I Do Windows

A Visual Merchandiser’s Tools

Posted in Learn from the Pros, Window Lessons by Arcadia on July 27, 2011

Every good display person keeps a toolbox filled with tools they will use on a day-to-day basis.  Here’s what I keep in *toolboxes and recommend.

*I have several toolboxes, one in my truck, one in my garage/studio, one in my office, you get the idea…..

Measuring Tape:  this is the quintessential tool needed in everyone’s toolbox, and probably the one tool you’ll use the most, next to the staple gun.

Staple Gun:  You will use this tool to cover a myriad of items from the ceilings to the floors.  Invest in a good one!

Hot Glue Gun:  The sister to the staple gun.  There’s nothing I can’t fix with my handy glue gun!  Invest in a large and small one.

Hammer:  You don’t need a large serrated head framing hammer, a good 16oz., smooth head, finish hammer will do; because the most hammering you will be doing is pounding in finish nails.  If you need to secure something heavier, I would suggest using screws instead of nails if possible.  Remember:  everything you install will eventually come down, screws are a lot easier to remove than nails.  And PLEASE don’t ever pound screws in with your hammer!!!

Levels:  You’ll use this tool to help you find out if something is straight up and down.  We call that plumb (vertical) or level (horizontal).  Levels come in various sizes.  I have a four-foot level (48″), and two foot level (24″), and a small 12″ level, sometimes called a torpedo level.  Make sure this tool does not get knocked around a lot, you could ruin the calibration (that’s the reading the instrument gives you).

Various Screwdrivers:  Keep both flat-head and Phillips in your toolbox, in a variety of sizes.

Scissors:  These I actually keep in my back pocket or stuck in my work-apron pocket!

Pencils:  I keep a bunch of the flat carpenter’s pencils thrown in the bottom of my box as well as in my pocket.

Pliers:  This is handy to have when you need to remove pins or staples that are stuck.

Bradawl:  I know some display people who keep this tool around.  It punches holes into materials.  I’ve also been known to use a large nail if I don’t have this tool around.

Safety Glasses:  I’m big on working safe and keeping yourself properly protected around power tools!

Materials to keep handy:  various pins for hanging lettering, double-stick tape, a variety of screws and nails, florist wire, fish wire (monofilament), thin metal wire, glue sticks.

These are just the basics to get you started if you freelance or do your own shop displays.  If you work for one of the major department stores they will most likely have all of the above and more on hand.

I wear cargo pants (those pockets really do come in handy), T-shirt, and comfortable shoes,; over this I sometimes have my carpenter’s apron or overalls.  The smaller tools are stuffed into my pockets and the rest go in a 5 gallon bucket that I carry with me to each display.

What tools/materials do you use daily?

Louis Vuitton’s Eiffel Tower

Posted in Inspiration, Just Genius by Arcadia on July 27, 2011

The iconic French brand displayed as the iconic French monument!

(image via: French by Design)

Spelling Error

Posted in Learn from the Pros by Arcadia on July 26, 2011

Signage is vitally important in our line of work, and what most people new to our trade don’t realize is that it falls under our domain.  Everything from the banners hanging from the ceiling to the signs  letting you know which floor is housewares!  Not only do we have to be creative and handy, we need to be able to spell correctly as well!


I have been a fashion fiend since I could talk, which is why I love this line of work so much, but I have learned not everyone who does display is actually really crazy about fashion!   I get that for some people this is just a fun job, and they couldn’t tell you the difference from Alexander Wang to Alexander McQueen, but if you are going to play in the game you’ve got to at least know the names of the players.

Mistakes like the one above happen, and I’m sure the display person probably just got five minute case of dyslexia (it should be spelled Zegna), but it’s a good example of how paying attention to the details is important in our line of work.

I wonder how long that signage stayed like that before they fixed it?

If you want to laugh read the story accompanying the photo on Racked

Pencil Art

Posted in Just Genius by Arcadia on July 26, 2011

As a fellow carpenter by trade I am in awe of Dalton Ghetti’s talent.  I use those flat carpenter pencils daily and can’t even begin to imagine how he make’s these tiny, detailed sculptures!!

Although this post has nothing to do with merchandising, his work is too imaginative not to share:

For more information on his work click here.

(Thanks to WTF)







Kate Middleton’s Wedding Dress Display

Posted in Discuss This Display by Arcadia on July 26, 2011

So the Queen didn’t like this display?

I can’t really blame her.  When I first saw a photo of this display, it was of The Duchess and The Queen observing the dress from a distance.  I couldn’t really tell what made the Queen gasp in horror.  After finding the picture above, I’m inclined to agree with her Majesty!

I wonder why they made the decision to use a headless mannequin?  The veil floating above the dress does look a little creepy.  I don’t think Royal Wedding exhibition when I see this, instead I think scary bride at Halloween.

What say you?  Do you like this display or should they have used a mannequin with a head?



Frederick’s Hollywood goes to the Middle East

Posted in Discuss This Display by Arcadia on July 14, 2011

I just read in the VMSD newsletter that Frederick’s of Hollywood will be opening up 10 stores in the Middle East!  Really???  If you are not familiar with this retailer, they predominately sell lingerie.  I’m not a fan of this store’s aesthetic or taste in ladies’ unmentionables, and this is not to criticize those who like this “look”.

