Conversation with Francesca Magni & Valeria Pisano -VF International

The conversation was realized as part of Dr. Nadzeya Sabatini‘s course Conversations with Industry Experts offered by Università della Svizzera italiana and Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne’s Master Program in Digital Fashion Communication.

The article was written by Celeste CamillaKoch GiadaMortara MichelaSidorova AlexandraValencia Catherine – Master’s students in Digital Fashion Communication and edited by Alice Noris – PhD Student and Teaching Assistant.

It was a great chance to have a conversation with VF International during the course. This time Francesca Magni, Sr Recruiting Manager EMEA at VF, and Valeria Pisano, Sr Manager, HRBP Napapijri, Icebreaker & Digital Platforms, presented VF Corporation company and shared information about the recruiting process and its organizational structure.

VF is one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies, which was founded in 1899 and includes 19 brands like Vans, Napapijri, The North Face, Timberland, and many others. The corporation connects people to lifestyles, activities, and experiences they cherish most and enables people to live in a sustainable and active way. “We power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and our planet” is the purpose of VF International that drives the company’s work. 

Headquarters and retails of VF are spread around the globe in 170 countries, but specifically speaking about Europe, two of their headquarters are in Stabio, Switzerland, and Antwerp, Belgium. In Stabio around 1.000 employees work for 8 brands (Vans, The North Face, Napapijri, Dickies, Timberland, Icebreaker, Smartwool, and Altra) in the modern and well-equipped office. The main recruitment office is also placed in Stabio. As for the Antwerp Headquarter office, 300 employees work there on Eastpak and Kipling brands.

Napapijri, the brand, whose working activities were discussed in detail with Valeria Pisano, was founded in 1987 in the shadow of Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, by an Italian entrepreneur and combines a unique and disruptive attention to style with innovative use of materials. Inspired by the sophistication of great expeditions of the last century and the intrepid explorers who transformed their lives into unique journeys. During the Q&A session, we asked Valeria about the big effort Napapijri is putting into recycling and sustainability. She actually told us that Napapijri pillars are “design, innovation, sustainability”. The brand started its sustainability campaign in 2015 when they decided to stop using animal fur. After the eco fur, they developed another synthetic fiber for the production of jackets, on which VF owns the copyright. Napapijri also created a new innovative process of making items which is really interesting: the “ze-knit”. Finally, in 2019 the brand did a step forward introducing the “circularity series” by supporting the recycling of old clothes.

The Marketing department, which is made up of 30 people, is just one of the many departments that allow Napapjiri in Stabio to function successfully. At Napapijri, the marketing department supports the e-commerce team and therefore assists and guides consumers to connect with the product and brand. The main objective of this department is to increase brand awareness and engage users who already know the brand to encourage them to purchase their products. Their department is broken down by 4 important roles. The first role consists of the Manager of Digital Marketing, which primarily finds ways to drive traffic to their website. The second role in the marketing department is the Specialist CRM whose duty is to connect with customers who are in their database. For example, curated newsletters are sent out from this team to consumers who shop with Napapijri. The third role is the Specialist SEO & Search, which operates to connect with consumers through search strategies. And finally, the Specialist Social Media role who will take the initiative to connect with consumers through social media.

During the conversation, students were surprised to hear that to be recruited what matters are not only hard skills like knowing how to use a specific program or talking a specific, but VF values guiding principles such as being authentic, bold, respectful to others and persistent even when a task seems harder than the usual. 

Here are some tips that students should keep in mind when applying for a job or an internship:

  • The first thing they have to pay attention to is the position they are applying for, and tailor their CV to it. It is important to avoid to use the same exact resume for different job offers. 
  • When applying to multiple job positions, try always to remember the title of the job position as precisely as possible. 
  • Always look and remember the company information, mission, and values. 
  • Don’t forget to follow-up after the interview. 

The Ecommerce and Digital teams have one main purpose: to grant the best online shopping experience to the customer, which translates into increasing the conversion. They take care of all the aspects of the website, from usability tools to contents. This division is made of five teams: the merchandising team is in charge of pushing the product online to reach the target, which means managing the e-commerce sales and ensuring the alignment with the overall merchandising strategy (the role of store managers in physical shops); then, there is the digital account team, who manage the own e-commerce platform and the relationships with the Digital Titans (Zalando, Amazon, Asos), this task comprehends the choice of the products, the delivery time and the sales plan. The third one is the Digital concession team, which is responsible for maintaining partnerships with concessions and defining the best strategy to sell merchandise on concession platforms (more specific to VF – who deal only with Zalando: there are two kinds of relationship, the Zalando wholesale and the direct purchase from the brand, where Zalando is just a means to get visibility). Then, there is the e-commerce operation coordinator, who is in charge of improving the customer experience online and analyzing the different KPIs to get information about the performance of the website (e.g. card abandonment rate). Lastly, the most creative one: the digital experience team. They have the task of creating a user-center application design, appealing, and easy to use to enhance the interactions with the website (the role of visual merchandiser in stores).

Additional sources: The conversation with Francesca Magni and Francesca Pisano offered the basis for new reflections concerning the idea of working on a big and international company such as VF. Here some educational sources that students shared on the topics the guests addressed: