Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
At an office in the bustling garment district of downtown Los Angeles, Carnita Nicole Whimper, a 2010 alumna of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), finds fulfillment in her creative flexibility in a career in corporate fashion. As a junior assistant buyer for the Burlington Coat Factory’s West Coast buying office, she uses her enthusiasm for the fashion industry to help determine the retailer’s fashion garments for the current and upcoming seasons.
Whimper, a native of Pine Bluff, is responsible for the selection of junior girls tops for 534 stores in 44 states. She works with vendors and attends fashion markets to select and negotiate for products that meet customer needs at competitive prices.
In addition to product procurement, Whimper participates in the development process. “I enjoy being able to contribute to the production aspects of the job, whether it’s putting together ideas for a screen tee or choosing the fabric or silhouette of a garment to be produced for our stores,” she said.
Vendors hope to create a list of garments that Burlington Coat Factory will consistently purchase and Whimper works with them to finalize product specifications. In a typical meeting with a vendor, Whimper communicates her company’s current needs as well as her own observances of current fashion trends.
“Let’s say I go into a meeting and I know we are looking for feminine pretty tops,” she said. “I tell the vendor some of the trends I saw last time I went shopping – lace or crochet designs, for example – and indicate the colors or designs that usually sell best for us. They then mock up a full production of what we want on specific top types such as regular T-shirts or V-necks.”
In addition to her day job, Whimper enjoys entrepreneurial pursuits. In May 2015, she launched her own swimwear boutique, Bare Swim. Though the catalog currently features wholesale designs, she has already sketched up her own designs for future product releases.
She said the process of starting a business from scratch has been challenging and fun. In addition to procuring the items for sale, she set up a website, www.bareswim.com, and coordinated with local models, photographers and makeup artists over social media to set up a full photo shoot for marketing materials.
Whimper said the business is off to a good start. She was even invited to participate at Los Angeles Swim Week. Though she will not be able to attend the annual swimwear event this year, she hopes to in the future.
Whimper received bachelor’s degrees in business marketing and agricultural business from UAPB, and a master’s degree in business economics from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
“The marketing instruction and challenging coursework at UAPB helped prepare me for my career,” Whimper said. “One of the most helpful exercises was creating a full business plan from scratch, including backend information such as target market demographics. These are the kinds of things I think about now in my career at Burlington as we market to people from different age groups or regions of the country.”
While at UAPB Whimper was active in several organizations including the Delta Eta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, INC. and the Black Essence Modeling Team. She was the co-captain of the frontline dance team Golden Girls for the Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South (M4) band and was captain of the Spirit Team. She graduated with honors from Pine Bluff High School and was president of her class.
That Whimper works in the historic Cooper Building in an environment marked by branded and non-branded showrooms such as 7 For All Mankind, Alice + Olivia, Halston Heritage and Levi’s is testament to her lifelong love for fashion.
She said her mother, Alneta Whimper, was an early influence on her career.
“When I was growing up, my mom worked in fashion and loved to shop just as much,” Whimper said. “We would take shopping trips to Little Rock almost every weekend, putting outfits together for our family. So much of my interest in fashion comes from her.”
Whimper credits her father, Carl Whimper, with teaching her how to be business-minded, outgoing and hard-working. Mr. Whimper, a 1975 graduate of UAPB, was the director of media relations for athletics at UAPB and later served as the assistant director of student recruitment.
Whimper advises students to start thinking about their career while in college by joining student organizations and seeking out pertinent internships in their fields of interest.
“Participating in organizations builds character, shows leadership and develops skills not learned in the classroom that can translate into experience,” she said. “This makes you a better candidate for an internship that can give you work experience and knowledge.”