Men’s shoes, J.Crew work culture, and so much more.
Marsalis Pearce, better known as Marz, is a Harlem native who is all about retail. Having graduated from Babson College with a concentration in retail supply chain management, Marz has always had his sights set on working in the industry. Marz’s passion for the fashion industry originated during high school, at a time when he was interested in design and had sights on starting his own clothing line. Over the years, Marz worked in sales at The Foundation Showroom in New York City and had the opportunity to work with men’s apparel and footwear brands. Marz also interned at Ross before his last semester of college, where he took a deep dive into merchandising, the opposite side of the coin from sales. Now, Marz has found his place at J.Crew, working as an Associate Merchant, managing the men’s footwear business both online and in-store.
Leading up to working at J.Crew, Marz had a list of companies that he was interested in working for, J.Crew being on the list because of its cool aesthetic of classic American style. When he checked out the career opportunities at there, Marz stumbled on the Assistant Merchant role and applied. Soon after he heard back, Marz had an interview, and got an offer the next day! Marz credits the timing of everything, his prior experience in retail, and his ability to communicate authentically in telling his story in helping him land this dream job.
Marz credits culture as being one of the biggest things that has kept him working for the company for three years now. From his very first encounter interviewing for the company, Marz knew that J.Crew was a place that he wanted to work, the employees all being incredibly friendly and inviting. Within the first few months of working at J.Crew, Marz was encouraged by the fact that no matter what your position, your perspective matters and your opinion is valued. Marz is always encouraged to share his point of view, not only on his business but other businesses within the company as well.
“There is nothing that you are going to do here that is going to burn down the building,” says Marz, a piece of advice that he was given from a co-worker, which has helped him adopt a healthier mindset towards work.
During J.Crew’s recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which the company recovered from, Marz also felt that the transparency that J.Crew offered during this time was extremely refreshing and reassuring. Marz specifically credit’s J.Crew’s leadership in helping their employees stay motivated during a really tough time.
As an Associate Merchant at J.Crew, Marz is responsible for managing the full product lifecycle within men’s footwear, which includes shoes, boots, sneakers, flip-flops, and slippers. Marz partners with design, production, planning, allocation, stores, marketing, and brand creative to ensure he’s delivering the right assortment, at the right price, at the right place, at the right time, and to the right customer, all while meeting the financial goals of the company. His job involves a significant amount of cross-functional interaction, his role really sitting at the heart of the company. His division ultimately is in charge of brainstorming the needs of the company and customer to deliver the most value. Within the footwear department, there is also a high penetration of third party brands, as J.Crew works in close partnership with New Balance, Adidas, Sperry, and Reebok to name a few.
Marz has had a passion for footwear for over six years now, considering Adidas Sambas and a classic white Nike court sneaker to be some of his go-tos. Marz considers his style to be a mix between Americana with a hint of streetwear. Although he has had a huge passion for streetwear since he was little, Marz mentions that J.Crew has unlocked another level of style for him. Some days Marz likes to throw on loafers and jeans, while others he dawns chinos and sneakers. “I always choose the shoe first and dress from the bottom up.”
A day at work for Marz is super fast-paced, especially at the peak of the pandemic in Spring, Summer of 2020, as Marz was having to react to the pandemic’s effect on the economy. When stores were quickly closing, Marz was forced to rethink incoming orders and pulling goods forward. It was an intense but insightful process, Marz notes, as it enabled him to understand how to read and react to supply and demand. In the mornings, Marz has a touchbase with his manager to review expectations for the week, month, and quarter. Marz then could be reviewing previous or future budgets and having meetings with production and design team to review upcoming products. The end the day could look like another team meeting with the marketing division about a sneaker launch and the needs associated in order to promote the style. Despite working from home, Marz is able to work pretty efficiently, but also goes into the office in person to review products with his teams.
“Day to day really varies. It’s a perfect balance of rhythm and chaos,” says Marz.
Marz’s favorite aspect of the job is the road mapping stage, when he plans for the future of J.Crew Men’s footwear retail will look like. Currently, Marz is working on Spring 2022, considering the company’s needs, looking back at previous seasons, and accessing what opportunities or misses that he has had- buy less, more, or not at all. The job’s analytical and creative requirements is also an aspect of the job that Marz appreciates.That being said, Marz typically works on 5 seasons at a time:
- Liquidating holiday 2020
- Preparing to launch spring 2021
- Putting finishes on summer 2021
- About to place fall 2021 orders
- Having conversations about holiday 2021
Looking towards the future of fashion, Marz predicts that the industry will change in a number of ways. “As technology changes and as we get older and our needs change, our buying decisions change as well,” notes Marz. Marz regards the recent increase in consumer spending and pent up demand for certain products ironic in some regards, since we are all working from home and limit leaving the house. With the pandemic having an impact on special events, such as weddings, as well as office culture changing, Marz sees a shift towards more casual styling, especially in the suiting world. The pandemic has also resulted in a segment of consumers reevaluating what they are buying and the value and quality of those items. Overall, there seems to be a lot of introspection happening that hasn’t happened for a while, as people have more time to stop and reflect.
What excites Marz about his own future? The opportunity for him to learn more about himself- his interests, strengths, and areas of growth. Marz’s resolution for 2021 is to get to know himself more and to leave behind any baggage, which has led him to a positive direction in life and work. Marz is filled with a lot of hope this year and- you know- so are we.