Alumna Dounia studied at Regent's in 2009 as part of an exchange year abroad. She is now the Strategic Development Director at menswear designer brand ICOSAE.
After six years working in commercial development for major luxury companies, I decided last year to take part in the development of a new designer brand for which I am the Strategic Director and Shareholder. The brand, ICOSAE, has a very unique positioning in the menswear luxury segment; it is linked to classic and contemporary art, and it is seeking to be a pioneer in online shopping, with the development of 3D interactive visuals. We are also working on using virtual reality as a vector to luxury shopping.
As Director and Co-CEO of a designer start-up, I am working on many sides of the business. That could mean approving visuals from our new advertising campaign, and the next day working on plans for the next season's distribution strategy. My overall role is to picture the future of ICOSAE from every angle, and make sure that the team is on-track to get us there.
What did you do after completing your studies?
After graduating Regent’s as part of the International Business programme, I started a one-year internship at the French brand Lanvin. I was then offered a position there, first as a commercial assistant and, after one year, I was promoted to Commercial Manager, in charge of the franchise network worldwide. I stayed in that position for two years, and had the opportunity to travel the world and learn a great deal about market stakes in luxury. In 2015, I was offered a position at LVMH for the brand Givenchy, as a commercial manager for key accounts. I worked on developing the business with department stores and franchise partners worldwide, as well as reviewing the brand business plan for wholesale. In September 2015, I decided to leave my job at Givenchy to develop ICOSAE.
What are your future plans?
I want to develop ICOSAE in terms of brand awareness and wholesale expansion, to target 100 points of sale by 2018, and to nurture double-digit growth from season to season.
My main point of focus at the moment is to initiate our first round of fundraising, and I am therefore looking for investors or business angels to ensure the development of the virtual reality e-shop platform.
What impact did your time at Regent's have on you?
I joined Regent’s as part of my year abroad programme, and my time there had the biggest impact from all my years of studies.
Firstly, this was because it was the first time in my life that I was moving abroad on my own, and I had the chance to meet and live with students from all over the world. I was able to build a strong international network of people who I am still in contact with many years after.
Secondly, it was a game changer for me to discover a new way of teaching in classes. Following business classes that reach beyond the local sphere was a gateway to the world, and later this was a real asset for me, helping my capacity to understand business cultures and stakes in different parts of the world.
What is your fondest memory of Regent’s?
I have many memories from Regent’s! One of the fondest was probably a group project I was assigned to do in business class. We had to submit a business proposal and build it in every possible way, as you would in real life: a business plan, media pack, financing. We were a group of 10 people from as many different countries, working on a cooking class project. It was called “Tasting Business”, and took us many months of work, a lot of motivation and some arguments to put the project together!
Years after, I can say it was the closest experience I had had to building a start-up, and may have motivated my love for entrepreneurship and project development.
What advice would you give to fellow alumni starting out in their careers?
I would advise them to look for something that they have a hunger for — a drive to prove something. Whether it is to yourself, your parents, or your high school teacher.
I’ve never worked anywhere where the team was not passionate about the project; that is what drives people and makes things go forward.
I would also say that you have to be a nice person. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are — in different areas — and learn from them.
What does the Spirit of Regent’s mean to you?
Cosmopolitan, creativity, commitment. Make those words count!
Find out more about Dounia: