I Do Windows

Barney’s NY Ken Ferraris talks to Visual Merchandising class

Posted in Interviews, Learn from the Pros by Arcadia on June 13, 2011

“I love my job – love my field.   Visual merchandising is changing due to the internet, our role is even more important because how do you get that person into the store?  Those answers are really important to think about.  How can you WOW them and do bigger than what you’ve done before.” -Ken Ferrrais

[Here are some highlights from class, these are my recaps on the discussion as I am paraphrasing Mr. Ferraris’ responses]

What led you to pursue a career in visual merchandising?

I am a San Francisco native who studied fine art and worked at an art supply store.  I started helping out doing visuals for the store, and building props; eventually I began freelancing for 20-30 stores in SF (various kinds of retailers).  I moved to NYC  without any connections, and landed a job for a kids stores across the street from Barney’s. The visual merchandising manager from FAO Schwartz hired me as a freelancer, that’s where I got my real training.  I then became the Creative Director for FAO Schwartz, then came back to SF to open a store for them here, which is now the location of Barney’s!  I’ve done a lot of work doing store design for the Viacom brands: meeting art directors, costume designers, fashion people, makeup people.  I was also the Display Director for the Discovery Stores, as well as head of retail design for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

What are the primary responsibilities for your job?

I look at the store from the customer’s perspective.  The windows change about every 5 weeks.  The interior displays change in the front more often than other displays.   I have a staff of 3. We do our floor walk in the morning and maintenance checks. I have management meetings throughout the week, lots of clerical stuff, and I make inventory maps.

What are your sources that you refer to for the development of your projects? What sources do you use for materials and props?

The dollar store! We use materials that are fairly inexpensive and we use them magically!  We reuse a lot of props, but we try not to use them in the same manner.

Do you network with others at your position level within the industry, if so, how do you go about it?

Lots of networking within the Barney’s store, and I’m friendly with display people in other stores.

Do you ever have to work or consult with Fashion Merchandisers or the marketing team on some of your projects? 

We work with the fashion merchandisers a lot in doing the floor changes, depending on the floor of the store.  The managers are responsible for the placement of product.

What are the education or skill requirements for a job in visual merchandising?

You must like working in a store, it’s a very physical job!  You have to be on a ladder, be able to lift stuff, and think on your feet.  You need to research and learn about the brand you are promoting.  Barney’s is a very signage heavy store  – in which a lot is made in-house.

What are some of the positive aspects of your job, in other words what do you enjoy the most?

I love being in a creative job and thinking on my feet everyday.  Every single day I enjoy going into work!  I like working with other people, and I like working in teams.

What are some of the negatives? 

Managing your time and deadlines can be challenging.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get in this field?

Do what you can to make yourself stand out from the others for the job.  Play up  what you think is appropriate for the interview.  Always present a portfolio!  Do as much research on the company as possible.

Thanks Ken for your time and knowledge!

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