Final Ciao Chazen Post: Pasta and People Withdrawals

Reflecting back on our #CiaoChazen trip throughout Italy, there are so many experiences and memories that will last a lifetime, but it was definitely the people on the trip that made the biggest impression. As someone who has gone on three Chazen trips, my favorite thing about these trips in general is the ability to meet and make memories with such a diverse group of CBS classmates that I otherwise may not have crossed paths with. This Chazen was no different as more than half were first years who I likely would not have had the opportunity to get to know before graduating without this trip. Additionally, our incredible three Italian leads organized such an amazing itinerary, allowing us to see all sides of Italy through their eyes. They were so good, I decided I must only go on trips organized by Italians from now on as they thought through every minute detail and really enjoy indulging in the nicest of food and wine!

This trip was also a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the inner workings of the many and diverse companies I wrote about in earlier blogs from Ferrari to YOOX Net-A-Porter to Villa Antinori. Each of these companies really showed us Italian hospitality as they were so welcoming and excited for our visits, with some of them like Brunello Cucinelli literally welcoming us into their hometown! These visits made it so clear that personal relationships are very important in business in Italy and are the way lots of things get done. This also makes sense given the importance many of the companies put on their family ownership or heritage like we saw at brands like Ermemegildo Zegna and also Antinori, which is one of the top 10 longest running family companies started in 1385.

Speaking of heritage, it is something that was emphasized over and over again in our visits regardless the type of company. It was very clear that there is Italian pride in everything they do. However, interestingly we still saw a willingness to evolve and push boundaries. Gucci’s recent transformation is a great example of this idea of reinvention rooted in their heritage. I think that this authentic sense of heritage but willingness to evolve will be what pushes these legacy brands into the future…

We will see were the future takes these companies…but I know that the future will definitely take me back to Italy for more exploration and gelato after such an amazing trip!

The Diversity of Italian Luxury

Retail isn’t only defined by big brand name luxury fashion shows – but much broader and made of many types of people and industries. And this trip shows just that – the diverse types of luxury retail from an Italian perspective and heritage.

During our first three days, we have seen the retail industry from four different angles. At the first company, Ermenegildo Zegna, we heard from a member of the Zegna family and the head of Customer Relations Management. At Zegna we learned how a traditional craftsmanship brand with deep heritage is shifting from a product focus to become truly customer centric and maintain competitive in the new world of retail. Then we met with the co-founder and CEO of The Blonde Salad, a lifestyle brand that started as a fashion blog with Chiara Ferragni in 2009. Since then they have lived by their moto “differentiate or die” to successfully navigate new waves in technology and social media while expanding into the largest fashion blog, a unique accessories brand, and multi-talent management company. The following day, we visited the hometown of Ferrari in Maranello, Italy which aside from being heaven on earth for the car lovers in our group showed a different type of ultra-exclusivity in product and distribution. Finally, at YOOX NET-A-PORTER, we saw the less glamorous side of retail by visiting their logistics center and “technology temple” in Bologna, Italy. Though supply chain and technology development are not what people typically associate with retail, the two when done well can be a huge differentiator for a retailer.

Up next, we have three more visits to see more of traditional retail luxury at Gucci and Brunello Cuchinelli, as well as the other major Italian export of wine at Villa Antinori!

#CiaoChazen for now!

I’m going on Chazen Italy!

Ahhh, I was ecstatic when I received the news that i’d been offered a spot for Chazen Italy! Despite having been there before, I was (and still am) so excited to be going there, given that the study tour will focus on the retail & luxury good’s industry. We have a fantastic line up of companies – Castello Banfi, Ferragamo, Gucci, Yoox, Zegna, Bain Luxury and the one I’m excited about the most – Grom (free Gelato tasting – yippee!!).  I’m also thrilled that some of my best friends are also going on this trip. It’s going to be fantastic…

Tonight I fly to Milan and then onwards to Venice – just before the actual Chazen starts…

Our lovely organizing committee has shared this fantastic video on some of the common hand gestures. Check it out!