Well the semester is over and what a semester it has been! A big thanks to both my fashion classes (Visual Merchandising – FASH 49 and Fashion Styling – FASH 54A) for sticking by me this semester; for those who do not know, I became extremely ill for almost most of February, and I’ve been playing catch up ever since then. I had to cancel classes, or call in a substitute, and even teach while sick, but you stayed with me and didn’t drop my classes, THANK YOU!
Final grades are already posted and as always please contact me at school if you have any questions or concerns regarding the grade you earned. I think most of you will be happy with your grades as the talent was exceptional! My next post will be showing some of the work from both classes.
I wish you all a wonderful summer break! I will be teaching summer school in the construction program. I’m sadden by the fact that some of you will no longer be by students, as there are no more classes I teach for you to take. Please keep in touch and let me know what you are up to, and “friend”me on Facebook if you like. I use Facebook predominately for work and school and I am connected with many of my past students.
See you in the fall!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas (if you celebrate that holiday) and here’s to a fantastic new year!
It’s been an amazing year for me and I can’t express how grateful I am to all of you, especially my students. I have never cried in front of a class but this past semester my fashion styling students brought me to tears. Your kind words were too much for my little heart to bear ♥!
This class was such a hit, the department chair has asked me to teach it again in the spring (it is usually only offered once a year), and it is already filling up fast. I’m allowed to take 59 students and last time I checked I was already at 52 (FASH 54A – Beginning Fashion Styling).
I will also be teaching visual merchandising again this spring. This class is also filling up fast, with a class cap at 59, my current enrollment is 47 (FASH 49 – Visual Merchandising). If you are new to this blog, these classes are offered in the Fashion Department at City College of San Francisco, as part of the Fashion Merchandising degree of Fashion Styling certificate.
I know I don’t post as often as I should around here, work does take a huge amount of my time…I do post on my tumblr daily. It’s called the Fashion Teacher. I’m fairly new to tumblr and had no idea I would become so addicted to it, even more so than my Pinterest. I guess it makes sense, we are after all very visual people and tumblr allows us to express that quite easily.
Wishing you the VERY BEST in 2013!
A mannequin Christmas tree!
Since I’m always crunched for time I like having a one stop shop for visual inspiration and I’ve been hooked on Pinterest ever since I joined. It’s perfect for us visual people, and it’s actually a homework assignment for my styling students, for creating mood boards. I follow mostly fashion folk, DIY, and a few foodie boards, but the one visual merchandising board I follow is by Alex Leyva. She never fails to pin great photos of windows or in-store displays that are inspiring and different. Her fashion editorial board is very unique too.
If you have a Pinterest account I would look her up and send me links to your boards too!
A fashion editorial pin:
Do you think they filled an entire room with water to get this shot?
A window display pin:
Urban Outfitters in San Francisco
I have some exciting news to share! Part of the reason I’ve been M.I.A. from here is because I’ve been given a new assignment (on top of everything else – not that I’m complaining, I LOVE to work). This fall I will be taking over the fashion styling program here at CCSF. I will start with FASH 54A – Beginning Fashion Styling in the fall and then FASH 54B – Advance Fashion Styling in the spring. Yes, I will still be teaching visual merchandising.
Styling for editorials or ad campaigns is very similar to dressing a window, and I always say, if you can dress a mannequin you can dress a model! Many of the same skills you use in visuals are transferable to photo styling. You still have to pay attention to lighting, props, and the merchandise. One major difference I see between the two jobs is the amount of people involved.
Visuals are done by very small crews, even large department stores might only have five people on staff. Each person in charge of a department or floor. That trimmer does everything, and you grab help as you need it. Photo styling has a small army involved! The photographer, the creative director/editor, make-up artists, hair stylists, the models, the client, not to mention all the assistants, and you the stylist. It’s exciting but hectic.
I use to freelance as a stylist whenever my agent could get me work. I found it more challenging than display work, but it paid better and there’s always good food on the set (lol)!
I’m currently nose deep in writing curriculum and reviewing textbooks on the subject (who knew there were texts on being a stylist!!) This isn’t going to be a class strictly on how to style a shoot, but on how to be a successful stylist. What are the tools and information you need for your portfolio and stylist kit, what goes into a contract, working with the other professionals, sourcing props, etc. This class is suppose to focus on fashion, but I also hope to touch on set styling (hey that’s visuals 101!) and prop styling.
