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Between Two Classes: Alexandre Daillance

“When I come across someone that’s really passionate about something, I love to ask questions and learn more. You can learn so much by being curious.”

Our sixth interview is with Alexandre Daillance (MBA ’25). Alexandre grew up in Paris and attended Wesleyan University. In 2015, he co-founded NASASEASONS, a fashion brand that was distributed in over 50 high-end stores around the world such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrods and Galeries Lafayette. In 2018, he founded another fashion brand that focuses on creating limited edition collections with musicians like The Rolling Stones and athletes like Novak Djokovic.

Who is your role model?

Daillance: My parents are big role models of mine, especially my dad. He came from a very small village in France, and was able to work his way up through academic excellence and hard work throughout his career to support me and my family. I feel extremely grateful for that. 

Apart from my parents, a business role model that’s really shaped my career is actually an HBS alum, Charif Debs (MBA ’11). A month before graduating from HBS he had an existential crisis. He realized he had been super risk averse his whole life and wanted to take more risk. So he decided to become an entrepreneur. He founded an online jewelry company coming out of HBS with his then girlfriend and now wife. The idea was to compete with high end jewelers on quality but have online distribution and sell products at a more affordable price point of the cost. The brand, Gemmyo, has been an incredible success and I hope to attain this type of results later in life. 

My dad introduced me to him in 2015 and since then he’s been one of my biggest mentors. He's been with me along my entrepreneurial journey up until now, always there to give me advice. One thing he told me is that to be an entrepreneur, you have to be both optimistic and pragmatic. You have to have the ambition to go for the moon, but if you’re too optimistic you’re never going to land on the moon. And if you’re too pragmatic, you’ll never take the risk to try to go to the moon in the first place. Starting a business from scratch is a bit crazy and irrational, so you have to be comfortable with risk.

Beyond those frameworks, he’s been very valuable in practical matters too. How do I deal with co-founders? Should I raise money or not? How should I negotiate this contract with this potential entity I want to partner with? He never answers my questions with a direct response, but rather guides me to the answer by asking me lots of questions. He’s one of the reasons I came to HBS and I hope to be a similar kind of mentor to people around me in the future.

Another thing I really admire about him is that he founded his business with his wife and they collaborate really well together. I see my professional pursuits being a big part of my life in the future, so to be able to share it with my family down the line would be really special. 

It’s remarkable you’ve had a close mentor like that for almost a decade. How has your idea of happiness evolved over that time?

Daillance: For me, the biggest joy in life is to spend time with people you appreciate and get to meet people I admire. I try to do that across my professional and personal life. I founded three companies prior to HBS and one of the most exciting parts of that was getting to choose the people I work with, whether it was having friends as co-founders or hiring people I was really excited about.

For instance, I had the chance to partner and meet tennis legend Novak Djokovic last year. In 2022, my team reached out to his wife Jelena, who is the President of the Novak Djokovic Foundation. The organization has a mission to provide quality preschool education across Serbia. The work they have been doing is incredible, building 58 schools and providing education to over 55,000 children in just a few years. I offered to create a capsule collection in collaboration with my fashion brand and offered to do everything for free and have the foundation keep all the profits – my only request was to be able to meet Novak. And crazily enough, they agreed! So we launched the collection and I flew to Serbia and met Novak, his family and his team. Getting to spend time with one of my idols was a surreal experience – I just felt so lucky, you know? To be able to leverage the fashion brand I had built from my bedroom to help an important cause such as this one and also meet someone like Novak through a joint partnership was extremely special…I was super proud. 

What an incredible story. I’m not sure what I’d do if I had the chance to collaborate with my favorite athlete, LeBron. Maybe one day! Next question – can you tell us about a book, movie, or piece of art that had a big impact on you?

Daillance: So as you’re picking up on, I love sports – it's my second passion other than fashion. One of my earliest memories of falling in love with sports is when I watched the movie Jerry Maguire. It inspired me to think about how I could potentially pursue a career in the world of talent management at some point, growing the careers of athletes. It’s something I am still curious about and is often in the back of my mind! I got a little taste of it when working with Djokovic on the collection. I think it would be both really fun and interesting to run a sports agency where I could manage the commercial base, foundations, and community-based initiatives of athletes I admire. I think leveraging the influence of some of the world’s most famous athletes to make good in the world could be something really exciting. Athletes such as LeBron, Mbappé and Djokovic are really making a difference in the world with their platform. It’s inspiring. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Daillance: Be curious. It’s a quality you need to have as an entrepreneur. As we’ve talked about, I like fashion and sports, but I am also super open to, I don’t know, making movies in the future. I also think it’s important to engage that curiosity when interacting with other people. When I come across someone that’s really passionate about something, I love to ask questions and learn more. You can learn so much by being curious. There were so many insights and opportunities that I gathered over the years that helped me start and run my company. A tangible example was a random conversation with a friend who worked in the music industry. I asked him a bunch of questions about the economics of it. It was during that conversation that I learned more about tour merchandising for music artists and how it increasingly became an important source of revenue for them. That ultimately led me to reach out to music labels such as Universal Music and offer my help to create collections for some of their artists. It eventually resulted in several collaborations with The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Eminem, Arctic Monkeys and other artists. If I didn't ask my friend all those questions, I’m not sure I would have thought about it. 

Jay Bhandari (MBA ’25) is originally from Houston, Texas. He graduated from Georgetown University in 2018 with a degree in Economics. Prior to the HBS MBA, Jay worked at thredUP in San Francisco and at Blackstone in New York.

Sam Berube (MBA ’25) is originally from Dover, Massachusetts. He graduated from Brown University with an honors degree in International & Comparative Political Science in 2019. Prior to his matriculation at HBS, Sam worked in corporate strategy at the McDonald's Corporation in Chicago, and for BCG in Boston. He is also an avid landscape and wildlife photographer.

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