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Q+A Interview: Professor José Chan

Written by Fashion Publishing | Oct 04, 2010.

Professor José P. Chan, who joined Parsons in 2006, has international experience in design, merchandising, planning, production, marketing, and buying. Currently, he is the Director of Planning for Roberto Cavalli and travels often to Italy, where the headquarters are located.   Professor Chan was born and raised in New York City, and spent his childhood summers in Mexico and Guatemala.  He has also lived in Italy and China.

We met at the Sony Plaza, near the Cavalli offices, and talked about his work, and the lessons he has learned that would come in handy for any student in life and work.

Ariadna Pedret Cuyás: As the Director of planning for Cavalli, do you develop the merchandising plans for Cavalli worldwide? Or are different plans developed due to the fact that the brand is distributed in more than 50 countries? (Cavalli distributes through its Roberto Cavalli boutiques, department stores, specialty stores, has a showroom in New York and Milan, and sells online.)

Professor Chan: I handle North America, so that is one plan.  It entails every store within the country, because we happen to be one of the largest markets for Cavalli.

APC: You train and supervise staff.  Being able to rely on good personnel in retail is key for success–what do you find is the most challenging part of the training?

JC: It is just difficult to find people who are passionate about a brand, who can actually deliver results, in terms of being able to sell the “dream” of the brand. They need to have the right skills for a particular consumer set.  You can sell a Rolls Royce, or you can sell a Chevrolet.  They’re both equally good, because they get you where you want to go. It’s not a better or worse question, it’s more a question of having the right skills for a particular consumer set.

APC: What lessons have you learned in your field that you share with your students?

JC: Persevere. Pick a road, follow it, and if does not work out, then change. You need to make a decision. A lot of times, I find students who are unsure. Don’t think about it too much. Execute your plan, and if it doesn’t work out, make a change.  In my personal career I worked for companies that I’ve always wanted to work for. It’s a very natural process. Once I arrived, if it wasn’t what I expected and I made a change.

APC: You have worked for LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) and the Richemont Group. Do you find similar traits in all of them when planning?

JC:  Think of it this way, it’s like a book; it has a beginning, middle and an end.  The end is usually the same, it’s just how you begin and the trajectory to get you there that is different for each company, even if it is the same type of company.  Let’s take for example, two watch brands, Cartier and Rolex.  They are two luxury, fashionable watch brands, but they are completely different companies.  The end result is the same: everyone wants to see growth in sales, growth in market share, and everybody wants to see new products. The way of getting there, for each one of those two companies, is different.

APC: Any last thoughts?

JC: Whatever it is you do, do it for the right reasons, because you feel that you enjoy it.  There is a lot to be said about enjoying something first, because then the rewards, monetary or otherwise, come later.

-Ariadna Pedret Cuyás, AAS Fashion Marketing

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