Ketty Maisonrouge: “It’s not about fashion.”
Ketty Maisonrouge is currently the investment manager of KFMG, a firm which focuses on investing in startup brands in the luxury industry. Alongside this position, she is the President and Cofounder of the non-profit Luxury Education Foundation, which is a mentorship and education program for emerging leaders in luxury. She teaches the class Luxury Strategy at Columbia Business School, and is a Board Member of the Sciences Po American Foundation. In the following interview, she describes her entrance into the world of luxury, her experiences at Sciences Po, and how she combined the two and became a prominent figure in the world of luxury.
Maisonrouge followed in the footsteps of her stepfather as a Sciences Po alumnus and completed the Economy and Finance degree in Business Administration at Sciences Po, which she finished in 1978. She then completed a Master’s in Law at La Sorbonne. When asked about her academics, she reflects on Maître de Conférence Jean Mathiex, who taught history and geography at Sciences Po. Although she did not hold the highest grades in the class, Mathiex asked her to be his assistant in the following year, when she would no longer be his student. “I didn’t understand, I wasn’t the best in the class. His answer was, ‘It is not just about academics in success. It involves many things, and I think you will be a better role model for the students.’ I will never forget that… he really marked me a lot.” Maisonrouge continued to stand out in her profession as an important feature even after her studies.
Maisonrouge describes her trajectory to luxury as an accident. After graduating Sciences Po, she did an internship with the largest auction house in Paris. She fell in love with art, and moved to the United States to pursue a Master’s in Art at the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU. Her career grew organically, and the Comité Colbert selected her to help with their 1989 exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Museum. “That’s where my Sciences Po way of looking at things kicked in,” she says. She spent 15 years as the U.S. representative for the Comité Colbert, advising on decisions such as the creation of the Colbert Promenade, and collaborations between smaller and bigger brands.
When asked for her definition of luxury, Maisonrouge responds, “The word luxury has been used and abused so much. My definition of luxury is about quality, craftsmanship, and a defense of timelessness… It’s not about fashion. It is a full experience that will make you feel that whether it is an item or a memory, it will be with you forever, and you will cherish it forever.”
Maisonrouge acknowledges the changes that COVID-19 has catalyzed in the luxury industry. She speaks about how e-commerce was very small in this sector, but how the pandemic accelerated the shift to digital sales. She also describes the shift in the demographics of the luxury audience. “Now, the age group of baby boomers has gone dormant in the luxury world. 2021 was one of the years with the highest entrance of new clients into luxury, consisting of much younger clients.”
Maisonrouge describes how she manages to balance all of her professional roles. “I have been open to opportunities. They all fit into one another… It all happened little by little. Everything happened because I believe in listening to people. I am intellectually curious, and I ask lots of questions… If something interests me, I am not afraid to try, even if I fail. I tell my students, you learn more in failing than succeeding all the time.”
Maisonrouge credits her creative and logical thinking, which have propelled her so far in the luxury world, to Sciences Po. “I think I have a great analytical and synthetic mind, and I learned it at Sciences Po. How to analyze, break down issues, zoom in on the essential, and therefore to understand how to take the next steps has been one of the most important things that Sciences Po has brought me. Sciences Po is a school that teaches you so much that it is worth the effort and hard work to get in, to get gifts that will stay with you for the rest of your life.”
Maisonrouge’s last remarks are advice to younger students: “Be open minded. Look at things that are not necessarily what you think you want to do. Don’t be afraid of trying different things. Don’t be afraid to fail.”