By Jen Gerson
If retail management and fashion students can’t find jobs in Canada when they graduate, they can always go to Italy.
Textile and clothing magnate Matteo Marzotto, the man behind Hugo Boss, Missoni and Gianfranco Ferre, invited all the students at his lecture last Thursday afternoon to come and work for his company, the Marzotto Group, in Italy.
Even without the job offer, students were impressed by Marzotto, who gave the first ever Michael Belcourt Lecture in Retail Management.
“My father told me that if you start a family business it won’t go past three generations,” said Ryan Lem, a first year retail management student.
“[Marzotto’s business] went for 200 years. It really changed my mind about family businesses. I’d open up one for my own family.”
Marzotto spoke about innovation, knock-offs and the challenges of distribution.
“I thought My. Marzotto was brilliant. What an opportunity for students at Ryerson to hear first hand from a European business executive. It was amazing,” said Donna Smith, director of the school of retail management.
The Marzotto Group had sales last year of more than $2 billion so students were surprised to have the man in charge of such a huge company speak to them.
Real world experience helps to make classroom work seem more applicable, said Brent Barr, a retail management professor.
“The students take their theory that they get in class and come to something like this and think ‘oh my gosh, this is actually relevant,’” he said.
One year ago at this time Marzotto was also in Canada. On Sept. 11, his plane was grounded in Gander, Nlfd., where he spent three days. Marzotto said the experience gave him a special love for Canada and made him excited to be back as part of the Belcourt lecture series here at Ryerson.
The Belcourt series is funded by a $100,000 donation from local businessman Michael Belcourt, who also put up $25,000 to fund a scholarship in the school of fashion.
Belcourt, who for the past 26 years has been president of Polo Ralph Lauren Canada, wanted to draw attention to his industry.
“I think our goal was to promote the retail industry and the fashion industry as a legitimate profession and a very rewarding profession,” said Belcourt.
“Ryerson is the only university in Canada that offers a four-year degree course in retail management, and so I’m very interested in seeing that they’re going to be a success and I’d like to support it in any ways that I can,” he said.
Over the next decade, Ryerson will continue to bring international business leaders to speak as part of the Belcourt series.
Organisers hope to schedule up to two more talks during this year, although none have been finalized.