visual merchandising. [c. bettic for j. crew]
OK, so I was GOING to show off my newly sorted & organized & design*sponge-ready jewelry displays in my newly sorted & organized dreamy Elfa closet... but I only have the cringe-inducing "before" pictures and no "afters," and I'm in Boston until Friday. The best-laid plans... blargh. Therefore, I'm forced today to talk about something much less self-absorbed and much more visually impressive (darn): a recent event I attended in L.A. that renewed my appreciation for superior merchandising. Eh wot?
Merchandising is the methods, practices, and operations used to promote and sustain certain categories of commercial activity. In the broadest sense, merchandising is any practice which contributes to the sale of products to a retail consumer. At a retail in-store level, merchandising refers to the variety of products available for sale and the display of those products in such a way that it stimulates interest and entices customers to make a purchase.
Merchandising is like branding: no normal person outside the fashion and marketing industries has any idea what in hell they are. These also, incidentally, are my two favorite subjects/areas of expertise, which makes for really fun cocktail-party conversation.
Well-meaning partier: I like your Docs! What do you do?
Me: I'm a branding consultant. Brand identity and development, creative direction, merchandising, etc.
WMP: [ gone ]
But no, seriously, it's really cool! In fashion, merchandising usually refers to the layout of products in a store, as well as the selection of products itself. One of the cooler parts of the entire retail cycle is the hidden world of visual merchandising: the design and arrangement of those "mood pieces" and tableaux that make your fave stores extra enjoyable to be in. Successful visual merchandising creates an environment that expresses the mood of the brand, and ideally both hits on notes of the customer's own life & tastes as well as on notes of what they wish their life were like; in other words, it makes the target customer say "hey, that's me!" and in the same breath "I wish that were me...," and then buy every piece on the rack. Just think about the vintage-camera-collecting trend, and the immediate appearance of an absurd number of vintage cameras in every gatt-danged hip contemporary shop in every major city.
My friend Chelsea is a visual merchandiser for Forever 21, and she gets flown all over the world to create the window displays and store islands for new F21 stores. Notice the brilliantly put-together ensembles on the cheeky mannequins welcoming you to the new London outpost? All Chelsea. Remember when I was super-fangirl-excited to work with Simon Doonan? He was the visual merchandiser who made Barneys' window displays the stuff of legend.
visual merchandising. [chelsea montes for F21 london. how fun?!]
Another industry great whose work I really admire is John Moore of POP Studio, with whom I've worked on a few projects; he was the original mastermind behind the Hollister brand rollout (um, you may have heard of it), later the creative director for Modern Amusement, and is generally rather visionary at creating a branded experience. When baller-about-town Natalie invited me to the Culver City launch event for POP Studio's in-house women's line, Pretty Penny Stock, I knew it would be a good one... and oh man, you guys, not only were the clothes really sweet, but the event was so perfectly put together and WELL-MERCHANDISED that it was truly inspiring. .
This is the brand. Classic Charlotte-Gainsbourg-on-Cape-Cod, easy breezy yacht club steezy.
Get it? Yeah, you totally do.
Get it? Yeah, you totally do.
This was the spot-on branded wall display. Framed lookbook sketches, framed prints used in the line, product on blonde wood hangers, text screened directly onto the wood, Linus freaking bicycle (with the same woven basket that I used to have on my Schwinn before some Silverlake b*tch stole it). [photo: Danielle K.]
Mini lobster rolls & nautical cupcakes. I'm from Boston and these lobby rolls were LEGIT.
[photo: Fashion Intel]
Also on the menu: homemade cotton candy & beer. All the adorable POP Studio crew members were decked out in Pretty Penny gear, making for a total live-the-brand experience. Really wish I could remember the DJ's name because her collection of obscure soul was really boss. [photos: Danielle K.]
Activities ranged from eating cute stuff to making little nautical rope bracelets (that's me and Natalie on the left -- me in black and NJ in a poncho, that hippie -- getting all crafty) to getting nails did (the ONLY element of the party I thought wasn't on-brand... but it is trendy and all so whatever) to the ubiquitous photobooth.
The power of merchandising is strong, my friends! After their event, I cannot get PPS's perfect little chambray ballerina dress out of my head...
[Pretty Penny Stock fer sale]
Newly inspired to really blow it out for the next events I work on, because it just makes SUCH a difference.
I was thinking of the shops or studios I like that have truly innovative merchandising... By George in Austin sticks out as a really cool one. Any faves among you tasteful crew?