I Do Windows

An update from our Visual Merchandiser job-seeker!

Posted in Q and A by Arcadia on October 31, 2010

Here’s a great update from a reader who had actively been seeking a job in our field!  Click on this link to get the back story.

Hi Arcadia,

I wanted to give you an update since you were so kind as to provide advice about a job as a visual merchandiser. I didn’t get the position with Macy’s. Due to lag time with the online job postings the position was already filled when I went in for the interview. I at least felt good that they granted me an interview.

The great news is that I was just hired on at Nordstrom as a Seasonal Visual Stylist!

I’ll share my experience with you and your students since I did not have an educational background in merchandising and still managed to land a job as a visual merchandiser.

My background is in finance, but I have always had a passion for design, fashion and anything creative. I gained “experience” by offering to be on call help for floral event set up. I usually would be called in on a Saturday or a Sunday so it never interfered with my “real job.” Many florists and wedding planners always need day-of help because so much has to be done in such a short amount of time. A good friend of mine is a well-known florist and that is how I was able to help with high end & celebrity weddings. Get to know some of the better known florists in your area and tell them you want to be on-call help. There are many tasks that don’t require huge creative skill and eventually you can work your way into some of the more creative tasks the more events you help with.

This on-call side job was always fun for me and not about the money. It was hard physical work but I loved every moment of it. One of the other things that I had on my “creative” resume is that I worked for a company that flipped homes and I would provide input in the redesign (choosing finishes, redesign kitchen layouts, etc.) I also had a hand in the actual demo and some of the other dirty work. An internship with an interior designer or contractor would provide some of this type experience.

How I got the position. Your best bet is during the holidays. Department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom have a huge store changeover for the holidays. Arcadia has mentioned this before, every year department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom, post seasonal visual positions during the month of October. As you know, I had a couple missed opportunities with Macy’s, but when I saw this posting I was determined to get it. I  basically had to redo my resume and left off most of my financial jobs and highlighted all retail work, event and design work. Resumes are not one size fits all, you have to tweak your resume to the position your are apply for.

One of the key factors that put me at the top of the list was that I called the hiring store’s human resources directly a couple days after I submitted my application and resume.  I asked if they received the application, let them know that I was very interested in the position and most importantly, that I would work through the holidays. Nordstrom loves to see initiative, even in people applying for support positions. The HR manager emailed the Visual manager as I was on the phone with her. I received a call the very next day to come in and chat. Another factor that help me stand out was that I had a little construction experience, this showed that I was not afraid of physical labor or climbing up 8 foot ladders.

Visual merchandising has been something that I have always wanted to do and I showed that I was passionate about it. Another thing about working as a seasonal visual stylist is that it is a requirement to work on Thanksgiving day. This is the day the holiday changeover happens. I am told that we are done at about 2pm still leaving time for Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t care, I wanted the job. At the very least it pays time and half. =)

My passion paired with some decent side job experiences is what landed me the position. I was basically hired on the spot.

Hopefully this provides your students with a little “real world” insight. Thank you again for your advice. I enjoy your blog immensely and have learned a great deal.



There are few things J pointed out in her story that I really want to emphasis for new students:

  1. She gained experienced by working for creative types other than fashion. I can’t stress enough how great this is, as skills are transferable.  If you can design a floral bouquet then you understand balance and symmetry, the very skills you would need for a display case.  Fashion retailers aren’t the only place to gain experience.  You need a broader background for display.
  2. “It was hard physical work but I loved every moment”.  How many times have I said in class, our work may look pretty but there is nothing glamorous about the job!  You can’t work in heels or be afraid to break a nail.
  3. She’s very passionate about her work and her persistence paid off.  You can’t help but succeed when you are doing something you love!

Congratulations J!  And thanks so much for sharing your story and experience, with your initiative and can-do attitude I can see Nordstrom keeping you even after the holidays!

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Style Bubble Styles Windows For COS

Posted in Discuss This Display by Arcadia on October 31, 2010

One of my favorite fashion bloggers was asked to style the windows of COS. For those of you not in the UK, COS is part of the H&M empire.  How do you think she did?

The windows look very much like her!  If you’re familiar with her eclectic style of dressing you can definitely Susie in the outfits of the mannequins.

