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NuView Blog

Filtering by Tag: product development

CAREERS: ASSISTANT MERCHANDISER PROFILE

Maia Wilson

A successful alumna of UNT's merchandising program, My Le is as talented as it gets. During college, My was an avid member of Merchandising Inc., and completed not one, not two... but THREE internships in various areas of the industry. 

Her ambition and eagerness to learn is what landed her a full-time position with Leatherology, a leather goods company based out of Carrollton, Texas, at the end of her final internship. Since then, My's combination of experience in merchandising, product development, styling and e-commerce has been instrumental in shaping the expansion of Leatherology's product assortment, along with the growth of the e-commerce business in it's entirety. 

Recently, NuView had the pleasure of connecting with My Le at Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar in Plano. Today, we're giving you the low-down on how she reached her current position of Assistant Merchandiser at Leatherology, the pros and cons of her daily responsibilities, and why having a great boss/mentor is so important. 


Hi My Le! Tell us a little bit about your education. What led you to pursue a career in merchandising?

My name is My Le and I have a Bachelor of Science in Merchandising from UNT. What really drew me to merchandising was my mother, who was a seamstress. I admired her ability to piece things together and create something truly beautiful out of scrap. This really motivated me to begin my career path.

Where have you worked previously?

I’ve worked at several places before, primarily retail, waitressing to get me through school. I did some freelance graphic design - all self-taught - for small gigs. And I also did internships in between. I did three [internships with] the Bobbi Schwartz Group, Hub City Production, and Leatherology.

Could you elaborate on some of your internship experiences? What did you enjoy about them and/or what did you learn?

[Interning at] Bobbi Schwartz Group helped me become more detailed. Assisting a stylist helped me develop checks and balances. From picking up or returning the right clothes and checking them in and out. I understand [what it means to carry] the weight for the client and get the job done. I think that was one of my favorite internships that I did, other than [Leatherology’s]. Interning at Leatherology gave me the opportunity to explore the many different roles within the company. Working as an integral part of the team allowed me to learn all aspects of the product life cycle, from concept to production.

Currently, you are responsible as Assistant Merchandiser at Leatherology. What are some of the tasks you perform in this role?

My position Assistant Merchandiser involves wearing multiple hats. Some of my responsibilities include photoshoots, product styling for editorial photoshoots, and scheduling photography for web development and catalog. I also work closely with our Site Merchandiser to ensure image accuracy on site. Aside from styling and photography, I assist with product development. It involves regular interaction with our factory overseas, traveling, assisting with spec sheets, competitive research on product, price and color trends. I do little bits and pieces [of various roles], so [my job is] like a combination of everything.

What is Leatherology and what makes the company special?

Leatherology is an e-commerce leather accessories company. We are direct manufacturer that produces all of our own goods. We specialize in personalized leather goods, and all of our designs are designed in-house by the merchants! What makes the company special is the array of beautiful colors and designs we all work carefully to produce.

How would you describe the Leatherology customer?

It’s more of an affluent customer that’s a little bit older. The Leatherology customer is around 35 to 60 [years old]. Slowly, [the age demographic is] going down. We’re building a younger demographic now and that’s what we’re working towards. If you follow our social accounts, the [age] demographics are a lot different.

When you were in school at UNT, the digital retailing program was fairly new. How did you learn more about the digital retailing industry?

It was all self-taught through blogs and few conversations with friends taking courses. It sparked an interested because I knew the e-commerce business was booming, and I was like, I need to get on this! I researched e-commerce companies in Dallas, and DC International, our parent company that operates two direct to consumer e-commerce websites came up, and that’s how I learned about Leatherology and luckily I had friend from UNT who was working there to get me an introduction.

How would you describe Leatherology’s company culture?

We all work closely together. Even though there are different departments we all play a part on getting the job done! Our product and web team meet weekly to identify any open issues and projects we have going on so we’re all looped in.

Digital Glitch Fashion Show & My Le 018.JPG

How did you gain experience in product development? Did you really heavily on material taught in your college classes?

