Dr Alessia Grassi took up her new role at the University of Leeds as Lecturer in Fashion Marketing in February 2021. With a background in business and economics before specialising in the fashion industry, Alessia brings a wide range of knowledge to her research on physical retail and the relationship between luxury fashion and other forms of culture.
After a bachelor’s degree in economics and accounting and a masters in business consulting in her native Italy, Alessia came to the UK to pursue another masters degree in fashion management at the University of Huddersfield.
Bringing these areas of interest together, she went on to pursue a PhD there, focusing on how luxury brands develop immersive experiences that build trust with consumers through art and museums.
“Some of the biggest brands have set up foundations that invest in, collect, curate and exhibit art, because the opportunity to gain knowledge is a positive experience with deep personal impact,” she explains.
“There is a crossover in the minds of customers between seeing luxury fashion and seeing pieces of art, so the research took in psychology, sociology, museum studies, public engagement and a range of different approaches to understand how brands use this to deepen their relationships with consumers.”
Using art and cultural experiences as a part of brand strategy is a practice that stems from physical retail, when luxury brands started placing pieces of art in flagship stores. Louis Vuitton, for example, transformed the top floor of the Champs Elysées flagship into dedicated exhibition space before eventually opening the Fondation Louis Vuitton building in Paris.
For Alessia this sparked an interest in the reinvention of physical retail spaces. Having taught strategic retailing during her time as a lecturer at the University of Huddersfield, she is now collaborating with a colleague in Milan to explore how brands can implement cultural hubs in physical spaces to offer new in-person experiences.
“I’m excited about retail and about brand communication – and crucially, how retail is a form of communication in and of itself,” Alessia says. “The experience of interacting with a brand tells us about its values; how it makes us feel determines whether we align ourselves with it. That offers a huge opportunity for companies who want to build and maintain relationships with customers.”
Brands’ power to craft narratives is also a route to wider social impact. One of Alessia’s latest lines of enquiry focuses on using brand communication to change narratives around gender and masculinity for Generation Z, bringing brands and young men together to challenge conventional tropes of toxic masculinity.
Alessia is keen to support businesses on projects relating to new frontiers for physical retail, brand communication, experiential marketing or wider brand strategy. If you have an idea you would like to discuss, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.