I have never been to the Middle East, yet for all of their openness to our western ways (at least in some countries) they are still quite conservative.  Did you see Sex and The City II?  There was some truth to the “keep yourself covered up”.  And since they are so conservative I tend to think they would like things classier, not so trashy (ok I am criticizing F0fH!)

I know women there need and wear underwear and probably like the sexy, naughty things like the rest of us, but I think of Agent Provacateur, not the trashtastic FofH!  How did they even swing this deal?!?  10 stores no less!  Who’s going to shop here?  Tourists, or is pole-dancing big business in the middle east?  I didn’t even realize they were capable of expanding their business as a brick and mortar retailer and not strictly catalog, and I mean the antiquated paper catalog!

I am real curious to see what the displays will look like, I doubt we’ll see looks like the one to the left!

Visual Merchandising Jobs

Posted in Uncategorized by Arcadia on July 14, 2011

Following up on the post below:

After you’ve completed your education and it’s time to find a job I would suggest following VisualMerchJobs on twitter.  They tweet daily jobs from all over in visual display!

Visual Merchandising Classes

Posted in Fashion Schools by Arcadia on July 14, 2011

For those of us on a school schedule, summertime is usually when things get a little slow, as school is out.  It’s a great time to sit back and plot your next move, which usually includes getting a job or more school.

A question I get asked A LOT is where can one go to get training in Visual Merchandising.  [Shameless plug →]: Well if you are in San Francisco, you most definitely should take my class at City College – FASH 49, it’s only offered in the spring :).

But for those of you in other places I’ve complied a list of schools I would recommend (this is in no particular order):

1.  Of course I have to recommend Academy of Art University, since they are located right here in San Francisco, and many of the students in our fashion department transfer to this school.  It’s a wonderful institution, I’ve actually hired a student from their graphic design program to design my company logo!

2.  Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising or FIDM as we call it.  A friend of mine taught in their Interior Design Department here in San Francisco, he loved it!  They have locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego.

3.  This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention Parsons The New School for Design!  It’s located in New York with a formidable list of graduates.

4. Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is another fashion powerhouse, with famous graduates.  It’s part of New York’s state university school system.

5.  I was surprised to discover Oregon State University had a thriving fashion program and degree in Merchandising Management.  Keep in mind their visual merchandising class is tied into a larger program, as with many of the other colleges.

6.  Central St. Martins in London – enough said!

7.  Don’t be fooled this school’s location – Ohio – Kent State University is a great school!

8.  Savannah College of Art and Design looks lovely.  Their visual merchandising class is FASM 425 and its titled Visual Merchandising Communication for Fashion – fancy!  This school is located in Savannah, Georgia.

9.  Got nine months to do nothing but immerse yourself in visuals in Florence,Italy – then definitely check out Polimoda!

10.  LIM College is one of the very few fashion schools that focuses solely on the business of fashion and not design.  This school offers a degree in visual merchandising:  Bachelor of Business Administration in Visual Merchandising.

This list is in no way exhaustive, I’m sure there are many other schools out there I’ve missed, but what I tried to focus on are the schools that offer visual merchandising programs.  There are a myriad of fashion schools but keep in mind most of them focus on fashion design, textile design, jewelry, millinery, etc….not really merchandising.  I wanted to highlight the schools that offer programs in our field.

Good luck!

“It has been said 80% of what people learn is visual”Allen Klein, (An American businessman)

(image via: Fashionista)

Million Dollar Decorators

Posted in Learn from the Pros by Arcadia on July 5, 2011

Lately I’ve been hibernating as I have a small mountain of books to get through this summer.  Some are school-related as I am acquiring my Masters in Green Building, and some are work-related as publishers have sent me advance copies of various visual merchandising textbooks.  I don’t require textbooks for my class, but I do teach from them and encourage my students to purchase the good ones for their own personal library.

Currently I’m reading Martin Pegler’s 6th Edition of Visual Merchandising & Display.  So far I like it, in fact he reached out to me a couple of months ago and I promised to get back to him to interview him for this site!!!!

But, I’m digressing…..in addition to my book addiction I’m also addicted to Million Dollar Decorators on BRAVO TV (in the USA).  Anyone else?  Don’t be ashamed to admit it :)!  These decorators/characters are campy, – as a contractor I find myself asking would I ever work for any of them?

Nonetheless, I am often referring to interior designers for inspiration and lessons in design because that’s what we as visual merchandisers do too, but on a much smaller scale and faster timeline!  I like to compare us to soap opera actors.

Soap opera actors have to learn lots of dialogue in a relatively short amount of time , rehearse, dress, perform – then do it all over again differently the following week.  Well it’s the same for us in the design world.  We have a short amount of time to build a vignette only to have to tear it down in a few weeks to do it all over again.

We could very easily do the job of an interior decorator if we had that amount of time and that large of a budget, but I don’t know too many that could do ours!  I have a designer friend who is seething at the moment as he read this!!  Do designers have the skills for our job, of course  – what frazzles most of the ones I’ve worked with is pressure and tight deadlines, as evidenced by my new favorite show!  Plus, we move our own props which we most likely hand-made ourselves!

This is not to bash designers –  I love them, even though I don’t always like working with them; they often have killer ideas, will always push the client to get more money, and will keep you entertained for hours when they get haughty with the customer – don’t believe me, then tune in.

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