I didn’t take any product development classes while I was at UNT. I relied on learning as much as I could when I did the internship, and I just love making things, DIY, and taking things apart. I take inspiration from my mom [sewing], especially.

So, you interned for Leatherology first, and then were hired on full-time. Did you have a specific role as an intern?

Yes, my role was in Merchandising and Product Development Intern. Gaining that product knowledge is what led me to the position I am in now.

Tell us about work-life balance. Since Leatherology is a smaller company, do you find yourself putting in more hours to in order to accomplish everything?

I did in the beginning! It was hard, especially during the holidays but I love what I do. I’m [thankful for] for the new team members though. I don’t know what I would do without them! When you feel like you used to do a lot it helps to spread the workload and get that balance.  

Do you do a lot of product photoshoots during the week?

I do, when we have promotions. It just depends on the marketing calendar. My marketing director typically plans out yearly, and then my senior merchant delegates the tasks and assets that we need. So, this week they plan on launching a Father’s Day catalog, and we didn’t have any editorial assets yet so my job was to pick the selected styles that we would photograph. [I also] make sure that the items are monogramed, featuring the right kind of leather we want to feature, and that the inventory we photographed would be on hand by the time the catalog came out for the customer. It’s a direct mailer that’s going to be 16 pages [long]. We have a photographer that comes to us in our studio; he’s contracted. Right now, I’m my focus is on editorial so it’s a bit more fun. In the studio, there’s a creative energy that comes over you to get the perfect shot. Especially,  when you’re thinking of an idea for a flat-lay, or if you feel like there’s an angle [that would work well] either on product or on figure, [it’s exciting]. On model is eventually where I want to take Leatherology.

What skills and abilities do you rely on the most to succeed in this position?

Being able to take on multiple projects and handling issues as they come along and just a good work ethic overall.

Which classes were most helpful in preparing you for your current job?

Visual merchandising and consumer behavior.

How often do you travel?

Typically twice a year to China but it ranges if we have a conference or event. I was recently in China in January and then to New York for a leather show. Last year, I traveled to New York to represent our brand in a partnership pop-up shop called the Nude House. We collaborated with 15 other brands, and had our product in a store front for the first time ever. That was really exciting and it was a good opportunity for us [in terms of] brand outreach!

(If you're aspiring for traveling job...and the job you land doesn’t require you to travel, you should always just travel anyways.)

What do you find most rewarding about your job? What is most challenging?

The amount of exposure I have to all aspects of the business. Being in so many different roles, from being an intern, and then warehouse help, and then doing product development, and social media and press. The challenging part is not knowing what I’m really good at but in hindsight the challenge is more of an advantage to really help me determine what I really enjoy.

What kind of future do you see for the company?

I see a strong future for the company from a sales perspective. Sales are good right now, [so I think] Leatherology is going to be here for a while.

[Doing on model styling] is my future goal with Leatherology. I feel like that’s what’s missing from our website right now. It’s a little bit stark, so I want to transition from on-white photography to on-figure. I also want to implement stronger social campaigns, and bring more value to the team. The team's dynamic is constantly changing, we always have new people with a fresh set of eyes who are able to help us grow.

Leatherology does have internship opportunities. How can students apply?

The internship is about right-timing. We’re always looking for an intern, but this year we’re [specifically hiring] a fall intern!

My best advice when applying for a position is continuous follow-up. Whether it’s following up on your application, your introduction of yourself, always make sure to keep the connection going so when a position does become available you’re first to mind to bring in for an interview.

Intern applicants can send resumes to me: My Le: myl@dcius.com


CREDITS

Copy & Photography: Ashley Nudge, Editor-in-Chief

CAREERS: FOSSIL INTERN PROFILE

Maia Wilson

Founded in 1984, Fossil originally opened its doors to the public as an accessories store. Now, the company offers a range of women and men’s appeal, exclusive watch collections, accessories and footwear. Fossil represents authentic American culture, innovation, creativity, and optimism. Both a company and brand, Fossil is the pioneer when it comes to American vintage products. By designing watches and accessories for brands such as Michael Kors and Tory Burch, they have extended their creativity to represent something greater.