Instead of starting another blog for that class, I’ve decided to post on here. I think both fields can learn from each other, besides visual merchandisers “style” all day every day, in fact some of the books I’ve looked at touch on visual merchandising as an alternative career for this skill set.
[This book hasn’t been released yet, but I’m lucky enough to be getting an advance copy and it will definitely be required reading. Look for it in the spring of 2013.]
This coming Saturday we will have two guest speakers from the world of visual merchandising:
Ken Ferraris (Visual Manager from Barney’s NY). Ken has been a wonderful contributor to our class in the past and I’m so happy he continues to support our program.
Terry Gut (Visual Merchandiser from Macy’s). This will be Terry’s first time joining us.
They will be sharing their expertise on what it takes to make it in this business. I have questions to ask them. I’ve told my students to bring their questions, and dear readers if YOU have any questions please send them to me and I will be sure to ask the panel.
Three questions I get asked daily are:
- How do you break into this industry?
- Is a portfolio of work necessary at an interview?
- Is previous experience necessary?
Trust me, I will be sure to present these questions to our speakers! Let me know if you have any others. I will try to pick the ones that I think have the broadest appeal or get asked the most.
Students don’t be late, our panel begins at 10:30 am on Saturday.
See you then!
I don’t make my students shy away from doing displays that are provocative or controversial. I say push the boundaries! But when I came across this article in the Daily Mail, on the windows skin-care retailer LUSH did, I wondered if they crossed the line?
Although I do not find what they did offensive, it does turn my stomach a bit and does not make me want to go in their store. Which completely defeats the purpose of visual merchandising!
I applaud their efforts to bring animal cruelty in the cosmetic industry to the public’s attention, but when I hear the word LUSH and think of skin-care, I envision beauty and goodness.
What do you think? I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this.
Here are a few pictures from the full article, although read the article so the photos are not taken out of context.
The textbook I use for this class is Visual Merchandising – Window and in-store displays for retail by Tony Morgan. I really like this book as it doesn’t read like the traditional textbook with too much technical jargon. It’s very informative and would make a great addition to the display person’s library whether they are a student or not.
I am happy to report the book has been updated and the second edition is out. Thank you very much to Laurence King Publishing for sending me a copy (one of the few perks of being a professor!).
This book will now become required reading in my class, before it was only on the suggested reading list, but I reference it so much and my students are in line to borrow my class copy, I’ve decided to make it mandatory. The cost is $40 (if you’re wondering) or about $26.00 on Amazon.
Tony teaches visual merchandising at the London College of Fashion and is the head of the visual merchandising department at the Fashion Retail Academy in London. Wow – a whole school devoted just to fashion retail!! I think that’s fantastic and wished one existed on this side of the Atlantic. Most of our fashion schools are devoted to design with a few classes in merchandising and marketing.
UPDATE (3.19.12): I received an email from an actual visual merchandiser who works for Macy’s. She offers some insight on working there.
“…just a short comment about getting a visual job at Macy’s. I have worked in Macy’s visual for many, many years. Nowadays I would assume getting a visual position at Macy’s would be quite easy. Every display is plan-o-grammed. Pictures are sent to show how the display is rendered, even outfit descriptions. Windows are sent out now as window packets, so each Macy’s with windows will look the same. For me, as you could imagine, this is heartbreaking. All of the individual creativity is vanishing, but for newcomers it is all very easy. Look at the picture, take it out of the box, and install. The best assets for a visual manager are organizing skills, floor layout skills, and computer skills. Hope this give you a bit of insight!”
Thanks Julie for writing in, it’s great to get feedback from someone who is “in the field”.
[First published on 3.14.12]
This week in class the question came up on whether or not a portfolio was necessary when applying for a visual merchandising job. This also seems to be the question I get asked a lot by readers. Instead of trying to answer everyone back individually, I decided to post my answer to a recent email:
I came across your blog doing some background research on Visual Merchandising and was overjoyed by the insight you provided.
A little background, I’m a 25-year-old post grad with a degree in Communications but I was hired as a seasonal Brand Specialist for Calvin Klein than after Xmas I have been working as a part-time Merchandiser. I work at a very large (4.5 floors) Macy’s store. I fell in love with merchandising at Macy’s. Getting to work a 5am and placing the merchandise on the floor, following plan-o-grams, building new shelves and fixtures, paying attention to fabrics and colors, etc. I love the hard work that goes into being a merchandiser.
