Senior Vice President for Business Development, Prada, New York, NY
“I think it is a big asset—to be sensitive to the elements related to branding, positioning, and customer experience that are actually quite tricky. To have an aesthetic antenna up is actually a big part of being in the luxury business. You have to be able to understand the subtle cues that are given to a customer—if you aren’t able to get those very quickly, it doesn’t matter what kind of analytics you bring to the picture, you’re not fundamentally getting what it’s all about.”
Jeffrey Rugh '99 started off working as a salesperson in the women’s ready-to-wear department at a Beverly Hills store, but soon became known as someone who was willing to take on positions that never existed before. Now Senior Vice President for Business Development at Prada, his primary responsibility is the retail expansion of the company. He works with senior executives to develop strategic plans for the Americas—Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and Latin America—including real estate development and managing relationships with department stores so the customer gets the full Prada experience. His ability to help the company move into new markets means that they reach more customers than ever before.
He studied painting at MICA, but also spent a great deal of time focused on art history. He attributes his rise within the compan y to his lack of preconceived notions about how business should operate and brands should be promoted. He says that artists can also think of themselves as brands with immensely transferable skills— tackling problems, thinking critically, and defending solutions. Rugh finds it especially important to be able to listen to and understand variables others are considering, and to ask the right questions. In doing so, he has gathered crucial business intelligence.
Aggressive curiosity, Rugh says, is something nurtured at MICA, and is why many MICA alumni have been able to achieve at a new and higher level.
In fact, when Rugh is reviewing resumes for jobs at Prada, he looks for someone with unique experiences that provide a window on how they passionately pursue their ideas. Looking at things outside of the default way, he thinks, can give people a leg up on the competition.