For the third consecutive year, Polimoda has prepared a special mentorship reserved for fourth-year Undergraduate in Fashion Business students, with Communications and Marketing expert Paolo Cigognini.
Most of the time, we associate a brand with their creative directors, however oftentimes we forget to delve into the many other hard-working individuals and teams behind the brands name – so although in many ways we already knew Paolo’s work, we weren’t aware of the person behind it all.
With a career of over 20 years in communications and media, Paolo has helped numerous brands achieve excellence by implementing a strategic communication plan and elevating brand equity to maximize results. Paolo’s hit list includes brands like Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana, and Bulgari. Most recently, he was appointed senior vice president for global communications and media at Tom Ford, assuming a leading marketing role for the brand.
As the fourth-year fashion business undergraduate students entered Villa Favard’s Aula Magna, the room began to quickly fill up with excitement, we had never seen so many students sitting so close to the front of the room. Early on a Tuesday morning, despite being a little unsure of what was to come, we were ready to engage in the 8-hour mentorship and see what insights we could get as we move into the next phase of our lives.
Paolo succeeded at making the mentorship engaging – he was present and captured our attention, making eye contact and initiating questions throughout the 8 hours. As valuable as the newfound knowledge is, which we will take along with us not only in our careers but in our lives, his teaching method was just as valuable – never giving us the answer, but rather asking us enough questions and storytelling for us to reach the answer ourselves, always guiding.
He truly gave us valuable and immeasurable industry insights, while simultaneously guiding and inspiring us to our next steps.
A key outcome from this mentorship that we have applied to writing this journal is the importance of teamwork – Paolo’s emphasis on the power of working together and aligning values felt like a needed refresh on the topic. While the importance of collaborative efforts may appear self-evident, it is all too easy to overlook as we embark on individual career journeys post-graduation. Working together on this journal has been a great experience for each of us. It’s not just about our own stories; it’s about how our different perspectives come together to make something powerful. As we navigate through our personal learnings, we’ve understood that a united team brings something unique and impactful to the table, benefiting both our personal growth and the overall success of our joint efforts.
The importance of values is a core takeaway from this mentorship. Within the first 10 minutes of meeting Paolo, we got to know his values and likewise, when introducing ourselves, we presented ours, which turned out to be key in making the most out of our time together. Paolo stressed that one’s values are what differentiate us and that we must hone in on which values represent us and communicate them clearly – “the point of difference between all of us is our values, values should coexist to work together.” Aligning with one of his values, honesty, Paolo made sure we all leave knowing we should be true to ourselves, our stories, and our mission – and that his mission is “to create a legacy.”
Paolo not only shared valuable insights into the professional world but also underscored the importance of maintaining boundaries in the work environment. He highlighted the significance of clarity in unlocking creative potential, emphasizing the rational nature of work and the need to separate it from personal emotions. He pointed out that achieving a balance between workload and personal life is not solely about avoiding burnout, it also involves creating space for innovative thinking. Additionally, he emphasized that feedback, whether constructive or positive, serves as a crucial stepping stone for personal and professional growth.
We deeply resonated with his advice, “wake up and study”, reinforcing the vital role of continuous learning in fostering a successful career. Our discussions emphasized the importance of staying current with the news, as being informed about industry changes is not merely advantageous but an absolute necessity. In a landscape where the industry constantly evolves and is closely connected to consumer perceptions, staying ahead is synonymous with staying informed.
Leaving Aula Magna, we actually said to one another, “this has been my lowest screen time in weeks”, and this is most definitely due to Paolo’s captivating presence, interactive teaching method, and continuous motivation which left a lasting impact on all of us.
Beyond the titles and formalities, he painted a portrait of leadership as a blend of honesty, authenticity, genuine connection, teamwork, and a commitment to decisions. As we left the room, we collectively felt a sense of intrinsic motivation – we saw what it’s like firsthand to be a successful leader and left with the comfort and ease that we will find success in the future, as long as we honor our values. His assertion that success is attainable for all, coupled with the application of industry insights, left us with a sense of confidence as we step into the next phase of our lives. With this, we are truly looking forward to future mentorship sessions with Paolo as we believe our commitment to continuous learning emerges as a cornerstone for achieving success.
Paolo Cigognini, Senior Vice President Communications & Media at Tom Ford