UAPB graduate Mary Wicks finds her footing in fashion at Louis Vuitton

Mary Wicks, a 2001 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, wears many professional hats. She currently works for Louis Vuitton, the French luxury fashion brand, and she also has experience in a number of other areas, including sales, print media, live reporting and film and television production. .

Wicks attributes her unique and adventurous career to what she calls her passion for people and networking.

After graduating from UAPB with a degree in Mass Communication – Journalism, she worked as a reporter for KTBS-TV Channel 3 in Shreveport. Wanting to broaden her skills and diversify her career after a year of working as a journalist, she packed her bags and headed to Los Angeles.

“I didn’t have an apartment or a job when I made the decision to move to Hollywood,” Wicks said. “I stayed at the hotel the first night, but the next day I found myself an apartment. Thanks to my experience in reporting, I had speaking skills and I knew how to present myself. was really helpful as I started finding jobs and gaining experience in theater and TV/film production.

While building her career in California, she appeared in sketches on Jimmy Kimmel Live and acted in films including “Hollywood Chaos”, which starred Vanessa Simmons and Tyler Lepley, who starred in “The Haves and the Have Nots” by Tyler Perry on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

His acting credits also include “The 7th Commandment”, an independent film produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. She has worked behind the scenes of film productions in roles such as production coordinator and assistant director for films such as “Season of the Witch” with Nicolas Cage and “Open Gate” with Tyler Hoechlin and Agnes Bruckner.

In 2021, she was hired as a talent coordinator for Brat TV. In this role, one of his responsibilities was to recruit talent for the Facebook Watch digital show “Something About Larray”, featuring Larri “Larray” Merritt, a YouTuber and social media influencer.

As her gig with Brat TV began to wind down, Wicks wondered what her next career decision would be. In a moment of serendipity, she discovered a potential job opportunity as a talent acquisition coordinator for Louis Vuitton. She says being offered the job is a testament to the importance of meeting new people and making connections.

“I met my current manager at a Mexican restaurant in Allen, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, when I was a grad student,” she said. “We started talking, and she gave me her card and asked me to stay in touch. I added her to my professional connections on LinkedIn. I stayed in communication – my expertise – and after the graduation, she posted the job on LinkedIn. I immediately reached out. She called me for an interview, and here I am.

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN FASHION RETAIL

Wicks said his experience recruiting talent for the television studio was crucial in landing the job at Vuitton. Based in Dallas, she is responsible for hiring people who are passionate about luxury fashion in the South and Central United States.

As a member of Vuitton’s diversity and inclusion department, she is also responsible for ensuring that everyone in the company has the chance to thrive professionally, regardless of race, gender, gender identity or of his sexual orientation.

“Louis Vuitton wants to change the discourse on the recipients of luxury fashion,” she said. “One way to work towards this goal is to hire people from different backgrounds and different communities of color. This includes hiring African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans and people of other national backgrounds. This will show our commitment to not only reaching out to a wide range of consumers, but also recruiting and retaining talent from diverse backgrounds to work in our stores.”

Over the past year, Wicks has visited historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to interact with students and tout the benefits of a career in fashion retail. She said she made sure to start her HBCU recruiting tour at her alma mater. In September, she attended the UAPB job fair and plans to return next year.

“My management has been very supportive of my plan to recruit talent into HBCUs,” she said. “At first they asked about the practicality of recruiting in Arkansas, a state without Louis Vuitton retail stores. I explained that UAPB students come from all over the United States and that many of them return to their home state upon graduation.Due to their high mobility, UAPB graduates could potentially relocate to cities like Chicago, Atlanta, or Dallas to pursue lucrative careers. at Louis Vuitton.”

She also believes UAPB will be a great source of potential talent through the university’s Merchandising, Textiles and Design (MTD) program. The program, offered by UAPB’s Department of Humanities, teaches students the basics of textiles, apparel design, and merchandising/retail.

MTD program instructor Yunru Shen said it includes a fashion network club, as well as fashion internship opportunities.

“We support our students in writing CVs, building their portfolios and with professional advice to help them advance their careers in fashion. The MTD program also offers fashion show and exhibition opportunities for allow students to gain real fashion experience during their time at university.”

TIPS FOR WORKING IN LUXURY FASHION

In its recruiting efforts, Wicks said it seeks students seriously interested in a career in luxury retail.

“We want to hire students with some retail experience, drive, determination and a high desire to speak to the brand and most importantly our customers,” she said. “Essential skills are communicating well, multitasking, learning quickly and understanding the retail industry.”

Wicks recommends students gain experience in the fashion retail industry before applying for jobs at luxury brands.

“My advice would be to start working at a retail store like Kendra Scott, Dillard’s, Michael Kors, Macy’s, JCPenney, or a local high-end boutique,” she said. “After gaining experience, start studying and learning all about Louis Vuitton and the Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton houses. What sets the brand apart? Read about the history and culture and reflect how it relates to your professional background and personality. Then create a LinkedIn account and start networking.”

Wicks said current students might be surprised to learn the variety of jobs available in the luxury fashion industry. Experienced graduates can work as concierges, customer advisors or private client advisors, as well as in operations, visual merchandising, web development, legal affairs, customer relations or security.

“When hired by luxury fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, most individuals start out as customer advisors,” she said. “I know of a client advisor who earned over $100,000 in commissions in a year.”

When interviewing for the luxury fashion company of their choice, graduates should make sure they don’t make one mistake in particular that could cost them the job: they shouldn’t wear clothes made by competing brands. during the interview.

“Imagine someone showing up to an interview for Louis Vuitton wearing Gucci clothes and accessories,” Wicks said. “That’s a big no-no, because it shows the candidate isn’t taking the brand seriously enough.”

Wicks said Louis Vuitton currently only offers paid internships in New York, but students on summer or winter break can be hired seasonally and work part-time or full-time for a few weeks to work. gain experience in regional stores.

“Students should keep in mind that we have opportunities across the country and around the world if they are open to mobility,” she said.

CONTINUING A UAPB FAMILY LEGACY

Wicks credits his decision to attend UAPB to a family legacy of college graduates. Relatives, graduates of Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal (AM&N) College (now UAPB), include the late Vertie Lee Carter, a renowned educator who is a member of the UAPB National Alumni Hall of Fame and Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, as well as the late Roy “Doc” Walker, who coached in the Texarkana, Ark., school district for 35 years. While at AM&N, Walker played football and baseball and later served as an athletic trainer and assistant baseball coach.

Wicks said Lorraine Fuller, a former professor of mass communication at UAPB, convinced her she could achieve great success in the field.

“She stuck with me throughout my studies and, seeing my potential for success, she told me about it,” Wicks said. “That’s the real value of pursuing an education at UAPB – the professors see something in you and help you grow.”

Will Hehemann is a writer/editor at UAPB’s School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Humanities.

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