The fashion industry, like the National Football League, is competitive and prized by millions of hopefuls. Every day fashionistas around the globe launch into the deep, moving to cities like Paris, New York, or Los Angeles to land a gig and only a select few ever do. St. Louis native and Rams Merchandise & Events Coordinator Maria Mannino can say that she is amongst that small percentage.
“I moved out to Los Angeles and I wanted to get into the fashion industry out there,” Mannino said. “My friend offered me a job on a movie. I did wardrobbing for two features. I wardrobbed for Rocky VI and I did a pilot, too, Football Wives.”
While the daily hustle of working on films in Hollywood was alluring, Mannino quickly realized that it wasn’t what she was meant to do.
“I realized right away that being in the ‘industry,’ as you call it, was not what I wanted to do,” she said. “So I ended up heading to the fashion district and getting a job with BCBG (MaxAzria) doing wholesale out of their downtown LA showroom.”
After digging her feet into the business terrain of fashion, Mannino left BCBG for a similar role with HATCH, a multi-line showroom that represented a plethora of designer brands, overseeing Lacoste for the Midwest/West Coast regions. Her latter experiences confirmed her niche in the fashion industry. However, her career was forced to pause when tragedy unexpectedly called her back home to St. Louis.
“My mom got sick,” Mannino recalled. “She got diagnosed with ALS, which is a really terrible disease. I moved home in May of 2009 to take care of her and be her full-time caregiver. She passed away in February of 2011.”
Unsure of her next step, Mannino reached out to Rams Executive Vice President/Chief Revenue Officer Bob Reif, to whom she became connected through a mutual friend, in an attempt to jump back into life.
As luck would have it, Reif had an opening and brought Mannino on as an executive assistant. Under Reif’s tutelage, Mannino gained valuable knowledge in corporate partnerships and revenue generation. After a year with Reif, luck stuck again and the ideal opportunity opened in her favor.
“When (Vice President of Marketing & Brand Strategy) Brian Killingsworth came on and created the marketing department I saw this position for merchandise and events coordinator,” Mannino said. “It couldn’t have been a more perfect fit, so I applied and Brian gave me the opportunity.”
Not only did the job description line up with Mannino’s ability, but the core product lined up with her passion for sports.
“I love football, I always have,” Mannino said grinning. “I’ve always played sports. I’ve played softball, soccer, and I was a swimmer for 12 years.”
Mannino went beyond her job description and expanded it heavily. She currently serves as the buyer for the Rams’ team store and is bringing in different lines, such as Junk Food and Touch by Alyssa Milano for the ladies and Nike Golf for the men.
On the events side she helps Director of Special Events Keely Fimbres oversee more than 200 events annually. In her rookie year with the team, she dove headfirst to initiate new projects and events, paying close attention to the female NFL fan.
“Last year, my first thing was the St. Louis Magazine Fashion Soiree fashion show where we partnered with the magazine and different boutiques,” Mannino said. “We took our clothes and styled them with different looks. The biggest thing that I did last year was I worked with the NFL for the ‘Fit For Her Style Lounge.’ We were one of five teams that did it last year and were one of the first teams to do that.”
Delivering results and innovative ideas has become synonymous with Mannino’s work ethic. The projected attendance for the “NFL Fit For Her Style Lounge” was 700, however Mannino drove in 1,400 attendees.
“I think building our brand for females has been great,” Mannino said. “There’s a need for it and it’s fun.”
The St. Louis Rams partner with Delaware North Companies Sportservice (DNC), who is the concessionaire for eight NFL teams. DNC handles all in-stadium retail sales and in 2012, according to Mannino, the Rams had the largest percent increase in ladies merchandise sales among all other NFL teams managed by DNC.
“The coolest thing about being a part of the NFL,” Mannino explained, “is that (despite) all the craziness and little details and little things, when you’re in the stadium and they make a play or score a touchdown and everyone goes crazy and you stand there for a minute, you stand there and realize that, ‘Wow, I’m a part of something so much bigger than me.’”
Mannino is a graduate of the International Academy of Design & Technology-Chicago and earned her degree in merchandising management. She is surrounded by a large loving family including her father, Phil, twin sisters – Monica and Andrea – niece, Mariah, nephew, Rocco, and her dog, Cabo.
“I am truly grateful for my family,” Mannino said. “Especially my mother, Judy, who has made me the woman I am today.”