ITW | Lucas Delattre : « I’m here to make connections between fashion and other universes »

Our conversation on the major stakes around the future of fashion & Human with one of the most emblematic professors of the Institut Français de la Mode

in brief

At daco, we are curious to discover the fashion insiders’ points of views and experiences: in partnership with Futur404, we thus have interviewed Lucas Delattre, professor at the Institut Français de la Mode.

Lucas speaks little at a personal level, while he spends a lot of time studying and sharing the major changes in the fashion industry: his work creates strong and lasting bridges between the various protagonists. So we seized the opportunity of the recent hackathon organized by the IFM in partnership with the school 42, whose daco and Futur404 were juries, to learn more about his vision of the upcoming transformations in the fashion and the accompaniment that IFM brings its students to address these new challenges.

Lucas is a professor at the Institut Français de la Mode, where he has worked since 2006. He arrived “a bit by the chance of friendships and meetings”, and after a ten-year experience as a journalist (at the foreign service of French publication Le Monde), and then as the head of the Paris office of the Council of Europe.

Lucas Delattre – Media, Communication & Digital Professor at the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) – Credit: Maxence Bouton  / daco.io

« At the IFM, I began as a mission leader, at the time when we were rue Jean Goujon in the 8th arrondissement. I arrived here because Pascal Morand, who was then GM of the IFM, asked me to give a hand, and then I became in charge of the communication of the Institute. I was Director of Communications for a few years, until 2015, while gradually moving to teaching, first part-time and then full-time. I continue to have communication activities by feeding the IFM’s Twitter account, but now the Direction of Communication (and Marketing) is provided by Delphine Wharmby. »

Since then, Lucas has become a teacher for the IFM Management programs (French and English), and a little in continuing education. His teaching focuses on media, communication, digital, but also on the cultural and historical dimension of things, with a foot in the culture, a foot in the future. “I remember in this regard a text by Umberto Eco in which he says that the future educated class will be composed of hyperconnected people who have received in addition an “education at the past tense”, with a” filtering capacity “particularly developed . It is in this spirit that we try to work at the IFM. In fact, my job is to be a student with a few more years of experience – I’m 25 years older than IFM students on average – to prepare them for work, to help them identify topics, find the right angles, the right people and avoid the “blah blah”. I am a little “stationmaster”, that is, I provide an intellectual service that helps students go faster to identify what is useful to know and understand. I introduce, I summarize, I synthesize. I am a “senior student”. “

A very interesting concept that challenges us, what is a “senior student” for Lucas Delattre?

« I work on the subjects that I am supposed to teach so I do a permanent watch. I read a lot, I meet people, I go to conferences, I gather information, I put it in shape, I synthesize it to make it available to students. That’s how I see my job. Finally, there is an expertise that is built but I am not an expert, I am rather a general observer and a “smuggler” who tries to be well informed and who works, basically, in the spirit of journalism that never left me. »

A conception and a vision of teaching that resonates as much for us at daco as for Futur404.

Moreover, when we ask him to summarize his vision of daco, Lucas finds the words to encourage us in our initiatives and bring his foresight, always with kindness.

« daco, it is the proudness to see that in France we can be at the forefront of technology, fight in a hard and cruel world of contracts, customers … and manage to remain open, human and available. It’s extraordinary. It is also a pride to see that in France there is this kind of intelligence. »

Our meeting with Lucas goes back a year and a half, when our co-founders Paul and Claire approached him to introduce him to daco and offer him to work together. Lucas had received us with the Economic Observatory of the IFM (Gildas Minvielle) and the studies (Danièle Clutier).

« They introduced us to the company and what they were doing in such a smart way… The contrast between their maturity, intelligence, depth of field and age (about the same as the students’ of the IFM) hit us so much and we wanted to work with them right away. Since then, we seize every opportunity to work with daco. Not only is the subject of interest to us, because AI in fashion is obviously central to us, but there is also an approach, a personality and a humanity that I like a lot at daco. »

In fact, this question of humanity, it comes back to daco because we want to put the AI at the service of the Human.

