Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Givenchy Regional President Speaks at GRLA Event

An executive at luxury fashion house Givenchy discussed the evolution and current state of the fashion industry at Georgetown University Feb. 6.

At the event, which the student club Georgetown Retail and Luxury Association (GRLA) hosted, Valerie Leon, Givenchy’s president of Americas, spoke with Ricardo Ernst, director of the McDonough School of Business (MSB) Baratta Center for Global Business, which aims to facilitate discussion and research about the future of global business, and managing director of the MSB’s Latin American Leadership Program, which aims to create impact networks in Latin America and the Caribbean. Leon has worked in the fashion industry for 30 years, including for brands such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Valentino and Christian Dior.

At the event, Leon talked about the various meanings of luxury to her, noting that luxury can be all-encompassing, not just limited to the world of designer clothing and accessories.

“The meaning of luxury is very simple,” Leon said at the event. “It’s being able to have what you want when you want it and how you want it. Luxury could be the perfect cup of coffee in your favorite chair and the perfect morning watching the sun come up, and that could be your daily luxury.”

Leon said the luxury industry aims to create products that are both personalized and pragmatic.

“When we get into what we call the luxury industry — and we could argue that any fashion product outside what we need to cover our bodies is a luxury — we often go shopping for something we don’t necessarily need, we go for something that we want,” Leon said. “We focus very much in the luxury industry on taking the marriage of those two things, making sure our clients are receiving what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.” 

Caleigh Keating/The Hoya |

Leon said customer preferences are what ultimately determine trends and brand success in the luxury industry, rather than a brand’s overall strategy.

“It’s the customer who decides. The customer, in the end, is going to tell us what they want to buy,” Leon said. “We can suggest, we can market, we can create plans, we can have a 360 strategy, we can push this product or that product, but at the end of the day, it really is the customer who decides.”

“We are always trying to learn from the customer and trying to be ahead of the customer so that when they arrive, we have what they want,” Leon added.

Leon also talked about the unpredictable, dynamic nature of the fashion industry, noting that she enjoys working in luxury because it is fast-paced as companies navigate between high-profile global fashion weeks.

“Every day is different, which is what I really do love about the industry,” Leon said. “No matter what you do in the industry, every day will be different.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the industry’s unpredictability, according to Leon.

 “Luxury really had a boom as soon as people were able to get out and start shopping again,” Leon said. “Some of it was pent-up demand, some of it was revenge spending and a lot of new first-time shoppers entered luxury.” Leon said luxury offers a diverse range of jobs beyond designing clothing and accessories.

“This is definitely an industry of traveling, but it’s also an industry that can provide extraordinary experiences for people that are coming out with so many different types of degrees,” Leon said. “There’s so many extraordinary people from so many different backgrounds and different types of education that come together to make the fashion industry work.” 

Ava McDonald (CAS ’24), the president of GRLA, said Leon’s visit will leave an impact on students, fulfilling GRLA’s mission to educate students about retail and luxury and introduce them to professional opportunities. 

“As an organization, our goal is to educate members of the Georgetown community about opportunities in the retail and luxury space,” McDonald wrote to The Hoya. “We were so excited to bring Valerie Leon to campus, especially given her incredible variety of experiences at so many leading brands.” 

“Our hope is that attendees can hear about Valerie’s career trajectory and be inspired to forge a similar path or take something she has learned throughout her career with them,” McDonald added.

Leon said she is excited to find out what the future holds for the booming luxury industry. 

“We’re always watching and looking and trying to figure out what’s coming next, but I always joke, ‘I ordered my crystal ball 25 years ago. When is it coming?’” Leon said.

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