Interview with Cecile Houdayer

Cécile HOUDAYER – Graduating Class of 2012


What did you do before you joined ISEM? Have you always dreamed of working in fashion industry?

After two years in a Business school where I obtained a BTS, I was hesitating in which way choosing for my future, so I decided to live in London for one year as a au pair. There, several months later, I kept on mind to return France for following my studies. I asked for documentation in different schools and I had a revelation when reading the ISEM brochure. It was exactly what I wanted to do: Marketing specialized in Fashion, two domains I was so interested in! My decision was taken: I would integrate ISEM in 2003 [directly in second year, ed].


Let’s make a flash back on your schooling at ISEM: What type of student were you? What are your best (or worse) memories of this time ?

The school and I were not friends. I had some difficulties with it, but the reason was clear: I was looking for my way and tried to find myself. I was 21, so young for deciding of my future! But at ISEM, it was completely different as I was motivated, more attentive because I liked the subjects taught and I really felt in my element.
My best memories are good times I spent during my 2 years at ISEM, people I met there and those I still have contact with. I also remember my final project, the stressful moment I passed on it but with this feeling of finally having accomplished something during my studies. The worse remembering: Textile courses with all those fabrics names… it didn’t really fascinate me.

According to you, what is ISEM highlight?

According to me, teachers are the highlight of the school. They were or are still professionals in the domain they teach, sharing their experience. Whether in marketing, law, fashion history, they all know what they talk about and make their professional experience a precious source of knowledge for students, preparing them for their future job with concrete examples.

Could you tell us more about your career after ISEM, your jobs and responsibilities?

As internship, I’ve found a company which promised me I would be hired after my several months as a trainee, but, unfortunately, two weeks before I joined the company, I was told this internship was canceled. I was so disappointed, especially since I had refused the opportunity of a three months exchange at London College of Fashion. I probably wouldn’t have had my present career without the amiable intervention of a teacher of ISEM who made her best for obtaining my integration in this exchange in London. Several callings later, I was accepted and made my luggage for London with some students from my promo.

After my three months exchange, I was graduate and decided to stay in London. At that time, I was selling at Topshop and Selfridges, but several weeks later I tried to find a real job. So, two weeks later, I was hired at Petit Bateau in London as a merchandiser assistant and, several months later, I became a marketing assistant because one of my colleagues left the company. I’ve worked there for one year and half.
Then, I was engaged by SWATCH Group UK, the largest watch manufacturer in the world, as a marketing assistant and progressed until reaching the Marketing Manager post in charge of the prestige brands (Breguet, Blancpain, Glashütte Original, Jaquet Droz). I’ve been working here for more than 5 years and still enjoying each minute I spend on my job!
I’m in charge of all the brand marketing for UK and all the event management for retailers, press, private customers, advertising, brands development. My duties are varied and days pass quickly. One day I deal with marketing budgets, the day after I identify places for events, another day I work on invoices. I’m multifunction!

What are the qualifications to perform your current job?

To perform my current job you need to be organized (notes, schedules and all this stuff), creative and patient and mainly motivated to face up to the countless hours you have to spend at work when necessary, mostly during the preparation of events.
Working in this predominantly male environment is also a challenge as a woman whose main quality is not to be pushed around and know how to take sensible decisions without doubting what you believe in.

Could you tell us more about your own universe, your favorite things (designers, shops, concept, event, etc)?

Since I’ve lived in London, my tastes have changed a lot, and I’m now opened to every styles. I’m a “High Street” shopper! Stores like Primark or Topshop are my favorites because I love diversity. I often buy then resell my garments. I also like to enhance my wardrobe with parts a little more trendy. Regarding the key accessories like bags and shoes, I can spend more money because they are real investments. In this category my choices are moving toward brands as Miu Miu or Céline.

One of my favorite stores in London is Selfridge’s where marketing principles are best understood. In his time, its American founder, Harry Gordon Selfridge, wanted to shock crowds by selling articles which, in that time, were considered as vulgar: make up, women’s clothing, etc. Nowadays, Selfridge’s is the reference in terms of novelty and funny concepts. The brands are in competition for getting the best visibility in the store. This is a major place for British and international fashion!

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