UAPB alumni recruit HBCU students to join Louis Vuitton

Mary Wicks

Mary Wicks is a 2001 alumna of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, who holds several hats. Currently, she works for the French luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton. However, she also has experience in many other fields, including sales, print journalism, field news reporting and film and television production.

Weeks credits her unique and adventurous career to what she calls a passion for people and the web. After graduating with a degree in Mass Communication – Journalism from UAPB, she worked as a reporter for KTBS-TV Channel 3 in Shreveport, Louisiana. After a year as a journalist, eager to expand her skillset and diversify her career, she packed her bags and drove to Los Angeles, California.

“When I decided to move to Hollywood, I didn’t have an apartment or a job ready,” Weeks said. “The first night I stayed in a hotel, but the next day I found an apartment. Because of my experience in reporting, I had presentation skills and knew how to present myself. When I started looking for jobs and got acting and TV/ That really came in handy when it came to filmmaking experience.”

While building her career in California, she appeared in Jimmy Kimmel Live skits and starred in films including “Hollywood Mess” starring Vanessa Simmons and Taylor Ripley in Oprah Winfrey’s Tyler Perry’s “Rich and Poor” character Network. Her acting credits also include the independent film The Seventh Commandment, produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. She worked behind the scenes in film productions, serving as production coordinator and assistant to the director, among other roles, including “Season of the Witch,” starring Nicolas Cage, and “Open Doors,” starring Taylor Hoechlin and Agnes Bruckner.

In 2021, she was hired as Talent Coordinator for Brat TV. In this role, one of her responsibilities will be recruiting for the Facebook Watch digital show “Something About Larray,” starring renowned YouTuber and social media influencer Larri “Larray” Merritt.

As her stint on Brat TV draws to a close, Weeks wonders what her next professional move will be. In a serendipitous moment, she spotted a potential job opportunity as a talent acquisition coordinator for Louis Vuitton. She said her getting the job is a testament to the importance of meeting new people and making connections.

“When I was a graduate student, I met my current manager at a Mexican restaurant in Allen, Texas, a suburb of Dallas,” she said. “We started talking and she gave me her business card and asked to keep in touch. I added her to my professional connections on LinkedIn. The job was posted on . I reached out immediately. She called me for an interview, and here I am.”

Contribute to diversity and inclusion in fashion retail

Wicks said her experience recruiting talent for TV studios was instrumental in her landing the position of talent acquisition coordinator at Louis Vuitton. Based in Dallas, she is responsible for recruiting people with a passion for luxury fashion in the South and Central regions of the United States. As part of Louis Vuitton’s Diversity and Inclusion department, she is also responsible for helping to ensure that everyone at the company has the opportunity to thrive professionally, regardless of race, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

“Louis Vuitton wants to change the narrative of who luxury fashion is for,” she said. “One way to achieve this is to hire people from different backgrounds and communities of color. This includes hiring people of African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American and other ethnic origins. We’re committed to reaching a diverse range of consumers, but we’re also committed to recruiting and retaining people from all backgrounds to work in our stores.”

Over the past year, Weeks has visited historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to engage with students and promote the benefits of working in fashion retail. She said she made sure to start her HBCU recruiting journey at her alma mater. In September, she participated in UAPB’s job fair and plans to return next year.

“My management has been very supportive of my recruiting program at the HBCU,” she said. “At first, they asked about the practicality of recruiting in Arkansas, which does not have a Louis Vuitton retail store. I explained that UAPB students come from all over the United States, and many of them return to their hometowns after graduation. Because of their high Mobility, UAPB graduates have the potential to move to cities like Chicago, Atlanta or Dallas to pursue lucrative careers at Louis Vuitton.”

She also believes that UAPB will be a great source of potential talent thanks to the university’s merchandising, textiles and design (MTD) program. Offered by UAPB’s Department of Human Sciences, this program teaches students the fundamentals of textiles, fashion design and merchandising/retailing.

Shen Yunru, a lecturer on the MTD program, said the program has a fashion networking club, as well as opportunities for fashion internships.

“We support our students in writing their resumes, building their portfolios and helping them advance their fashion careers with professional advice. The MTD program also offers fashion show and exhibition opportunities, giving students an authentic fashion experience while at university.”

Advice for students/graduates looking to work in luxury fashion

In her recruiting efforts, Wicks said she is looking for students with a strong interest in a career in luxury retail.

“We want to hire students who have some retail experience, drive, determination and a strong desire to talk to brands and most importantly, our customers,” she said. “Essential skills are good communication, multitasking, quick learning and understanding the retail industry.”

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

“My advice is to start working at a retail store like Kendra Scott, Dillard’s, Michael Kors, Macy’s, JCPenney or a local high-end boutique,” she says. “After gaining some experience, start researching and learning all about the Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) brands. What makes a brand stand out? Read about the history and culture and think about how this relates to your career path and What does personality matter. Then create a LinkedIn account and start networking.”

Current students might be surprised to discover the variety of job opportunities available in luxury fashion retailing, Wicks said. Experienced graduates can work as concierges, client advisors or private client advisors, as well as work in operations, visual merchandising, web development, legal affairs, client relations and even security.

“When hired by a luxury fashion house like Louis Vuitton, most people start out as client advisors,” she said. “I know a client advisor who only made $100,000 in commissions over the course of a year.”

When interviewing for the luxury fashion firm of their choice, graduates need to make sure they don’t make a mistake that could cost them their job – they shouldn’t be wearing a competing brand to the interview.

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

Louis Vuitton currently only offers paid internships in New York City, Wicks said. However, summer or winter students may be hired seasonally and work part-time or full-time for a few weeks to gain experience in the South/Central region shop.

“Students should remember that we have opportunities across the country and globally if they are willing to move,” she said.

Continuing the UAPB Family Tradition

Wicks credits her decision to attend UAPB to the family legacy of the university’s graduates. Her relatives graduated from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Teachers (AM&N) College (now UAPB), including the late Dr. Vertie Lee Carter, a distinguished educator who was a member of the UAPB National Alumni Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Negro Hall of Fame, and the late Roy “Doctor” Walker, who was an instructor in the Texarkana Arkansas School District for 35 years. While at AM&N, Walker played both football and baseball, and later served as an athletic trainer and assistant baseball coach.

Wicks said Lorraine Fuller, a former UAPB professor of mass communication, convinced her that she could be hugely successful in the field.

“She was with me throughout my studies, seeing my potential for success and telling me about it,” Wicks said. “That’s the real value of being educated at UAPB—the professors see something in you and help you grow.”

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its extension and research programs and services without regard to race, color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other Legally protected status and an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.

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