Interview: Lily Buevich talks Paris

Monday, February 29

In December, I published an interview in which the uber lovely Georgiana Boboc from Vintage Traffic spoke about moving to Paris from her native Romania, her personal style and her favorite museum to go to for fashion exhibitions. This month's heroine is Lily Buevich - a postgraduate of Institut Français de la Mode, which has been listed by Business of Fashion as one of the top fashion schools in the world. Keep reading to find out how to get into IFM, why Frenchmen seem so rude and which Parisian bar made it to The 50 Best Bars in the World.

Moving to Paris is the ultimate dream for many girls around the world. Why did you personally move here?
For me, moving to Paris has never been the ultimate dream. On the first acquaintance, which happened on a trip to Europe, I only got to spend here a few days. The Eiffel Tower, wine, croissants and having my wallet stolen in front of the Mona Lisa - altogether, a standard tourist package. 
Then I came here for six months as an exchange student of a business school located in a little town not far away from the capital. After spending all my weekends in Paris hanging out with my friends, I started thinking about moving here following the graduation from the university in St. Petersburg. Just like in the cases of many other girls, there's a certain romantic story involved, however the main reason why I moved to Paris has to be my love for this seemingly cold city which later became not less of a home for me than St. Petersburg where I was born and raised.
What was it like - starting from the scratch in a foreign country? Which difficulties did you face?
All of the foreigners face the same difficulties: bureaucracy and the overall snobbery and hypocrisy of French people (especially in Paris), even though they try to look open-minded and liberal. But one has to understand, that even though local systems of public health, education, insurance, etc. are far from flawless, they do work - very, very slowly, yes, but you don't have to bribe anyone to get what you need. That's why in the beginning it was quite challenging to start the process of integration - settling the visa issues and searching for the accommodation (which is not easier than searching for a job, but that's a whole different story).
How well do you speak French? Where did you study it?
When I moved here, it was difficult to define my level of French because all those school years of learning the language via conventional textbooks didn't teach me any practical skills. And so my communication was limited to dialogues with waiters and amateurish attempts to explain which baguette I need (turns out, there are many kinds). 
After two years of internships and various work experiences I learned to speak and, most importantly, to joke and understand jokes. If you're a foreigner who naively assumes that nowadays everyone in the world speaks English, you'll be profoundly disappointed when you'll come to Paris. Yes, the situation has gotten better, and most of the young people do learn English. But "learn" is the key word, since almost everyone refuses to actually speak it. In my opinion, one of the main characteristics of French people is that they are afraid to look stupid, not educated enough or funny, and that's why they prefer to seem arrogant and even rude (which is maybe not such a bad thing considering their accent).
You graduated from the Institut Français de la Mode. Could you please tell us about it - how did you enter the university, what are some of the pros and cons, what are the career opportunities that have opened up in front of you after graduating?
In France, the status of the school plays a big role, especially when it comes to foreigners. In the former Soviet Union it doesn't really matter which diploma you have - as long as you have an impressive work experience and a good portion of enthusiasm, you can try yourself in pretty much any job. 
Here, it's very different: radical career changes are not widely accepted. Back in St. Petersburg, I got a diploma in communications and PR, and that's why to start a career in luxury business in France I needed a strong academic base provided by a respected school. 
The program that I was accepted for in 2014, is called Master of Science in International Luxury Management. All in all, the objective of the program is to prepare a group of professionals that will pursue a career in various areas of management and luxury business, such as operational and strategic marketing, retail management, etc. I chose IFM first and foremost because of its reputation - in 2015 it was recognized as one of the 10 most influential schools in the world by Business of Fashion. 
While I was looking into the program before sending in my application, I found out that the school is financially supported by many of the companies acquired by LVMH, Richemont and Kering. Students take part in the cases designed by the employees of the brands - that actively participate in not just the initial selection, but also in the assessment of the students' work throughout the whole process. All this sounded great in terms of career opportunities. 
We were the first to graduate from this particular program, and that's why we had to go through a number of steps in order to be accepted. Firstly, we had to fill in the form consisting of questions about our professional experience and the general understanding of the luxury market. Then, the interviews, which foreigners had via Skype. During the interviews we had to analyze a given topic and explain our point of view. As we found out later on, the panel was interested in how we think, how we express our thoughts and how much knowledge we possess when it comes to art, culture, economics and the general understanding of the luxury business. 
To be honest, it was an extremely valuable experience. While studying at IFM, I figured out the direction I want to move in, and so I'm very thankful for all the opportunities that have opened up in front of me. Naturally, it all depends on me from now on, and that's why I have to work hard - which I'm doing right now.
What do you love Paris for the most and what you dislike about the city?
Let me put it this way: I love Paris for the things I can't put up with. It's critical and snobbish, and here I feel true to myself. After all, let's not forget that the citizens of St. Petersburg are very familiar with these qualities as well. I love Paris for it's originality, for the delicious food and, most importantly, because people here really know how to enjoy the process, the conversations and such little things as morning coffee on a terrace or an evening apéro with colleagues and friends. 
Of course, there are things that are simply annoying: for example, the opening hours of some institutions. My bank is opened five hours a day - in the morning and after lunch and until 5PM. This is what I call "the housewives hours" - who else isn't busy this time of the day? But this is trivia, really.
Could you please name your three favourite spots in the city?
Most of them are located in Marais district where I lived for two years. 
L'Aller Retour is a wonderful restaurant specializing in meat. It's located in the northern part of Marais and I could write an essay on how incredible their côte de boeuf maturée is! 
Little Red Door is a cocktail bar run by an incredible team. In 2015 it was on the list of "50 Best Bars in the World", and I spend most of my salary there for three years now - so worth it though!
L’Institut du Monde Arabe is not everyone's cup of tea, but I like the beautiful view from the terrace and the interesting selection of photos taken in the different Arabian cities, some of which are unfortunately ruined these days. After visiting it, it's a must to enjoy some mint tea and Eastern sweets at the Salon de Thé de la Grande Mosquée.
Where do you want to go the most in the nearest future?
Tomorrow I'm going to the theatre to see "How to Become Parisian In One Hour" - my friends have been talking about it a lot, and so I was given the tickets. Also, lately I've been really into gemology which is linked directly to what I want to do professionally. That's why I'm planning a visit to the Musée de Minéralogie to see the "Les gemmes des Joyaux de la Couronne de France" exhibition.

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