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From LVMH to Tory Burch

A former Senior Partner talks about what led him from consulting in the consumer industry to leading one of the most successful American lifestyle brands.
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Pierre-Yves Roussel and Tory Burch

Former Senior Partner Pierre-Yves Roussel (PAR 90-04) joined McKinsey never expecting to work in the fashion industry, but he has built an impressive career doing just that. After fourteen years on the Executive Committee of the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, he took up the CEO role at American lifestyle brand Tory Burch in January. (Note: Pierre-Yves and Tory married in November 2018.)

Here, Pierre-Yves shares his thoughts on mentorship and leadership, what’s next for Tory Burch – and how he always thought that Kevin Sneader would make a great managing partner of the Firm.

* * *

What do you remember most about your time at McKinsey?

I have a vivid memory of all of the projects I did for various clients over fourteen years. I remember the teams, the problem solving and the impact of each project. They had unique challenges and were rewarding in different ways.

I discovered the consumer industry on my second engagement. I was working on a merger between a French and a British retailer. I was one of two business analysts on that project; the other was Kevin Sneader! He went on to Harvard and I went to Wharton, and then we both came back to McKinsey. We've been friends ever since. I always thought he was brilliant and an incredible person and that one day he would be an ideal Managing Partner for the Firm!

You joined LVMH just a few months after being elected Senior Partner. Was that a difficult decision, and what was it like transitioning into the fashion industry?

It was a hard decision to leave McKinsey because I loved every minute. The timing was a surprise as I had just been elected Senior Partner when Bernard Arnault offered me the unique opportunity. He asked me to work directly with him as EVP of Strategy and Operations for LVMH and to become a member of the Executive Committee. I was just 37 years old.

He coached me directly and I learned a great deal about the luxury industry. I observed his unparalleled vision as well as his exceptional entrepreneurial leadership. I saw what it took to build the most successful Luxury Group in the world. After two years, he made me the Chairman and CEO of the Fashion Group. I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the global repositioning and development of a portfolio of twelve of the most prestigious fashion brands in the industry.

You then joined Tory Burch after fourteen years at LVMH. What did you find most compelling about the brand?

Tory came on my radar seven or eight years ago, a few years after she had launched her company. I was looking at investing in the company on behalf of LVMH.

I was impressed with her incredible success and the way she was thinking about the industry. I liked her concept of creating beautiful luxury products that also have a more democratic reach. She launched her business with a full digital platform in 2004 and was visionary in creating a foundation to empower women entrepreneurs, which I found very inspiring.

That’s how my journey with the brand started. Now it has become a new professional and more personal adventure: doing something entrepreneurial together and taking the company to the next level.

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From the Tory Burch Autumn 2019 collection.

What’s the corporate culture and personality like at Tory Burch?

Tory Burch started as a family business, and in a way, we still run it as a family business. We have a strong culture of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

We value honesty and kindness in the way we show up; integrity and compassion in the way we act; passion and humility in the way we work; and excellence and humor in the way we lead. Some of these qualities, like humility and compassion are not necessarily valued in other successful companies. That is what makes it a very unique place.

Tory and I are obviously partners in life, but we're also partners in business. We have very different backgrounds. She was an art history major, and I went to business school. She learned everything about business on her own and she's a true entrepreneur and creative visionary.

My skillset is really to scale businesses to the next level, leveraging all of my experience at LVMH as the CEO of the Fashion Group for twelve years.

My McKinsey consulting background helped me approach each opportunity with a structured and analytical mindset. Tory and I operate very differently, and I think that's what makes our partnership very powerful and inspiring for me. I love being able to transform creativity into business and business into success stories.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I have high standards because I know what it means to operate at the top level in our industry. But as demanding as I am, I am also fair. One of the most important things for me is trust. I need to trust people I work with and empower them. I expect transparency, engagement, accountability and of course, results.

I'm learning a lot every day, particularly in working with younger people who have a different approach. There is no great success without great people and it is by making people successful that you create a great company and a great journey for everyone. Investing in talent—giving opportunities to others, empowering, coaching and mentoring—is the best investment. In a way, I am striving to give back all that I have received.

What’s next for the company?

We are focusing on three objectives:

First, we are working to become a global company. Right now, we are what I would call ‘international.’ We have more than 250 stores and 6,000 employees across North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Australia. The objective is to become a truly global company, which means having a more balanced business across all geographies.

Second, as with any creative company, we have to continuously evolve and reinvent ourselves. I would say this is especially true in the fashion world. As much as I like things that are organized, I also like things that are disruptive, so that tension is enjoyable for me.

Third, we want to become the most inspiring company for our employees and our customers, leveraging our scale while remaining agile and entrepreneurial.

Looking back at your university studies in business and your consulting career, are you surprised that you ended up in the fashion industry?

I had always been interested in art and artistic matters as they relate to business, but I would never have pictured myself here. I knew that I was interested in travelling the world and working in an environment where I could find diversity and innovation. I love both the creative and business sides of the fashion industry.

Combined, Tory and I have six sons! They range in age from 14 to 24. I see them going through the journey of thinking about their futures and I remember myself at their age. I think the most important qualities for them are to have intellectual curiosity and tenacity. I have observed that people who become successful are eager to learn, surround themselves with incredible mentors and have a high level of energy! If you are continuously learning, and are constantly challenging yourself, you can accomplish anything.

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