Well, I applied for a Full Time Visual Merchandiser position at a different Macy’s and they want to interview me!
I do have a minor in Theatre Arts and I built the sets, props and wired the lighting for my University’s performances, so I have no problem using tools and getting dirty.
I do not have “Visual” portfolio to show in my interview and I’m wondering how bad that would look? I know they would have to train me in visuals but I’m not sure if Macy’s wants someone who they have to train so I’m a little nervous. Do visual associates at large retail department stores all require some training?
Wow your question is right on time, as we just discussed this in my class. I have a student who is also interested in applying for a job at Macy’s with no portfolio.
Unfortunately it does not bode well for you. When I worked for Macy’s, I applied twice because the first time I did not have a portfolio of my work even though I had a lot of experience doing displays, but the guy who beat me out for the job had pictures of his work as a furniture designer.
My point is – even though you may not have display pictures to show, bring what you can. Anything that shows your creativity, shows you understand color, shows you understand balance and symmetry. I tell my students, jobs in other creative fields like flower arranging, photography, event planning, graphic design, etc….are skills that are all transferable to doing visual merchandising.
Your background in theater is HUGE – that’s exactly what display is – building little sets ;)! Hopefully you have some pictures of some of the plays you worked on and can tell the interviewer about the backgrounds you painted, the props you coordinated, and the actors you helped with costumes: backgrounds, props, and mannequins is what we do!
Talk up your hands-on experience in theater and what you do for them now, show pictures of your creativity in any aspect and you should do fine.
If by chance things don’t work out, and you still really want to do visuals, then apply again in October when they start hiring extra help for Christmas. That’s how I got in – as a trimmer for all those trees, garlands, and banners that needed to be hung! Once I got in I was able to prove myself to the boss, and it turned out I was the only Christmas hire they kept once the season was over!
I hope this was helpful.
Wishing you the best on Wednesday,
PS: The training – you will get training on the store standards only, you are expected to be creative and artistic already (and a quick thinker and good problem solver)!
Another reader wrote in asking about learning our trade when you live in a place whose schools do not offer visual merchandising classes:
I came across your wonderful blog while trying to find some visual merchandising classes in the great Midwest. I am in Minnesota, and I looked through all of the courses at CCSF, and I would DIE if I could find something accessible to me here in MN like the fashion classes they offer there! (Or even if they were offered online!) Do they ever offer weekend seminars or classes?
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising, but I never learned anything visual, or any styling tricks. Do you have any resources that may help me out? I’ve recently taken some Interior Design classes, but I am also not really learning any styling skills there. I really want to break into the industry and be creative again, it’s been a few years! I would greatly appreciate any advice you can give, even if it is a book recommendation!
Thank you for your time.
I did do a post on fashion schools on my blog, and I tried to focus on programs that have a visual merchandising program. Take a look at that and see if there is something offered that is not too far from MN.
I’m surprised your fashion merchandising degree didn’t require a class in visual merchandising or visual communications, as it’s a required class in order to complete our degree program.
The textbook I teach from is Tony Morgan’s, Visual Merchandising: Windows and In-Store Displays for Retail. It’s an easy to read book that offers the subject in the most practical and layman terms. The author is British, so a lot of the examples tend to be European stores as well as some of the store standards, but I’ve found much of the book is what I’ve done in my career as well.
I know the Academy of Art University, which offers an entire degree in Visuals uses Silent Selling, by Judith Bell and Kate Ternus, as one of their textbooks. This is a textbook in the truest sense of the word! If you must teach yourself then this is the book to use.
You can’t go wrong with any book by Martin Pegler, our “godfather of display”. I have copy of his latest book which I’m still trying to get through! It’s loaded with lots of information. I also interviewed him on the blog too.
The best way to learn our trade is to find a job in display. Start with a small chain store, you’ll learn a lot more as they offer training on visual standards for their stores, and you’ll learn fast as floor sets are constantly changing.
Every time you go out to any establishment, pay attention to what you see. That’s another way to teach yourself. The store study assignment I give my students is not just to keep them busy, it’s to start training their eye. The 10 questions they must answer is what we as display people do, and pay attention to in our daily jobs (the questions are on the blog as well).