(all images via Style Bubble)

Window Display – New Visual Merchandising

Posted in Book Reviews, Inspiration, Nonpareil Windows, Window Lessons by Arcadia on October 31, 2010

Well class, it looks like there will be a new “required reading” book.  Tony Morgan has published a fantastic new book all on Window Display!  But don’t fret yet – this book is a big picture book, it belongs on your coffee table with all the other fashion books.

The photos are beyond inspiring and cleverly broken up into genres:

  • Theatre
  • Seasonal
  • Quirky
  • Trends

Every trimmer should have this book on their work shelf for reference.  This book doesn’t go into deep detail on the “how-to”

, for that you should read Tony’s other book, which I use as the textbook for this class – Visual Merchandising – Window and In Store Display for Retail.

This book is a great reminder of why I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my work so much.  Thanks Tony!

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The Limited makes a comeback!

Posted in Retail News by Arcadia on October 31, 2010

I had no idea The Limited was still around.  Most of the stores here in the Bay Area have been gone (if one is still around can someone tell me where….), but I do have fond memories of shopping there.  One of my favorite cable knit sweaters came from there, but I digress.  Between Contempo, Club Monaco, Macy’s and various other retailers; The Limited is one store I never worked at during college, they were ugly in my opinion.  I’m glad to read their owners thought so too.

I encourage you to read this article posted on VMSD about The Limited’s comeback.  They used to be the go-between Contempo and Ann Taylor.  I’m curious to see how well the new Limited does.  Have they been out of the game too long?  Have other retailers like BEBE, Forever 21, Loft, Zara, and Mango stolen their mojo?

From the slide show pictures at VMSD it looks like the new store is going after the Ann Taylor demographic, maybe J. Crew but without Jenna Lyon’s chic-ness.  Time will tell….

(image via: VMSD)

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Thrifting is Fun

Posted in Props by Arcadia on October 31, 2010

I’m posting an article on thrifting.  Why?  Because most of our props and objets d’art come from thrift and second-hand stores.  Especially if you freelance, it’s important to become familiar with all the purveyors of junk in your neighborhood!  I love junk stores I shop them regardless if I’m working or not.  Here are some reasons why:

  1. Thrifting is good for the environment.  This one is pretty obvious.  Recycling and re-purposing items keeps them out of the landfills.
  2. It saves you money and you are supporting local businesses, sometimes charities, and other organizations.
  3. The fun is in the bargains you find when you come across some great things.

Thrifting is not for the timid.  Bring gloves or hand sanitizer and start digging!  Dress comfortably so you can move around quickly, and bring a buggy or cart so you don’t have to carry everything.  Most of all keep an open mind when viewing things, items original intentions don’t have to be so —->doors can become tables, windows can become picture frames..

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How To Prepare For A Career In Fashion

Posted in Book Reviews by Arcadia on October 11, 2010

For those of you studying fashion in the UK there is a new book out to give you some advice on what it takes in the various positions from Buyer, Designer, Journalist, Stylist, and of course our favorite job Visual Merchandiser!

Each chapter includes job profiles, information on education and work experience, interviews, practical tips, and Q&A sections with top industry insiders from companies such as Top Shop, ASOS, River Island, Liberty, and Lulu Guinness, all giving their expert advice on how readers can begin to prepare for their chosen career.

“Fashion is seen as an exciting career choice, but the majority of students have no idea of how to
break into the industry, what their options are beyond fashion designer, or what they need to study to
prepare for these jobs. We were inundated with requests for information at Clothes Show last year –
from both students and parents – so I decided to write the book. The aim is to create an easy to
understand, highly visual and accessible publication, presented in an informal ‘magazine’ style that
will appeal to younger readers”, says fashion careers specialist and author Stephanie Finnan.

More information on Stephanie and her book can be found here.


Manolo Blahnik steps into the windows of Liberty in London

Posted in Just Genius, Nonpareil Windows by Arcadia on October 11, 2010

This October the World of Manolo Blahnik has come to the windows of Liberty in London.  Manolo Blahnik has scoured through the Liberty Print archives to create this lust-worthy collection, spectacularly displayed, floating against an Art Nouveau romantic setting of illustration and Japanese screens.

The full collection of exclusive shoes, notebooks, umbrellas and cushions all embellished with Blahnik’s beautiful illustrative flourishes are available in the stunning store-in-store, in residence for a 3 and a half month period.

