Robert Chavez ’77, President and CEO of Hermés of Paris, spoke at a seminar hosted by Business Today, a business organization for undergraduate students, on Wednesday, October 26th. design house.
At the event, Chavez spoke about the importance of being authentic. From his belief in the value of pursuing topics of pure interest, to his experience leading his brand with a strong international designer who creates each product by hand.
“Do what you love,” Chavez advised the student attendees. “Reading, discovering and learning languages are the beginnings, the first stepping stones.”
Today, Chavez is a highly regarded figure in the fashion industry, but he said his professional trajectory wasn’t always linear. While at Princeton University, Chavez earned a degree in Romance Languages and Literature. Although this is a seemingly unrelated research focus of his life’s work, Chavez is still alive after 45 years of his life.
“People used to say to me, ‘What are you going to do with that? ‘ But now I’m working for a French company. Princeton really opened my eyes to the world. back to the fact that
After graduating, Chavez worked in various departments at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s stores before finally taking up his current position at Hermès in 2000.
Business Today originally invited Chavez to speak at the Design Nation Conference in April 2021, but due to scheduling conflicts, he was unable to attend. Instead, Chavez agreed to his Q&A, which was moderated and held at McCosh 50 on Wednesday night.
Elizabeth Poku ’24, Assistant Director of Business Today’s Seminar Team, organized and moderated the event. In an interview with “Prince,” Pok pointed out the value of hearing from executives like Chavez about corporate values, especially in fashion.
“I love hearing from people in the industry about how they can express what the brand means,” said Poku.
Pok also hoped that Chavez’s perspective, once a low-income student at the university, would resonate with those who share a similar background at Princeton University.
“We have a growing first-generation population that needs to see people like them succeed,” she said. “It’s like the old adage: You can’t be invisible.”
Chavez grew up in San Antonio, Texas, the middle child of two Latin American immigrants. He left Texas for the first time when he started school in New Jersey.
“There were times when I felt like I shouldn’t be here in Princeton,” Chavez said. “I went home for winter break and thought I would never come back. I don’t fit in with this rich campus and these people.”
Chavez also noted how his socioeconomic background influenced his experience working at Hermès.
“Selling luxury was just like selling any other product,” he said at the event. I realized that I had something to offer this poor child of
That “offering,” according to Chavez, was his unique leadership style focused on building community.
“One of the first things I did was bring people together and almost force them to communicate,” he said. “Everybody was operating in their own silo. If you don’t know if you can trust people, you’re not going to build an organization. It’s never going to work.”
He suggested students find ways to connect in a similar way on campus.
“I may sound like an old man now, but we have to talk to each other. When we talk to each other, we have feelings,” Chavez said. “Put your phones away. You need to understand how people are feeling and what they are going through.”
As a final question for the event, Chavez was asked to describe his personal fashion style.
He answered in one word: ‘simplicity’.
Hermès will open in Palmer Square in 2023.
Rebecca Cunningham is a ‘Prince’ news and podcast contributor. For correction requests, Correction @dailyprincetonian.com.