When people think about luxury brands, they often think of Paris and New York, but luxury apparel brand Peter Millar has put Raleigh on the map.
The company was founded in Raleigh in 2001. It was acquired by Richemont, a Swiss-based luxury holding group with many prestigious luxury brands in its portfolio, in 2012, but still makes its home in Raleigh today. That local access to a luxury brand has been particularly impactful to the Global Luxury and Management (GLAM) program at NC State’s Poole College of Management.
It’s a symbiotic relationship between Peter Millar and the GLAM program, with Peter Millar’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Brand Partnerships, Millie Graham, serving on the GLAM program’s Industry Advisory Board since the GLAM program’s inception.
“It was an honor to contribute to the direction of the GLAM program,” Graham said. “And then, to be able to work with these students – they come with real-world questions and scenarios.”
“Their studies have allowed them to be exposed to so many businesses, giving them a broader knowledge and deeper passion for the luxury industry.”
The GLAM program awards students two master’s degrees upon graduation. They receive a Master in Management with a concentration in Global Luxury from NC State, and a Master of Science in Global Luxury Management from SKEMA Business School in France. Students spend the fall semester in Raleigh and the spring semester in Paris, though the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted those plans over the past year.
A local luxury voice on the board
Through her more than 14 years working at Peter Millar, Graham has seen the world of marketing change drastically. Areas from social media to digital marketing have become essential to brands, and that’s something she can voice to the GLAM program as part of her role as a board member. Her areas of expertise are in building partnerships and relationships and connecting people – the human capital side, as she calls it.
As a board member in the early days of the program, Graham was a voice along with other board members, as curriculum development took place.
“We were able to talk about what would be important for these students entering out in the world and what these degrees could offer to equip them for real world success,” she said.
As the program flourished over the years, Peter Millar offered internships and full-time positions to GLAM students and graduates. But it’s not just those who have gone on to employment with Peter Millar that have benefitted from having access to the company and to Graham. Other students have come to her for advice and guidance as they’ve shaped their career plans.
“I still keep in touch with students as they’ve gone on into their professional careers,” she said. “Sometimes they may move on to another job and call or email for career advice.”
“It’s been rewarding to give them some guidance and advice that they have acted upon – you can see that you’re helping build next steps for them.”
Whether they’ve been with Peter Millar for three years or three months, GLAM graduates say the company offers them the opportunity to put the skills they learned in the program to practical use, while offering a supportive environment that continues to help them grow professionally. Since the company is still relatively small compared to other large luxury brands, it also offers them the opportunity to play a big part in the company’s growth and ask for increased responsibility.
“If you want to come in and put your head down, and work to try to improve the company, the opportunity is there,” said Taylor Friesen (’18). “I talk to our president and our senior vice president of marketing almost every day – in a bigger company you don’t have that kind of exposure.”
Friesen pursued her undergraduate degree from Poole College with an interest in supply chain management and sustainability. As many of her classmates started looking into careers in consulting or with IT companies, Friesen knew she wanted to move toward brand or brand development. The GLAM program was the logical next step.
“I knew GLAM would give me the exposure, and I’d be able to see the opportunities in the industry,” she said.
The summer prior to beginning the GLAM program, Friesen was able to secure a part-time job with Peter Millar as she sought practical work experience in supply chain. As a logistics specialist, she worked in the distribution center.
“I never thought I’d be working in a distribution center, but with a luxury brand, there’s a need to be efficient while still keeping that luxury touch in your brand,” she said.
She returned to Peter Millar after graduating from the GLAM program, working in logistics and then moving to the retail team, while seeing her responsibilities grow as the company grew.
“The company has been booming,” Friesen said. “It’s been so important to look at how we can become more efficient but still maintain that luxury touch and standards – how can we do more with the demand we’re getting.”
Kristin Brown (’17) knew of Peter Millar and its local presence, but having access to Graham cemented her interest in working for the company.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have Peter Millar in the back of my mind even as an undergrad,” Brown said. “But the access to Millie Graham, someone who was high up and someone I looked up to and admired, really made an impact.”
Brown had a marketing internship with Peter Millar, and then took a full-time position after graduation. She shifted from marketing to production, first serving as a Production Data Management Specialist, then Production Specialist, and finally moving into the role of Production Manager in just three short years.
The knowledge and skills she gained from the GLAM program have helped her understand her customer today, and what keeps that customer coming back, Brown said.
Maggie Hill (’20) heard about the GLAM program as an undergraduate in the College of Textiles at NC State. Seeking an experience that would give her a personalized view into the luxury industry, she applied.
From her time as an undergraduate, she knew about the special relationship between Peter Millar and NC State. She’d grown up in a family that loved golf, and said she has a special passion for North Carolina and the goods it produces. Peter Millar seemed like the perfect fit.
Today, she is an e-commerce customer care representative, focused on the online customer experience with Peter Millar.
“Peter Millar continues to grow and evolve,” she said. “Golf has grown during the pandemic, and people here are excited about that. I love discussing it with customers.”
Hill said it’s her first full-time job, and in just a few months she’s grown in independence and gained confidence thanks to the opportunities Peter Millar has presented to her.
“I started remote because of COVID, but I still feel like I can go to any one of my co-workers if I need to,” she said.
Graham said having this type of synergetic relationship between NC State and Peter Millar just enhances success for both the company and for students.
“It’s like having a think tank, you’re able to bounce ideas around,” she said. “For a company like ours, just to have smart, talented students who are eager to learn and eager to get in the workforce and just apply their skills and abilities – I think it’s a win-win for both of us.”
This post was originally published in Poole College of Management News.