I Do Windows

[FASH 54A] – A Little History of Fashion Styling

Posted in Fashion Styling by Arcadia on October 29, 2012

History was my concentration in college for my degree which is why I love to read and research.  Fashion styling is a somewhat new career title which made me very curious to research the history of it and find out how it all began.  Here’s the synopsis of my Powerpoint lecture from class:

The History of Fashion Styling:

The first stylists were editors who worked exclusively for fashion magazines. They “edit” the clothing and fashion pages, and they chose the designers to be featured in the magazine. Under the direction of the editor, there was the photographer and model. It was not uncommon in the 60s for models to do their own hair and make-up, as well as provide their own accessories for photo shoots.

It was during the 80s the first freelance stylists appeared. New magazines appeared which did not have a permanent fashion staff, which gave freelance stylists the chance to showcase their talents without being tied to one magazine.

Ray Petri:

Ray Petri is thought by MANY to be the first stylist. He was well known in the 80s for his Buffalo style, an eclectic mix of urban, ethnic, sportswear, and high fashion. He used real people in photos instead of models and people of mixed race. He oversaw and did everything on the creation of a photo, except take the actual picture!

“Petri was a fashion stylist long before this was a coveted job description. Indeed, in the early 80s, selecting and arranging clothes on models was still known, if it was known at all, as ‘fashion editing’, but he was an instinctive stylist, using his visual flair and magpie intelligence to produce elegant, unfussy and invariably sensual images of timeless modernity.” 

The Observer, September 2000

Unlike stylists of today Petri did not live long enough to become rich, or even celebrated, the way we idolize those today. But his influence is still felt and he even 20 years after his death he is STILL regarded as the king! There was a time when stylists were all but invisible to the world beyond fashion’s inner circle. But a growing shift in the fashion industry has given license to a special breed of visionaries, who are not only the interpreters of fashion but oftentimes the originators.

(research sources – Styling by McAssey and Buckley, Stylists by Katie Barron)

The History of Visual Merchandising – Department Stores

Posted in Fashion 49, History of Visual Merchandising by Arcadia on February 12, 2010

The reason Visual Merchandisers exists today has to do with the “invention” of the Department Store, and not the little general merchandise store.  We exist because one man had the foresight to take all the general merchandise and stick it under one roof.

Aristide Boucicaut came up with the idea of  creating a store that sold all sorts of merchandise, attracted crowds, and would allow people to wander freely about; “a town within a town”. In 1838 he opened Le Bon Marché, in Paris – but it became the world’s first department store because of his innovation with distribution of goods in 1852.

It wasn’t long before this idea caught on over seas and others followed suit:

  • Macy’s, New York in 1858
  • Marshall Fields, Chicago in 1865
  • Bloomingdale’s, New York in 1872
  • Wanamaker, Philadelphia in 1876
  • Other stores such as Sears, Barney’s and Saks didn’t open until the 1920s

Sometimes students have asked me about Nordstrom:  they didn’t start as the department store you see today.  It was a shoe store started by the Nordstrom brothers in Seattle in 1901:

Aristide Boucicaut may have come up with the “town within a town” idea, but it was American entrepreneur Gordon Selfridge who revolutionized it!

Gordon Selfridge took what he had learned from working at Marshall Fields and applied it to his own store which he opened in London, a place where the department store concept had not yet caught on;  Selfridges opened on March 15, 1909 for $700,000.  He is credited with coming up with the phrase “Only _ shopping days until Christmas”, leaving the lights in the store window on at night, and adding a soda fountain – our modern-day café – for thirsty shoppers.  He understood better than anyone the power of a good and exciting display:

When Louis Blériot crash landed his plane in the English Channel in July of 1901, Selfridge had the plane packed and on a train by 2am and on display in his store by 10am.  50,000 people had showed up the next day to see it!   By 1928 his store had doubled in size to what we see today. (sourceVisual Merchandising, by Tony Morgan)

A window display from Selfridges in the 1920s:

Even then displays weren’t only about the merchandise but in creating a whole elaborate scene reflective of the times.

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