« Yes it is very important. This is not a “nerd” talk. There is a depth of field and a crossroads of points of view (with art in particular) which interests us enormously and which is very rare in this sector. »

Lucas meets all types of fashion actors: startups vs large companies, small designers vs designers, small brands vs mass market players: he hears a lot of things that he shares especially on the IFM’s twitter account. Curious, we asked him where this extraordinary thirst for knowledge comes from.

« I am a journalist. The definition of the job is to know what is going on. But more than “knowing” is “understanding” what is happening. Because we can know many things without understanding anything. It is therefore necessary to filter the knowledge that is available and today the knowledge is more than available (except certain parts of the knowledge, the secrets of companies in particular …). »

For Lucas, it is useless if we do not put this knowledge at the service of the understanding of phenomena and developments in progress and that is what matters to him, much more than fashion and luxury as such.

« It is a bit by chance that I arrived here. Fashion is a fascinating subject because we are at the crossroads of many things. It borrows from many different universes, it is very abundant and important economically, otherwise I would not be there. »

« In fact, fashion “eats everything”. The fact that a guy like me finds himself working in fashion proves that it’s a very powerful industry. Nothing predestined me for that and I must say that fashion is not the first of my concerns, but rather the second. This paradox feeds my way of working because I am here to make connections with other universes. »

« Now I’ve been here for 12 years, I hear a lot, I see a lot of people. What interests me is to create connections, so to bring students who are thoroughly in the subject and who will work in the heart of fashion to reflect on what is happening in other mental worlds (or other creative worlds) and in other economic universes, for example digital. »

« The other day with Paul we were talking about transportation. I remember that we talked about a tractor company (John Deere) to explain what it was a “digital enterprise”, whose heart became the software (software company, to use an expression of Jeffrey Immelt, former boss of General Electric). We need to help fashion management students think about a lot of things: economy, culture, environment … and help them understand what’s going on. It would be the same if I taught at a school of architecture or any other vocational school. The advantage of fashion is that it borrows from many things, many sectors, it has very broad horizons of interests and that’s why people like me can find their place. It’s pretty paradoxical, actually. If I had been told twenty years ago that I would work in fashion for more than 10 years of my life, I would not have believed it. »

When we talk about the major issues ahead in fashion, if Lucas were to retain the few major transformations (creation, design, technology, customer relations, logistics, raw materials) they would crystallize around two “enormous” issues: the environment and the technologies. “These are massive upheavals,” he tells us.

« Everyone needs to understand what’s going on, to adapt, not just to avoid bullshit (sic) – and there’s a lot to be done – but to take those things into their own hands and find their place in a world that moves. »

« On the environment it is endless, especially since fashion is in essence a sector that is renewed all the time and therefore that causes waste but also damage to the environment – if only with the cotton. We must avoid the “blah-blah” again, and in this area there is a lot of it. Our job is to understand what is being done, what needs to be done, what can be done – without judging by the way – but simply understanding the issues. »

For Lucas, the first challenge is « the environment and the limitation of its degradation through our industry ». The second topic is the technology in which we find artificial intelligence and all the very fast, exciting and up-and-coming changes in the value chain, and that’s what Lucas and his colleagues are trying to do at the IFM with their means, which he specifies, « are primarily intellectual means because we are not very numerous, we are an association of 50 people, so it makes our network of experts even more important, a network in which daco has an important place in helping us understand and be at the forefront of the understanding of phenomena. »

The FASHION REVOLUTION movement seeks to raise awareness on these topics.

So if there are two issues to remember, these are the ones. And through these two issues, “everything changes” he continues. « You talked about customer relations… let’s start from the creation, go back to the logistics, let’s see the” retail “and the communication… everything changes! In a universe that has become very mathematical, everything is calculated, everything is anticipated, everything is simulated much more finely than before with data, with calculation, with the network… We think about what everything mean globally and we must understand what is happening not only in the “macro” sense but also in the “micro” -economic sense. What are the tools to use, what are the tools that we believe our students must master in priority… it’s an infinite field. It’s even scary at times to say “but did I understand correctly? “. So two issues and an infinity of consequences. »

As for his vision of the future of fashion, neither optimistic nor pessimistic, Lucas celebrates the positive aspects while remaining lucid on the issues that the industry must and will take into account in the years to come.

