There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. Role Call highlights some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them. For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.
FLORENCE, Italy — Marco Semeghini is a teacher at Istituto Marangoni and a marketing manager, with 30 years experience of working in the fashion industry. After graduating with a Masters in Business Administration at Bocconi University in Milan, he started his career as a buyer for department store chain La Rinascente. From there, Semeghini moved to Gucci, working as a menswear buyer for direct stores, before joining Tom Ford, where he held key roles during the brand's early years, including worldwide menswear merchandising manager and head of merchandising. Immediately prior to taking up his role at Istituto Marangoni in 2014, Semeghini was creative director and product development director at Italian menswear brand Canali.
BoF: Please describe your current role.
I’m a teacher at the Istituto Marangoni School of Fashion and Design, which has offered education in fashion and design for almost 80 years, although my experience as a teacher is relatively recent. I started teaching one year ago, having spent almost 30 years of my career working in the industry of fashion. In my ‘previous life,’ I worked for Gucci during its exponential growth and was lucky enough to have the chance to work closely with the charismatic Tom Ford. I worked with Tom both at Gucci and when he was starting up his namesake brand. These formative years were absolutely crucial for building insight and understanding of the fashion world. Tom was surrounded by an exceptionally talented team of professionals; people who might be less prominent as public figures, but who were all incredibly gifted. Over the years I worked in several different roles, mainly ones related to product strategy, although I always kept an open mind and listened and learnt from all the people I was working with.
BoF: What attracted you to the role?
I think everybody knows when the time has come to evolve to the next level. I had just turned 50, and the enthusiasm and passion I always had in the previous 30 years of my life were slowly and steadily waning. I knew I couldn’t live without passion. I decided to analyse my past experiences. Making presentations, hosting seminars and training people had always been key aspects of my former roles, and I always loved them. I loved being able to fascinate the audience, to draw people’s attention and to transmit information while having fun. So, I thought about transforming this interest into a job. Now, I transmit knowledge to students. Business and marketing manuals are often interesting, but students want to know what happens in real life and what the industry they want to work in is really like.
Respect is a key word of mine, and I think it is everybody’s responsibility to spread this value.
BoF: What is the most exciting project or initiative you have worked on?
All of my projects are exciting at the moment, but if I have to name just one of my favourites, it would be teaching fashion marketing to the design students. They are so focused on creativity and design that they usually approach the idea of marketing with a suspicious if not negative attitude. My personal goal is to change their attitudes as quick as possible, by demonstrating how creativity can interact with marketing with mutual respect, generating a positive loop. I also teach respect; respect for other people's work and professions. Respect is a key word of mine, and I think it is everybody’s responsibility to spread this value.
BoF: How is your role changing? What are the forces driving this change?
I think I have to give two different answers. Firstly, I had to realise quickly that teaching students is very different from training my assistants. I still need to be able to hold their attention and transmit know-how, but organisation, instruments, schedules, and, above all, the mindset of listeners are totally different.
Secondly, the role needs to change because the industry itself is evolving quickly. Change is crucial to fashion. Although I am not working actively in this industry per se, I need to be as up-to-date as I was before, perhaps even more. I keep bothering my friends and ex-colleagues to keep me updated and help me stay informed.
BoF: Tell us about a time you failed and how you learned from it.
It would be so nice if there were just one! Failing is a key part of every job. Sometimes you can learn from that mistake and improve; other times you have just to accept that things went wrong. When I was in charge of creative direction for Canali, a few of my fashion shows didn’t really break through. You can’t imagine how many times I thought of all the changes I could possibly make, in my mind, to make the shows more effective – but by then it was too late, of course. Every show is a different challenge. I must say that fortunately, each show that followed grew to match my expectations, so maybe I did learn from my mistakes.
As a teacher, failures are a day-by-day experience. I know when a lesson was not successful, or when I'm not able to interest my students the way I want to, or when a high potential student can’t find his or her way to express it; that can be frustrating.
BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?
You need a lot of passion and patience. Passion, because personal involvement is crucial. It’s like being on stage every day, can you imagine an actor without passion? Patience, because students tend to have a different mindset. They belong to a different generation, which means they come from different environments, with different social experiences, a different history, and of course they bring different stories. The biggest mistake would be to judge them constantly. You have to put a lot of your personal parameters on hold and get to understand the students, while keeping a necessary distance between you and them, which requires patience as well as humility too.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.