In collaboration with visual communications company Just So, the department store has turned their window landscape into a visual tour de force for the designs of the world’s most sought after shoe designer, so loved by every A-lister, most famously Sarah Jessica Parker who took the brand to iconic status in her role as Carrie Bradshaw.

The windows can be viewed at Liberty, Regent Street, London W1B 5AH

Lucky for us Patrick McAleenan has sent these great photos for those of us across the Atlantic:

Displaying shoes in windows can be difficult because people tend to feel they have to over-embellish their windows.  By adding too much stuff the merchandise can get lost.  These windows are a perfect example of less is more.  The simple art and lighted panels emphasize the shoes and draws your eyes to it rather than steal the focus away from it.  This is simple and chic done really well, much like the Manolo’s we all covet!

(images via: Patrick McAleenan, PR Consultant)

Topshop in Chicago

Posted in Retail News, Store Design by Arcadia on October 6, 2010

According to WWD, Topshop will be opening up next year in Chicago.  They plan to open up on Michigan Avenue next to Filene’s Basement.  Apparently the store will be about 30,000 square feet!  I guess eventually they will make their way out West.  Sir Philip Green is supposedly looking for sites in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Although the luxury retailers don’t want to admit it, I truly believe the fast fashion stores: H and M, Forever 21, Topshop; are giving them a run for their money!  These single-department stores occupy as much space as multi-department stores, and they are growing in an economy where everyone else is downsizing.  They have found a formula that is working!

Simple store design, basic mannequins, easy merchandising layout, a splash of color for visual interest and you have a fast fashion store.  Change out the merchandise and anyone of these could easily be a Target or Costco!

(image via: luxury on crack)

Stylish Cartoons from Fashion Indie

Posted in Inspiration by Arcadia on October 6, 2010

Visual display are artists whose medium can be virtually anything.  Which means we can find inspiration anywhere and in anything, and turn it into a work of art that people will eventually want to buy.  Remember from our class lessons; it’s our job to make what the buyers buy look covetable, even if it’s not!

Which is why the link to this cartoon story on The Top 5 Most Stylish Nicktoons at Fashion Indie was downright hilarious if not true!  There are some pretty stylish cartoons and what a great place to find some inspiration for a little mannequin styling, especially now that Halloween is coming up!

Here’s a sneek peak:

Arnold, Hey Arnold! Loner. Outsider. Football head. Preppy on top — note the sweater and dress shirt combination — and a pioneer in the kilt as daywear trend on bottom. Marc Jacobs, you’re fucking welcome.

(image via: Fashion Indie)

An email question from a reader

Posted in Q and A by Arcadia on October 6, 2010

Here is a great question from a new reader:

Hi there,

I just stumbled across your blog as I was doing last-minute prep for my interview with Macy’s tomorrow for a Seasonal Visual Associate. I don’t have any formal studies, but have had some creative experiences in merchandising, floral event design, styling and photography as well was retail sales experience.

Just wondering if you have any tips or input on what to expect for the first interview.


Here’s what I wrote back:

Hi J,

Really emphasize your “hands-on” experience in the areas that you mention.  Skills in styling, floral design, etc transfer over into merchandising because you have trained your eye on what looks good and creating optical balance.  Explain what you learned in retail sales, I’m sure you paid attention to how the sales floor was laid out, and which areas are the prime selling areas in the store (It’s always the front).

Visual Merch. and Window Display are “artsy” hands-on jobs.  You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty or move around store fixtures when called upon.  You need creativity, organizational skills, and good time management, and it doesn’t hurt to be self-motivated.  This is what I tell my students and what I would look for in a potential employee.

I started at Macy’s as a part-time Xmas trimmer as well.  If you have a portfolio showing creative work you’ve done that’s a plus.  When I applied many, many years ago 🙂 – I didn’t get the regular permanent position because of my lack of a portfolio even though I had all kinds of experience.  The guy with the portfolio, who was an artist got the position over me.  The manager called me up a few months later and offered me the seasonal part-time position.  I took it and worked really hard to learn how they did things.  I was the only seasonal trimmer they kept once the holidays was over.

Best of luck to you!


I heard back from J and was told she did not get the seasonal position but was contacted for an interview for a full-time position instead!!  That is wonderful news and I sincerely hopes this works out, as I could tell from our email correspondence J has a real passion for this kind of work!

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