« Fashion by definition is optimistic! It is a pleasure to work for this sector. We are in an aesthetic universe: in the beauty of forms, in the permanent reinvention, in a universe of creation and that can only be joyful. »

« On the pessimistic dimension of things, it is an issue that is precisely related to the environment. To the way we will know, or not, how to adapt this industry to new requirements that are respect of nature. And that’s a huge job. So optimism, pessimism… fashion is a field of expression of all optimisms but it has responsibilities and we are forced to think of both. For my part I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic, I try to understand what is happening. There are reasons to be pessimistic but the bottom line of the story is that many things change and basically it always changes for the better even if we are aware of some disastrous aspects of the subject. Fast fashion is disastrous in some ways. But in reality, intelligence always wins. Reality always take its revenge. We have to find smarter solutions and everyone has to think about it. To conclude, I am optimistic because I believe that intelligence wins every time, whether it is artificial or not! »

As the conversation continues, we come to talk about the teaching profession. With journalism and fashion, teaching is one of his vocations. We wanted to know more about the origin of this transmission vocation.

« I was trained to become a teacher, but when I was 25 years old, I did not want to do this job at all and so I was a journalist for ten years and then, after a few detours, head of communication at IFM. Then as we get older we realize that transmission is great and it is the young people who help you to move forward, to think, and to find meaning in the years that pass and separates you from them. » 

« There is nothing better than working with 25-year-olds, to keep hope, nurture it, and realize that upstream of all the structures that can stifle us sometimes, be it big boxes or the big structures where bad habits crystallize, there is human and youth. Youth is a reservoir of intelligence such that being a teacher is a happiness. Having a quarter of a century more, it naturally triggers a transmission. And I feed on that, they bring me at least as much as what I bring them. There is mutual inspiration. »

When we talk about his students, it is with humility but above all a lot of kindness that Lucas talks about them.

Lucas knows the students well, but not all of them he tell us. « Let’s say that each year, on a promotion of 90 French speaking Management students, I know a good twenty and I see them evolve (same for the English students). Among these twenty there are some with whom I keep relations, there are routes that I can follow. I know 200 former students of the school quite well. In addition, there is every year a “promotion identity” that is spontaneous, unpredictable, incomprehensible. There are “wise” promotions, “benevolent” promotions, “rebel” promotions… it feels right away and you do not know where it comes from, you can not understand. It’s fascinating, by the way. »

« And then there is an evolution of generations. From year to year they are more attentive, less rebellious, sometimes wiser but more anxious about their professional future. They are also more sensitive to the issue of the environment. Without making any generality on the “millenials”, one nevertheless sees very important generational phenomena which help us to perceive what will be the future. The demand for authenticity, coherence between what we say and what we do continues to grow year by year among students.»

Last week, IFM hosted the Digital Week, where the question of technologies and AI at the service of customers was one of the main themes. The co-founders of daco and Futur404 also intervened (in addition to being invited as members of the jury during a workshop with school 42). We wanted to know if Lucas sensed the receptive and enthusiastic students to work on these topics in the future.

A picture of the jury of the IFM x 42 coding school Hackathon, shot during the very first edition in 2016.

« Yes, to varying degrees. There are profiles of students who are passionate about these topics and we know it pretty quickly in the year. They choose a subject of thesis that is related to that then there is a large mass of students who knows that it is important and who listens with a lot of attention what can be said to them over a week like that. So by relying on these two driving forces, we train people very far. We can talk to them about what we want, provided we prove to them quickly enough that it is important. Mastering the attention of students is a subject on itself. We can talk about everything, about any technical subject provided we quickly demonstrate that it is an important subject. How to keep an attentive audience when we know that today everyone is listening to you with an eye on Facebook and an eye on his mailbox? I’m not a supporter of “we close the computer and listen”, even if we debate between us of this stuff, with other teachers. I think you have to be good enough, so that students put three quarters of their attention on what you tell them, and a quarter only on Facebook and their messages. But it’s complicated! »

Interview made by Maxence Bouton,
Communication Intern at 
daco.io,
Student in 3rd year of Bachelor at the Toulouse Business School.

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