We have a lot of cornfields back home, but France has a lot of vegetables that we don’t get. My favourite food in France is the “raclette” (melted cheese) and my least favourite would be “pain au raisins” (raisin bread) as I thought it was a chocolate chip bread when I grabbed it.

Is it hard for a foreigner to order food or strike up a conversation with the locals in France?

Since the majority of my time in France was during the lockdown, I’ve ordered most of my food through UberEats. So, that’s been easy and smooth. 

It’s been hard to strike up a conversation with the locals though. I don’t think it’s common to randomly say “Bonjour!” to a stranger on the street. Unless I am approached, I don’t say much. I talk to the owners of the house I’m renting and try to say as many French phrases as I can.

What’s one thing from France you’re planning to bring back to your friends and family back home?

The hospitality and the way that the French do meals. My family always said that I was a slow eater and that I always ate dinner too late but in France, I fit in perfectly. 

We eat apéro and talk for an hour, have more drinks and main entrees, then we have fruit or some dessert. After several hours, you don’t want it to end. I love the quality time and multiple stages of dinners here. 

What advice do you have for international students looking to start a new chapter in France?

Do not be afraid and try everything! Coming to France to study was my first time in Europe and I also didn’t speak the language. On top of that, it was during a pandemic. 

I still excelled in my studies, explored the country as much as possible (with restrictions) and I would recommend any international student to do the same. If there is a food or beverage that you have never seen before, try it. If there is a place you want to visit but have no one to go with, go. Life is too short to hold anything back.

What’s something you miss from and how do you replace it?

I miss my favourite pizza place: Pino’s Pizza in Rockford. Unfortunately, the pizza here is no substitute for it so I cannot wait to go home for my next slice.

What tips for budgeting do you have for students abroad?

If you have a finite amount of money for your time abroad, stick to your budget! I will caveat that when planning your budget, to have a line item for food, restaurants, ordering out and a separate one for entertainment and fun experiences. 

Even if they are small line items, give yourself the freedom to enjoy something guilt-free. For housing, if you live outside the major cities, it can save you money. Your commute to school or tourist spots may be longer but the money you save could be substantial.

SKEMA Business School

Under theGLAM Programme, students learn about the art of negotiation, business communication strategies, and luxury digitalisation, among others. Source: Tanaysha Smith

Lastly, give us three fun facts about yourself:

I went to a performing arts high school where my concentrations were theatre and dance. I’ve read the book To Kill a Mockingbird five times and my favourite drink is the lemonade (I’ve not had any enjoyable ones in France).