Alexandre Daillance, better known as Millinsky, is a creative director and entrepreneur working between New-York City and Paris. He shares how his IB experience helped shape him into a balanced entrepreneur.
By Alexandre Daillance
My first day at École Jeannine Manuel (EJM) was the beginning of a new life for me. I will always remember the two things Mrs. Burchill, who ran the IB at the school, said to all of the new students in 10th grade: “Think for yourself. Always challenge ideas and people”, and, “What matters is that you become the best at what you love”. Those two simple sentences were totally new to me and were never once mentioned in the close-minded conservative school that I was enrolled in from ages of three to 15 years old.
Growing up in France and having two French parents, I felt that I was destined to choose the traditional French baccalaureate route. Yet, when I turned 14 years old, I realized that neither of the three French baccalaureate options, which included a required focus on science, economics or literature when you entered junior year in high school, fit me well. I also realized that I absolutely wanted to go to college in the United States. I liked the fact that what both the IB and the American liberal arts systems had in common was that I could pick and choose the subjects I loved and cared the most about. For grades nine and 10 I therefore moved from a conservative catholic school, in which I spent the past 12 years of my life, to a prestigious forward-thinking bilingual school that proposed the IB curriculum.
“For the first time in my life, I felt in charge of my destiny.”
In the IB, I saw several good opportunities that fit my goals, such as improving my English drastically, taking subjects that interested me at the time and also meeting students with diverse backgrounds from all around the world rather than the students from the same neighborhood I was born in. Yet, the decision of pursuing the IB Diploma Programme (DP) and moving schools shaped the person I am today more than I could even imagine at the time, and it is probably to this day the best decision I made. Not only did the École Jeannine Manuel promote ambition, like most schools, but they also promoted passion to their students, which I thought was remarkable and forward-thinking. Over my years in high school, the most important thing that both the EJM and the IB gave me was confidence, a characteristic that I believe defines me entirely today. I believe and that has shaped everything I have done since, on a both professional and personal level.
Growing up, I was the total opposite of confident. I remember being consumed by the heaviness of the French education and scared of the future. But this feeling would soon end as I started to challenge myself in high school. From enrolling the IB, where almost all my subjects were being taught in English and I was far from being fluent, preparing for the SAT and TOEFL and forcing myself to be comfortable with connecting with new people to make friends, I had no choice but to start believing in myself to prove I could do all these things. The fact that I was able to choose my subjects made every class more enjoyable and challenging at the same time. I did not go to school because I had to anymore, I went to school because I made a conscious choice to go on this new adventure where I had to prove to myself. For the first time in my life, I felt in charge of my destiny.
The confidence I gained over those high school years was particularly due to the self-learning experience that the IB tries to promote. As a 16-year-old kid, I was rarely given any freedom, especially when it came to education. Suddenly, I was accountable for my decisions and results. Whether it was from the choice of subjects, the internal assessments and extended essay or the creativity, activity, service (CAS) activities, the IB helped me become responsible and proactive. In some way, it helps you become an adult in your own right at an early age. The fact that the IB curriculum requires you to do much, forced me to start organizing my time and being strategic about how I structured my days.
The first year ended up being chaotic for me. I was overwhelmed by the workload and unable to do everything that was asked correctly. My mistakes in 10th grade became a wake-up call and I promised myself I would achieve the goals I set for myself for the remaining two years.
Starting then, I knew the key to success for me would be a better organization of my time and learn how to prioritize things. The IB gives you no choice but to become an expert at time management if you want to succeed and get done correctly with all the work you have to submit throughout the year.
The extended essay is a great testament of that; its uncommon length forces you to plan your work. As an entrepreneur, time management and organization has been central to my work. Entrepreneurship is all about planning ahead for long-term projects while also dealing with day-to-day issues that might arise. I developed a work routine that enables me to organize my days in a way to fulfill all of my monthly objectives while always blocking two hours per day for any unexpected issues I might have to deal with. More recently, the fact that I now have to oversee a team that’s working for my clothing brand made me work twice as hard on time management. Not only do I need to organize my own schedule, but I also need to organize my team’s schedule and ensure that it is functional and also optimized to achieve the best results.
“The way the IB structures its curriculum prepared me to become a critical thinker and gave me a set of skills that helped me become the entrepreneur I am today”.
The IB curriculum also taught me a lot about teamwork and leadership in many ways. The CAS activities most especially helped develop two important skills, which are fundamental to my work. In all types of projects, it is important to be able to convey enthusiasm for your team to get the best out of them and achieve the desired results. The CAS activities I took part in were a great way for me to challenge my introverted personality and work on meaningful projects hand-in-hand with my peers. These enriching experiences were essential to giving me experience to lead projects with several people, such as organizing the supply chain in Europe and the United States for, organizing the presentation of my new collections in Paris and managing relationships with retailer representatives, who placed orders for the upcoming season.
Finally, the IB curriculum helped me learn how to find information and challenge ideas by comparing them with a critical perspective. At age 17, I had to learn how to produce my first pieces of clothing, reach out to dozens of factories around the world and compare both quality and pricing to get the best value. The first months were challenging as I also had to create a website, register the company legally, create a business account and run the accounting myself. Eventually, the hardest parts began to change. First the challenge was to supply the demand once the brand gained popularity, then make smart decisions to not over saturate the market. Six months after I founded NASASEASONS, the U.S. chain Urban Outfitters reached out to place a (U.S.$) million order to fill their hundreds of stores with my best caps. I turned down the offer as I believe the brand would generate more revenue overall if I controlled the number of products available to create continuous demand. This model has been adopted notably by brands like Air Jordan, known for its, “drop”, system. In many ways, the IB helped me become a critical thinker by studying historical examples as well as understanding the pros and cons of any situation. Many 18-year-olds would have probably jumped on that million-dollar deal, but after challenging that idea in the right way, it became clear to me that the brand could be worth a lot more if I turned it down.
More than anything, the IB helped me develop a method of work that I apply today, on a day-to-day basis. The way the IB structures its curriculum prepared me to become a critical thinker and gave me a set of skills that helped me become the entrepreneur I am today.
Alexandre Daillance completed the IB Diploma Programme (DP) at École Jeannine Manuel School in France where he graduated in 2015. He co-founded fashion label NASASEASONS while still in high school―a brand now distributed in over 70 luxury retailers such as Selfridges, Harrods, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys and Lane Crawford. Daillance is also known for his collaborations with iconic artists such as The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Lil Wayne, Arctic Monkeys and KISS where he brings his unique style to create meaningful and tasteful designs. More recently, Daillance co-founded youth empowerment initiative Prospect 100, whose mission is to find the talents of tomorrow and provide them with the opportunities they deserve. Last year, Daillance was the one of the youngest persons ever featured in Forbes 30 Under 30.
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