Young and determined shoe fanatic Ratika Thakur lands her dream job at Christian Louboutin.
By Krishna Mawani
A girl can dare to dream, and dare she did…
Ratika Thakur was an ordinary girl, following the humdrum routine that every individual is known to follow. Completing her high school education at Ekamai International School, she continued to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts with a major in Advertising from Assumption University, and later got her MBA in luxury brand management from IFA Paris. She was content with the path her life was leading, until one day, destiny came knocking and changed its course completely.
Sitting at Thee Bangkok Hotel, she tells me that a few years ago a friend told her about an opening in Christian Louboutin for their new Bangkok office. Just like that, her initial plan of taking a short hiatus to travel the world was scrapped, and this exciting job opportunity was waiting for her.
Having worked as an advertorial stylist for three years at established magazines including Elle, Marie Claire and Cleo, it was no surprise that this determined trendsetter bagged the role. It has been two and half years since, and her passion for the field is still as clear as her first day at work. It’s really true when they say, ‘if you are facing in the right direction, all you need to do is keep walking’, and it’s even better doing it in the iconic red soles.
So who is Ratika?
I’m born in a multi-cultural family. My dad is Sindhi and my mum is Thai-Chinese, which makes me a halfie. Ever since I was in school, my mum has been strict with me. She enrolled me in a variety of extra-curricular classes that ranged from math to Thai classical music and even badminton. I would also participate in many afterschool activities, where I was mainly a photographer and stylist for the school magazine. Every moment for me was a learning experience. I would often travel, and learn about that country’s history, traditions and culture. All of these aspects are linked to fashion, and were ultimately, my first steps into appreciating the art of style.
What was your first job like?
After I graduated from Assumption University, I got a job at Elle. I worked as an advertorial stylist for a year and half, and worked closely with the editorial team and their clients. I had a variety of roles; I planned campaigns, helped out with photoshoots, styled the décor and worked closely with the graphic designer. A year and half later, the company underwent restructuring. I became more involved with other magazines, namely Cleo and Marie Claire. Later on, I decided to quit because I wanted to pursue my MBA in Paris.
Was it your MBA degree that encouraged you to pursue a career in fashion?
Yes, definitely! Over the years, I had gained a lot of experience with luxury fashion. I went to the Chanel couture house and even visited the Louis Vuitton factory where they make their trunks. I began to appreciate the retail and craftsmanship aspects of all these brands, since I had the opportunity to see the real fashion world!
Have you always been a fan of Christian Louboutin?
Yes! I have always dreamt of working with the brand. Christian has always been my fashion icon, and I love his philosophy and vision. I did most of my projects on him, so I know a lot. And as a PR manager, I need to know everything about the company.
What does your job as PR Manager entail?
As we only have one shop right now in Central Embassy, we don’t have a large headcount. There are only two employees in the corporate office, including me. I am the company representative for Thailand. My job includes sending the press rack to magazines, organising celebrity coverage, monitoring competitors and so on. Basically, I am my own boss here. The global team lets me decide what is best for the brand in the Thai market.
What are some of the benefits and disadvantages of your job?
Travelling is definitely a perk. Every year, I get to go to Paris Fashion Week. We also have an annual global PR meeting. Since the company is highly multi-cultural, the management wants everyone to experience new places, and so they always choose a different country to visit. So far, I’ve travelled to New York, Hong Kong and Milan. Next year, it might be Brazil. I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement! We have a press trip as well, where we take magazine editors to different manufacturing units to examine the behind-the-scenes action. This is my favourite part, as I love the craftsmanship and design process that goes behind the brand.
A disadvantage would be managing the time difference. Earlier, our head offices were based in Paris and New York. The conference calls would be held at slightly odd hours, but it’s getting better as the global team is moving back to Paris and the regional office is now in Hong Kong.
How did you adapt to your role as a PR practitioner with no prior education or experience in the field?
Since I have worked in a magazine before, I saw what other PR professionals were doing when they would visit our office. Another former employee in the company, who had prior experience, trained me a lot as well. She introduced me to many people working for different Thai newspapers and magazines, and taught me several PR terms like press rack. Eventually, I learned from my mistakes too. I also learned from my senior editors who advised me on what I should and shouldn’t do.
What are the top three tips that one needs to know in PR?
- Respect others: always respect your seniors. Be polite and let go of your ego in times of need.
- Keep your eyes open: be attentive to what your competitors are doing online and offline.
- Keep a smile on your face: as a PR person you are always representing your brand, so smile and be friendly to all.
What was your initial reaction when you met Christian Louboutin?
The company that co-owns the label in Thailand was unable to get Christian to come, but I was determined to get my icon to Bangkok. So within six months of joining, I was able to increase my coverage, which convinced the man himself to visit.
However, when he first got here, things went haywire. He was only here for four days and his first impression was not a good one. Christian lost his luggage at the airport. He had nothing to wear, and that very night, he had a formal sit-down dinner. I had to put everything aside, including interviews, and even pull a few strings to make all of his last minute clothing arrangements. I even sent my dad to buy swimming suits, socks and underwear for Christian. You may not believe this but Christian even had to walk from one of his interviews to another because of Bangkok’s crazy traffic.
However, at the end, he enjoyed his visit. He hugged me and thanked me, and that was the moment I felt like he really appreciated everything. I didn’t sleep for those four days, as it was a very overwhelming and challenging, yet exciting experience. Now when I see him during Paris Fashion Week, he always says hi and hugs me. He is not like a lot of designers who generally keep their space with staff, but rather he is caring and very friendly.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to join the luxury fashion industry?
If you are passionate, you should trust your gut and go for it. Keep your eyes open every day, and be keen to learn and take advice from your seniors.
What are your future aspirations?
That’s one question I ask myself every day. What’s next? Before this interview, I got a job offer from Chanel and Hermes, but I am not ready to leave yet. With all of the experience I have gained, I would ideally want to start something of my own in a few years. It would be related to the fashion and PR industry, of course.
Know Your PR Luxury Lingo!
Press rack is simply a press sample that is a part of an upcoming collection used for magazine shoots and marketing material.