How convenient it would be to compare l’École Van Cleef & Arpels with other schools of the same type! To evoke their successes, their misfortunes, their trajectories… Unfortunately, albeit all power to this standout initiative, the Van Cleef & Arpels school remains a unique, desperately solitary case.
"We have welcomed 2,600 students since our creation three years ago,” explains Marie Vallanet, who has been managing the school since it first opened. Its offering to date includes no less than 16 daytime and evening courses, taught by 23 instructors in both French and English, in France as well as Japan.
Above and beyond this list of accomplishments, the truly disturbing reality is the persistent silence from the rest of the profession. Other brands concerned by the same topics remain deaf to calls to gain access to the culture, environment and science of craftsmanship.
And this despite much evidence of the existence of such demand. The classrooms of l’École Van Cleef & Arpels are packed and attendance could easily be doubled. Nor is there any sign of a drop in demand – whether in terms of the courses already in place or the countries that would in turn like to benefit from this excellent teaching mainly offered in France.
From eLearning to corporate tuition
The school is progressively responding to these requests. "Rome was not built in a day," says Marie Vallanet with a smile. Since its relocation to the other side of the Place Vendôme, it has entered the field of eLearning and opened up towards providing corporate tuition. The former was first mentioned in 2013 and became a reality a few days ago. Six videos are now available, free of charge, on the school website.
The second area is more ambitious and involves offering businesses the same basic courses as the general public, but enriched with content guided by a facilitator and serving to deal with companies’ specific concerns: learning to deal with new technologies, resistance to change, team building, etc.
"This is an approach that we began in February and we are already seeing a promising response," explains Marie Vallanet. "It’s about showing that even technical or unknown subjects can be effectively learned using the correct method. Our approach meets the expectations of firms looking for a new, high-quality and customised way of addressing their internal issues.”
Another positive effect of this impressive growth is a reduction in fees, which have been halved for the entry-level courses, and reduced by 15% for the higher-level classes. The courses themselves have remained the same, covering three major fields: History of Art, “Savoir-Faire” and Gemmology.
Possibilities… and necessities?
While remarkable progress has been achieved in the past three years, the path ahead is even more challenging.
Admittedly, the school does not intend to start delivering state-recognised diplomas, instead preferring to enjoy complete freedom in determining its courses and its instructors. Nonetheless, a number of other disciplines could well be dealt with, as the current range encompasses only topics with a direct bearing on the commercial activities of Van Cleef & Arpels: the study of gemstones and watchmaking, along with their history and techniques.
A syllabus labelled “History of Art” should ideally include painting, sculpture and music. While the school is certainly not obliged to do so, this more exhaustive approach would strengthen its legitimacy.
In the same way, at a time when the Richemont group is showing a wish to enrich its already strongly proactive CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policy, this theme might well also be picked up by the school. This could for example be achieved by dealing with subjects closely related with stones such as their extraction, certification, well as the ecological impact of mining activity. Once again, although not mandatory, such courses would further enhance the credibility of l’Ecole.