Toys and dresses
I am a dreamer and I can compare my work with the architect’s one. If only I could turn 10 years back, I would definitely enter the architectural university. Alas, I studied sociology and when 20 years ago I understood what I wanted to do in my life, I gave up studying properly. I got my certificate of degree on my honor that I would never work by specialty.
I have been working in commerce for 18 years. I started from a toyshop where I could play with every toy I lacked in my childhood. Then I decided to join fashion industry: I began with sales assistant position, then I became a visual merchandizer and as a result, I am building my career at the leading retailer – in Helen Marlen Group. I worked as a sales assistant there for less than a year, I took the initiative and I was promoted to the merchandizing department. It has been a year that I am the head of this department.
To sell beautifully
I am responsible for visual component of a shop; we try to present the goods in a way that pushes up sales. Visual merchandising (VM) is a mixture of science and art; it requires creativity, inspiration, logic and organization.
I studied the profession while working. Merchandising in Europe is an independent discipline taught at universities, but most of the skills are gained while working with certain products. Here some companies organize trainings: they bring leading merchandisers from abroad and we learn new skills watching their work.
VM is a profession for active people of great endurance as it is very labor-intensive, with night shifts and no fixed schedule. A merchandiser has to be an aesthete and perfectionist by nature; his or her distinctive features are curiosity and observation. Stylist skills would be useful, VM methods and product specifics, which are so-called “brand’s DNA” as well. Knowledge of coloristics and composition basics are on hand. Moreover, a merchandiser should know much about latest tendencies, not only in fashion, but in architecture, design and modern art as well. Good taste and style are a must-have in my work.
There are five merchandisers and two florists under my authority; I am responsible for 15 shops. Depending on the shop’s size, the duties also differ a lot, but in general, these are placement and laying out of goods in a sales room, work with mannequins and replacement of window-shop installations. We closely cooperate with the marketing department as we work out designs of events, sales and other promotions, take part in new shops design, and tell our preferences to equipment arrangement.
Each modification in the shop stimulates the sales. People are not very attentive to the wide assortment of goods, sometimes it’s enough to rearrange two stands and someone will say: “Wow, you have a new collection!” There are “dead zones” in every shop, where the sales are dull and the places where goods are best sold.
There are a lot of rules, but the main is to create a beautiful image that will attract a customer. There are hundreds of tricks to do with a certain article or installation and there is always an opportunity to change laying if the sales are not sufficient.
Knowledge in coloristics us very useful for my profession. Prints are the most difficult to work with – if it goes too far it would seem a complete mess for human’s eyes. The best colors for work are those best combining — black, gray and white.
In my case, monobrands are franchisees and send their guidelines and concepts we have to stick to. After every modification, we report to them by sending photos of the work done. We buy some stand directly from the brand, and we make something on our own. There is less possibility of creativity when we work with monobrands, but anyway, we can’t do without fantasy – guidelines are the same for all the shops and the assortments is different. To tell the truth, I like multibrands more – no one can impose the vision and I am guided by my own views and I am absolutely free to create.
Emotional aspect is music, flowers, smells and of course the shop windows. Music should be pleasant and imperceptible even because the staff has to listen to it for several months. Smells are obligatory; usually we use pleasant natural fragrances. There are always natural flowers in our shops; monobrands prescribe the flower kinds that a customer should see, and together with florists, we choose the best color and shape of flowers for multibrands. Sales assistants also help to create the necessary feelings by offering a cup of coffee or a glass of champagne.
I create and supervise all the multibrands’ shop windows; there are around four rotations a year. There are specials holiday variants for New Year, Halloween, St. Valentine’s Day and International Women’s Day.
I start to work on a shop window a month before the replacement. Sometimes I already have an idea and sometimes I am in throes of composition: I make a sketch and consult technologists and manufacturers whether the idea is possible to bring to life. It takes a week or two to develop a project and around two weeks to produce. The last stage is installation; we do it at night so that the customers don’t see the pumpkin turn into a coach and we finish 15 minutes before opening. I am a happy shop window creator because my creativity is not restrained; my management trusts me. Shop windows making is very expensive, a lot of people are involved in this process, so only large networks can permit themselves this service.
Inspiration is everywhere. I can see a beautiful spoon in a coffee house and conceive a shop window with as tall as a man spoons. Cinema inspires me – I love beautiful movies, like those of Spike Jonze. I have no idols in my profession, they are people behind the scenes and, unfortunately, shop windows are not signed.
Sometimes I visit well-known shops abroad only to have a look at the shop windows – it is good for my experience, but not for inspiration as I cannot repeat after them. Most of all I like the windows of London multibrands Selfridges, Harrods and Liberty.
Fashion industry is more predictable that a customer might imagine. There are special courses developed by the best creative minds in the world of arts, fashion and architecture. They define the tendencies for the new season so we know what will be actual a year and a half in advance. That’s why designers’ collections are alike, and the shop widows as well.