It was a “fashion first.”  With the launch of a new semester abroad program with French partner ModˡSpè Paris Institut Supérieur Spécialisé de la Mode, came the exciting new opportunity of a Fashion Merchandising capstone project that crossed the Atlantic.  In the first international project for graduating fashion merchandising majors, students rose to the challenge of creating a business expansion plan for Griproix, a long-standing name in French fashion luxury.

In mid-December a team of three students – Samantha Duke, Megan Walsh and Victoria Nolan – along with capstone instructor Jodi Hartmann and fashion program director Radley Cramer left for a visit to Paris.  The students were there to present the outcome of many months of research and dedication to the owner of Griproix, the luxury jewelry company that is closely tied to the finest names of French haute couture.

Gripoix, founded in 1869 in Paris, is a foremost maker of bijoux de couture, or premier costume jewelry.  Using a process of glass manipulation called pate de verre (poured glass) the company has been linked to the jewelry seen on the French haute couture runways.  When Chanel brought costume jewelry to the forefront of French fashion in the 1920s, she worked with Gripoix.  Other famously chic names followed, including Christian Dior, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, and others. 

Today, Gripoix is owned by chic French socialite Marie Keslassy, who attended the student presentation at ModˡSpé, as did Jane Peck of the internationally known communications firm Fraiche with offices in Paris and New York City.  Also in attendance were a select group of French and international students currently studying at ModˡSpé Paris.

Madame Keslassy listened attentively as the Marist students presented their project comprised of an extensive business and promotional plan to assist Gripoix in expanding to the US market.  The project was rich with creative and business ideas, including buyer’s information packets, promotional plans, a functional website, Pinterest site complete with followers, and promotional video.  Madame Keslassy described the experience as “truly amazing!”  According to student Samantha Duke, ”Our group made incredible progress contacting buyers and showrooms in the US in such a relatively short time, being in meetings in New York one week, and presenting feedback in Paris the next week has made it quite a whirlwind, but one I would not trade for anything.  I know I will take so much of what I have learned throughout the process into my first job and future career.”  In fact, Samantha has just accepted her first post-college job as a product developer for Macy’s.

Meghan Walsh, another presenting student said, “It was amazing to know that we may have had an effect on the way this company will conduct international business in the future.  It was a wonderful experience to present such an in-depth project, and answer real-world questions from the owner of the company, as well as French students.  This will be an experience that I will never forget.”  Student Victoria Nolan added, following the group’s visit to the Gripoix atelier in Paris, “I could have never imagined how breathtaking it would be to see the products we have worked to promote in America being created one by one, by hand.  We were thrilled to present our recommendations to Marie Keslassy.”

As so often happens in fashion one thing leads to another.  During their promotional work for Gripoix the students connected with Cameron Silver, author of the much-praised new title in fashion, Decades.  Mr. Silver is a highly respected fashion authority from Los Angeles, and a fan of vintage Gripoix jewelry.  The students were invited to attend his New York City book signing event just prior to their Paris travels, and continued to stay connected with a breakfast meeting the following morning.  In addition to being an author and respected retailer, Mr. Silver will be the host of a forthcoming television series on the Bravo network.

Small world, great connections, and wonderful things ahead for these Marist Fashion Program students.

Marist Fashion students connected with Cameron Silver, author of the much-praised new title in fashion, Decades  Capstone instructor Jodi Hartman with the capping team, Samantha Duke, Megan Walsh & Victoria Nolan