Thomaï Serdari, Ph.D.: Luxury Marketing Strategist & Adjunct Associate Professor at NYU Stern School of Business

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Thomaï Serdari, Ph.D. is a strategist in luxury marketing and branding. She helps clients launch, grow, and successfully manage luxury brands. She is an expert on luxury and actively studies, values, and reports on companies or funds that operate and invest within the luxury goods market.  

Prof. Serdari has been teaching at New York University since 2004. She has developed a variety of courses at NYU, among which: “Cultures of Excess: Product and Fashion Design through Modernity,” “Research Methodology,” and “Entrepreneurship in the Business of Art.” She also developed the core courses for the Luxury Marketing specialization at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, MBA level: “The Core of Luxury: Processes, Products, and Strategies through History,” “Luxury Branding: Brand Thinking and Experience,” and “Luxury Launch: Designing & Marketing the Product, Project, Enterprise.”

Originally trained as an architect at the National Technical University of Athens, Prof. Serdari received her doctorate in Art History & Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University in 2005. She also holds an MBA from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University, with a specialization in corporate and quantitative finance (2009).

Heavily drawing on her interdisciplinary training, Prof. Serdari is co-editor of the first interdisciplinary academic journal Luxury: History, Culture, Consumption published by Taylor & Francis. She also contributes opinion pieces to Luxury Daily. Her chapter, titled “Experiments in Suchness: Hiroshi Sugimoto Silk Shiki for Hermès,” John Armitage & Joanne Roberts eds. Critical Luxury Studies: Art, Design, Media, Edinburgh University Press (2016) provides a new definition of luxury, one that can be applied by luxury firms to advance their luxury status in the market.

Prof. Serdari is one of the main contributors to the LVMH Fundamentals in Luxury Retail: A CPC/Parsons Collaboration, an educational program designed to train and provide a wide range of retail skills to Chinese-Americans. She also lectures regularly at Sotheby’s Institute of Art on the subjects of Art Marketing and Luxury Valuation.

What do you do best?

I maintain a bird’s eye view in all contexts to gain objectivity and flexibility. This can be broken down to two things really:

1. I can look at a group of issues/questions/situations and very quickly articulate the overarching theme, conceptualizing what might seem unrelated or impenetrable at first. I can distinguish similarities, differences, or other types of patterns that others may have missed. Once I have moved from the particular to the general and have concluded in an abstraction that theorizes the issue at hand, I can reverse it and see its applications in a whole new set of issues/questions/situations, even within a different context.

2. I am usually able to assess the unique traits of a person or situation very quickly.

It is the combination of the two that allows me to be a good advisor to my clients and a good teacher. This is because one’ s duty as an educator (or advisor) is not to simply communicate new types of knowledge but to also apply that knowledge in a way that attains meaning for the individual (or enhances the business organically, from the inside out).

On the flip side, a bird’s eye view is also an outsider’s perspective. This allows me to remain pragmatic about many things in life, institutions and people alike.

What makes you the best?

Perseverance, when it comes to personal ambitions. I never quit something I have started, especially since I don’t make decisions lightly. Nothing derails me from my goals—I don’t undertake challenges I have not seriously considered, I don’t compete with others, and I don’t seek others’ permission in pursuing my goals.

In the classroom, or in my relationships with my clients, I strive to bring out their best, everyone’s best that is. I consider every group of students and every new client a tabula rasa. This allows me to think more about them and how I can best adjust my material to inspire them, motivate them, challenge their thinking, push them out of their comfort zone and, ultimately, motivate them to action. This also means that I never give the same lecture twice even if I cover the same material. There is nothing more boring than prepackaged lectures. No surest way to failure either than prepackaged solutions—you will never get those from me.

How will you stay the best?

Curiosity is my best friend, it has always been. It has led me to wonderful places, including learning foreign languages, understanding many cultures, getting advanced degrees in a variety of fields, pursuing diverse projects that range anywhere from design criticism to marketing strategy, from business planning to value assessment. I practice my curiosity diligently and methodically. One needs to be very curious to stay the course when conducting research and especially when producing work in an interdisciplinary field such as critical luxury studies. I am committed to being curious!

Biggest success?

Getting my PhD in a foreign language, in one of the most academically rigorous institutions (Institute of Fine Arts, New York University), and while working full-time. Nothing tests one’s perseverance, physical stamina, or commitment to a field of study like a doctorate degree.

What are your aspirations?

Personal: I am a happy person and always strive to help those around me find happiness.

Business: I would like to reach as many people as I can (either through my academic teaching and writing or through my consultancy) and make a difference in their life, help them attain their goals.

Most challenging moment?

Having to decide whether I wanted the safety of a job or the thrill of work about which I am passionate. I chose the latter and I could not be happier.

What fascinates you?

Humanistic thought, both as a field of inquiry and as an expression of contemporary spirituality, is the foundation of all great works in the arts, science, technology, and design. I find the evolution of the field itself fascinating and the work of humanists (past and present) the path to realizing a life of ethical existence for the greater good. The business world is finally making allowances for discussions on not just what makes business profitable but also what makes it ethically powerful and good.

Favorite Motto:

Why not?

Favorite People:  

Intelligence is hard to resist. My favorite people are persons with intellectual talents and heightened interpersonal intelligence. They can connect with others on a very deep and genuine human level and communicate with everyone as equals no matter how successful or famous they are.

Favorite Places:

I love nature and I love the water. I don’t think I can name any favorites as I find beauty everywhere I go. I do have a soft spot though for the place where I grew up on mainland Greece and Mounts Oeta and Kallidromos that run through it.

Favorite Products:

I love beautiful objects and anything that has been designed and produced with technical aptitude, attention to detail, and passion. Art and luxury objects happen to combine all of these traits.

Current Passions:

Permanent passions rather than current: 1. To find beauty in people and things, discuss beauty, define beauty, help others materialize beauty through artistic work or business ventures and, most importantly, good work; 2. Respect for nature; 3. To cultivate all my senses so as to fully enjoy the world.