This summer, I had the opportunity to work at my dream company. If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be able to intern at Louis Vuitton, I wouldn’t have believed you. Louis Vuitton was probably the first luxury fashion company that I was aware, and in awe, of. I have known for a while that I want to work in the fashion industry, so being able to intern at the top fashion luxury company, which is part of the top luxury fashion conglomerate, was truly the experience of a lifetime, despite the many ups and downs that I experienced while at the company.
I had gone into my internship only expecting to work in PR, but was told by the SVP of Communications on the second day that she wanted me to switch with another intern in Advertising halfway through the summer. I was not too keen on switching departments but did not feel as though there was much I could say to the SVP. I had already interned in Marketing at another company and did not particularly enjoy it so I was excited to try PR. Advertising, however, was very similar to the Marketing department at my last company so I wasn’t too thrilled about doing something I knew I wouldn’t really enjoy.
My 6 weeks spent in PR were extremely challenging yet rewarding. My main supervisor, Rashida, had just started at Louis Vuitton two weeks prior to myself. She came off as happy and eager to help all the interns have the best experience. However, Rashida soon had to take on a lot of extra responsibilities that ended up overwhelming her and we often felt the effects of her frustrations. From having us stay at the office until Midnight to being blamed as a group for mistakes we didn’t make, Rashida’s leadership skills started to deteriorate quickly.
Through the stress and long hours of my time in PR, I did learn a lot more than I had expected to. Firstly, through observing my supervisors and their bosses, I learned a lot about what to do and not do as a leader. I learned the importance of time management and how to prioritize different tasks throughout the day. One does not need to stay at work late into the night on a regular basis if they are able to manage their time appropriately and take advantage of the resources at their disposal. In this case, we were Rashida’s resources but she did not use us to her full advantage. Interns can take on more work over time in order to further help their supervisors and should be used if they are available.
I also learned how much your own attitude and demeanor has an effect on your team. Rashida would often come into our workspace and bring chaos with her. It would stress the interns out and make simple tasks harder to complete. Her boss, Devan, would come into the workspace in a calm manner and outline our tasks for us in an organized way. When speaking with Devan at the end of my internship, she said there is no reason to ever have chaos at work and that dealing with issues in a calm manner ends up positively affecting the whole office.
The most important thing that I learned while working in PR is that I do actually want to work in PR after graduation. When writing my Personal Plan, I stated that I wanted to find exactly what it is I want to do in the fashion industry. Through this experience, I have decided that I want to pursue a career in luxury fashion PR. I really enjoy working with the product of the brand and that is what motivated me most throughout the day. I also enjoy the high quantity of work that I was doing at Louis Vuitton and will look for another company that does a large amount of sample trafficking when I search for a job post grad. In PR, there are tangible images of success of your work. At the end of my internship, the Vogue September cover was released and Louis Vuitton was on the cover. This is the biggest cover of the year and it was a huge accomplishment for the PR team to secure the cover. Seeing your success through editorial features is extremely motivating, especially because the fashion industry is so competitive.
My time in Advertising was much less eventful than my time in PR. One notable aspect of the Advertising department is that it is an all-female team of 5. In business, people often focus on the fact that there are not enough women in leadership roles, but tend to neglect the women that are in leadership roles. In the fashion industry, the majority of leadership roles are held by women. It is extremely empowering to walk into a majority female office and see, as a woman, the successes that your future could potentially hold.
I was very inspired by the female leaders at Louis Vuitton because, while some people look down on the fashion industry when comparing it to other fields of business, the reality is that Louis Vuitton is a multi-billion dollar company and is ranked as one of the top companies in the world. It was eye-opening to meet the people running this company and see what it takes to make it at arguably the top fashion brand.
In my Personal Plan, I also noted that I wanted to work on my confidence in the workplace and I feel as though I was able to do so in Advertising. My second week in the department, I had to present a deck on out of home advertising opportunities. I was nervous about presenting my ideas to the whole team as I had only recently started working with them. I ended up presenting about 20 ideas to the team and received much more positive feedback than I had expected.
This experience really increased my confidence because the team cared about what I had to say and treated me as an equal. I was less intimidated by my bosses after this experience, which allowed me to garner up the courage to sit down with 5 of my supervisors and organize a call with the SVP before I left the office in order to have conversations with them about my work this summer and ask their advice for my future in the industry.
As for applying my leadership studies to my internship, I did not necessarily actively apply theories I had learned but instead applied theories upon reflection of my experiences. Firstly, my previous knowledge of gender in leadership allowed me to have a different perspective when observing a female-led office. Whereas many people may ignore the gender makeup of an office, I took notice of it because of leadership classes I have taken.
I also applied the implicit leadership theory to my experience in hindsight. I noticed for myself that age played a big role in how I viewed the qualifications of my supervisors. My direct supervisors were all around 23-24 years old. It was hard to take them seriously sometimes when they were so close in age to all of the interns and were all in their first jobs out of college. Their age also impacted how they treated the interns, with one of my supervisors favoriting a specific intern, something that I do not think would have happened with an older supervisor. I saw my supervisor’s boss, Devan, as a great leader and I think a lot of that had to do with her age and experience. Before even working much with Devan, I had a certain expectation for the kind of leader she would be. Devan ended up exceeding my expectations as a leader but if she had not met those expectations, I probably would have seen her as an even worse leader because of the high initial expectations I had for her.
While I had some difficulties during my internship this summer, I definitely learned a lot through those difficulties and am very grateful for my experience. I now know that I want to be a PR Assistant at a luxury fashion company when I graduate and am very excited for my future career and how this experience will impact my future.