Inside the Walpole Programme: Reflections from my UK Luxury Immersion

By Darla Bautista, MBA2025

What’s it like to be in business school as a marketer, and a CPG and luxury enthusiast?

Although several classmates came to LBS to explore the consulting and finance spaces, one of my biggest motivations for joining LBS was actually to get a closer look at the iconic brands in Europe, especially in the UK. 

Pre-business school, I spent my career accelerating heritage CPG brands and building my own digital-first wellness brands in Southeast Asia. But it was time to take my marketing experiences to the next level  – by immersing in global brands and teams. To this end, being selected for the LBS Walpole Luxury Leaders of Tomorrow Programme definitely became one of the highlights of my first year.

The Walpole Experience

The Luxury Leaders of Tomorrow Programme is made possible by LBS’ partnership with Walpole, the official sector body of UK luxury. Among Walpole’s brands are some of the biggest luxury and retail names across sectors, from beauty (Estee Lauder) to hospitality (Belmond) to fashion (Manolo Blahnik). It’s a 6-session masterclass, networking, and mentorship programme delivered to 20 select students across the LBS community  –  a must-try if you’re interested in exploring and pivoting to the luxury and retail space.

The best part of the programme for me has been the mentorship with a luxury leader. Given my deep passion for beauty and personal care, and previous experience in launching a Thai-based niche beauty skincare retailer to the Philippines, I was really lucky to be mentored by Sue Fox, the GM of Estee Lauder UK. So far, we’ve done 2 out of 6 mentorship sessions, discussing her global career with Estee Lauder, the key leadership lessons she has learned in each territory (i.e. from Japan to South Africa), and how she has championed the advocacies of ID&E and sustainability in the beauty giant. 

Another highlight has been attending the masterclass and mixer sessions with luxury legends from Jo Malone London, Mulberry, Belmond, Harrods, and Burberry. We kick off the sessions with a fireside chat about how these brands have evolved and how they envision brand acceleration in the UK and globally. Then, we end the night with networking sessions with these leaders, our fellow programme attendees, and the Walpole team. Although I initially chose to join this programme due to my passion for beauty, I love that I gained a holistic understanding of various sectors and the people behind them because of these mixers. 

My Top Takeaways

Through these experiences, I’ve noticed these three strategic priorities shaping how business is done in the luxury and retail spaces. 

1. Gen-Z and International Audience Expansion: The next frontier for British luxury brands is leveraging and championing their British heritage to attract new audiences among Gen Z and non-British clients (i.e. in Asia and America). In Mulberry’s case, this means having limited edition local designer collaborations for special celebrations like Chinese New Year. In Belmond’s case, this means expanding their iconic luxury train experiences to new routes in Malaysia and Singapore, backed by regional influencer collaborations.

2. Digital for Better Shopper Experiences: With more data and analytics tools available, luxury and retail companies are increasingly managing change to leverage information for nurturing long-term relationships. For Jo Malone, this means actively researching on scent territories that appeal to younger audiences and having digital strategies to increase Gen-Z awareness for those items. For Harrods, this means enhancing their private and personal shopping capabilities with rich data.

3. Sustainability: Companies are increasingly under pressure from government, retailers, and consumers to develop sustainable products; this means evaluating their supply chains as a whole – from sourcing to product design to re-use support. From my mentorship sessions, I’ve realised that this also calls for a tricky balance of other concerns: given that these practices come at a cost, how can their impact be measured? How can companies maintain the pricing accessibility of such products? 

The Marketing Journey Ahead

Soon, we’ll be wrapping up our experience with an exciting Luxury Safari at Fortnum & Mason, along with a mixer party with Walpole brands’ leaders. It’s bittersweet to be nearing the end of an insightful programme, but I’m even more excited to apply these learnings and new connections in leaving an impact in the worlds of retail, luxury, and marketing. 

For more information on my Walpole experience, check out: or

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *