• ESSEC’s Master in Management alumnus encourages people to create the change they want to see.
  • Highlights the importance of good mentorship.
  • Believes the ESSEC brand name can set the foundation and open doors.

Pierre Clément’s earliest memories involve tinkering with his father’s tools, building everything from go-karts to robots. Even at a young age, inventing, creating, and being able to shape growth were things that excited him.

Today, this same love for creating remains—only instead of objects, he builds companies. For half a decade, this was done at The Kooples, where, as the CEO for Asia-Pacific, he helped the French fashion brand expand its presence in Asia.

Now, Clément stands at the cusp of change with a new project in the pipeline. He is combining the lessons learned at ESSEC Business School and his experience in the workplace to build his own company: HEDONY, a premium ready-to-wear and accessories marketplace for holiday and leisure attire.

It is a business with product offerings inspired by Clément’s personal favorite activities and one that he hopes will support travelers in their own quests for happiness and pleasure. Yet, building a business from scratch is arguably a world apart from growing one with an existing foundation.

Boldly Taking the Leap

Clément says: “I’ve always wanted to start my own company, and I believe I should decide what I want to do with my life and how I want to live it rather than just wait for something to come.”

Indeed, this is the mantra he has lived by throughout his career. After pursuing a degree in law and realizing it was a poor fit for his ambitions, he decisively left for ESSEC for a Master in Management (MiM), a move that opened the doors for him to enter the business world.

Later, when his first role after graduation failed to deliver the desired growth, he again moved fast to seek opportunities elsewhere—opening the door to The Kooples.

“The Kooples was life-changing for me,” Clément declares. “When they hired me to be the head of e-marketing, they knew that I didn’t have any experience managing paid media, but they trusted me, and in return, I worked really hard to prove to them that they made the right choice.”

Two years into his role, his team helped the company double its e-commerce business, and he felt he was ready to move again.

Boldly, he asked for a more significant role and was offered the role of CEO for The Kooples in Asia-Pacific.

“This was completely unexpected,” Clément exclaims. “The role was to handle wholesale, which I had no knowledge of. I had only been in Asia maybe once, and I did not speak Mandarin!”

True to his desire to create inroads and capitalize on growth opportunities, Clément took the plunge, leaping into managing everything from business development to human resources (HR) to finance, legal, marketing, buying, and supply chain.

Breaking the Barriers of Age and Experience

Besides the challenges of integrating with a new culture, he also needed help with skeptics who questioned whether someone his age could lead a business.

Yet their doubts only spurred Clément to work even harder. With the same gusto he had when he first joined The Kooples, he again poured himself into his Asia-Pacific role.

“I showed my boss that I was able to grow the company, negotiate with new partners, and, importantly, that I was protective of the business,” he recalls. “We became true partners, and he became my great mentor.”

This relationship proved pivotal to Clément’s success when, later, he was tasked to go beyond and arrange the takeover of The Kooples business in China from its local distributor, directly operate the business there, and speed up its growth. It was a role encompassing e-commerce, wholesale, and retail work; it involved opening dozens of stores and managing over a hundred people—it was trial by fire, and his mentor was also ready to walk him through.

“He wanted to take this step with me to help me go further, and I needed his mentorship to help me learn fast,” Clément explains. Humbly, he adds: “I was put into my position by great people!”

Building the Next Generation

This is why, even as he readies himself for a new challenge, Clément is keen on paying it forward, hiring young people and giving them opportunities to grow.

He acknowledges that coming from brand-name schools like ESSEC can give one a head start when looking out for talent. After all, in his experience, being an ESSEC alumnus is almost a guarantee of one’s competence and quality of work—in fact, it may well have convinced his employers to take a chance on him in the past.

That said, while ESSEC may have held the key, it was still up to him to open the door, he says, adding that this is why he also values those who demonstrate a repertoire of soft skills and good character.

What he will not be focused on is their experience. “I’d say that when you are perfectly ready to do a job, it’s probably too late,” he shares.

Matter-of-factly, he adds: “It’s much more motivating for people to be given large responsibilities. I can teach them about their job and how to do it well. I can also mentor them the way I have been mentored.”

And so he will, as he continues his journey as businessman, boss, mentor—and perhaps most importantly, builder of businesses, people, and dreams.