Being a prestige company, Fossil's corporate leaders are selective in who they choose as interns. With elevated expectations and a high GPA requirement, the company only selects the best. This weekend I had the privilege to interview UNT student, Marcy Plefka, one of the few Summer 2015 Product Development interns. Together, we discussed what it took for her to become and excel as a Fossil intern.

Marcy with Summer 15' Product Development interns

Marcy with Summer 15' Product Development interns

Name: Marcy Plefka

Hometown: Hurst, Texas

Major(s): Merchandising and Digital Retail

Introduce Yourself:

My name is Marcy Plefka, and I am a double Major in Merchandising and Digital Retailing at the University of North Texas. I interned with Fossil in their men’s watch product development team, so I was the fossil men’s watch product development intern.

How did you find the Internship?

[I first heard about the Fossil] internships when I went on the[Dallas] study tour with Mr. Last. We visited Fossil and I [remember] thinking, “Hey I would like to work here.” I heard the internship was difficult to get but I was up for the challenge. I was fortunate enough to get the internship after applying and I started the job soon after. There were not many positions in the DFW area for product development jobs so that’s why I applied.

How was your internship structured? What were your day to day duties?

We got an intern road map on day one. It [the road map] explained to us how we were to interact with our mentors, our duties and schedules. We had stakeholder meeting which set [us] up with different people in different areas of the companies.... Just to see what they did and how [their jobs] related to product development. [As an intern] I picked up samples, tracked them, learned how to price everything, and pulled selling reports. I also got to work on look books for men’s and women’s styles. I got an inside look as to how [a product design] got from [the designer's] brain to the stores.

Marcy's desk at the Fossil corporate offices

Marcy's desk at the Fossil corporate offices

Would you say the internship was fast paced, and were you taught along the way? If so, did the learning process ever make you feel overwhelmed? 

I actually came on a “LIP week” which is when we [established the season's styles]. This was probably the most inconvenient time to come in. Our mentors were really stressed out, and they didn’t have time at the moment to show me the ropes. But, luckily it was a 14-week internship so I got to see the production stages repeat themselves. [In other words] I got to see the different orders [for the] different seasons. At first it was a little bit overwhelming, but I ended up being able to connect all the dots. I wouldn’t say that it was fast paced. I just had to get the hang of it. Though, there [was] always [the chance that] something could happened or change. Say a client like Nordstrom wanted one of our watch designs, but they wanted it custom tailored so only Nordstrom could have it. [That could] add stress to our design team and make everyone move and change faster.

What was the company culture like at Fossil? Was it relaxed or more professional?

[The culture] was absolutely relaxed. The amenities that Fossil offers their employees were really cool. We would have "Re-Charge Wednesdays" which was like happy-hour with coffee. The dress code wasn’t strict. You could wear ripped jeans to work or sandals and t-shirts... you just [had to] look presentable. I always felt comfortable talking to everyone and I felt like I could always connect with anyone if I needed to.

What would you say is the most valuable piece of information you learned during your internship? What did you learn that you'll be able to take with you throughout your merchandising career?

The most valuable thing [I learned] would be just knowing when to communicate and how to communicate. Since everyone is always doing a thousand things at once, it’s good to check in with your boss or your co-workers and let them know that you’re doing your job. That's what my manger liked about me the most. I always checked in with her even without her asking [me to], just so she knew I was on [the task and] had it covered. Sometimes people get so busy and forget that they gave you a job to do, so it’s good to check in and reassure them that the task has gotten done. What I will take with me throughout my merchandising career is curiosity - always asking questions and doing something that’s a little out of [my] comfort zone. That’s something that I will forever push for and keep doing throughout my career.

Interested in pursuing a Product Development internship at Fossil? Check out https://www.fossilgroup.com/  and click on Careers for more information.


CREDITS

Copy: Amani Wells-Onyioha, Careers Writer

Photos c/o Marcy Plefka

Graphic 1: Ashley Nudge, Editor-in-Chief