I hope some of this was helpful. I am happy to answer any more of your questions.
Keep the questions coming! I will try my best to answer them as quickly as I can, and if they have a broad appeal such as the two above I will post them to the blog, so everyone can benefit. If you have some advice to share please post in the comments or send to me. Thanks!
As a class we recently went on a field trip to the Westfield Mall located right next door to our campus. Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom are the anchor stores and various retail brands are throughout the mall. The students were given a set of questions to answer, based on their findings at the mall. It was kind of a scavenger hunt! I thought this would be a fun way to get out of the classroom for a day and see actual visual techniques “in action”. Below are some of their findings:
1. Choose one window you believe to be the most effective. Explain why.
The Louis Vuitton display outside of the mall entrance of Bloomingdale’s. Its simply eye-catching, and aptly illustrates that an LV bag is the cherry on top of life’s sweetest dessert. -Cindy L.
2. Choose one window you believe to be the least effective. Explain why.
This window is not effective because the colors in the background are too distracting, and they overshadow the product. The space in the window is not well used; they could have filled it with merchandise in a more pleasing way. The layout chosen to display the books is boring and expected. -Cynthia T.
The window that I found to be least effective was the MANGO window. Coming up from the escalator, the first thing that I noticed was the corner window cut straight through the mannequins body and face. The colors were very drab and come to think of it, there wasn’t any color at all. However, walking across the front of the store, you can clearly see the colors in the store are a lot brighter than from front, plain view. Colors like peach, tangerine, and hot pinks pop through the horrible displays blocking the windows. – Brandi M.
3. Name a store that featured Color Blocking – Horizontal Merchandising – Product Merchandising
J.Crew featured all three – Brandi M.
4. Name a store that features a “trend area”.
Bloomingdale’s makes use of trend areas to advertise what is new in the store. Like an editorial in a magazine, trend areas showcase the season’s must haves. -Cynthia T.
5. Name a store that uses printed graphics.
I found this one myself. It’s Bath and Body. Printed graphics are a cheap and easy way to decorate your windows.
Students also were asked to name a store that creates ambience with music or scent. Hands down the clear winners were Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister. If you live in the US, all you have to do is just walk by one of these stores, you don’t even have to go in, and you can smell that strong perfume wafting out! I hear from my students who have worked there that customers complain all the time, but for some odd reason they won’t change their rule on spraying the store every 30 minutes!
These are some of the techniques I have been lecturing about in class:
- Color Blocking
- Horizontal/Vertical/Product Merchandising
- Trend Areas
- POP (point-of-purchase)
- Store Ambience
Feel free to ask questions if you need more assistance…..see you in class!
This week the students had an inspiration assignment. The purpose of the assignment was to mark the beginnings of an inspiration file. Some of us catalog items in actual files as Kaitlin K, showed me in class; or in notebooks they’ve been collecting since their teens, as Anthropologie intern Brianna L, showed me – and many of us just pull tearsheets from magazines and pin-up on an inspiration board!
Whatever your method, keeping an inspiration file is tantamount to being a good display artist. Below is a brief write-up from Shelby S., a veteran window dresser, on what inspires her:
I like the way the frames are displayed here—I’ve seen this technique before & I love the randomness and uniqueness that is involved—never boring. For our class wall display project, music is the theme, so maybe a different picture could be featured in each frame…?
I love the 3D effect that origami has – so simple yet chic at the same time, an art that isn’t really appreciated or used enough over here in the states. This could be used as a quick and easy way to bring life and shape to a display.
I thought this was a really cool display & we also just so happen to have holiday as our theme for when we use the table for our class project. I like how consistent and representative the theme of Halloween was used here—it’s scary yet inviting at the same time and immediately draws you in.
I’ve done a window display using books before, where we folded/rolled the pages to make these cool shapes out of the books—and I like how they used the same effect with magazines—I have a ton of magazines that could use a purpose rather than just collecting dust in piles around the house… but I also love their sense of balance with it, and how they completely created this whole world with these magazines—and its GREEN!
I was inspired by these images simply based on the fact that for our GREEN theme-class project, we are required to use the shelving unit – and it only makes sense to use some sort of product that actually belongs on a shelf that also requires some sort of green set up to represent what it stands for.
Thanks Shelby S. for this write-up!
Where do you look for inspiration, please share your ideas!