LIM College is located in the heart of New York City. Having the opportunity to walk on 5th Avenue every day on our way to class we are exposed to many major retail environments. And, as a Visual Merchandising student, it is extremely important to always be aware of the latest trends in store design and display.
There seems to be some trends among the new retail stores opening up on 5th Avenue, including 3 retail stores that are relatively new to the environment - H&M, Uniqlo and Joe Fresh. All located within only a few short blocks from each other, there are a lot of similarities in how their stores are displayed. All three of these stores are moderately priced, fast-fashion retail stores.
The first item that seems to be a trend in these stores are the huge glass window storefronts that allow the passing customer to see inside of the store. Instead of having enclosed window displays, this setup allows people from the outside to look directly in at the merchandise. If these stores do create a window display it is located 2 or 3 floors above the ground-level window.
The second ongoing trend that I notice at all three of these retail stores is an overabundance of repetitive mannequins. This type of setup allows for getting a ton of merchandise shown and giving the customer multiple options. Uniqlo has an estimated 350 mannequins throughout their store. H&M is planning to open its largest retail store that will be located on Fifth Avenue and will house an overabundance of mannequins on display. Joe Fresh, for a limited time only, is housing an exhibit of 19 legendary Ralph Pucci mannequin designs.
Being a Visual Merchandising major at LIM College gives you the opportunity to work with very talented professors who have been successful in the Visual Merchandising industry. As seniors, Visual Merchandising majors are required to take Professor King’s Visual Merchandising: History, Theory, and Practice class. So far, he has found stimulating ways to challenge the class with real-life experiences in the classroom. Last Wednesday he had us do an interesting yet complex in-class assignment. We were to pick a number out of his hat and then in that order pick from miscellaneous materials he had brought into the classroom. I picked a bottle of Zyrtec Allergy medicine.
With this item we were then required to create a P.O.P. (Point of Purchase) display, using only the scrap materials that were in the communal closet, and we had 90 minutes to execute the display. Usually when creating a project in class we are given time to buy materials and prepare a plan of action, which makes the construction run a lot smoother.
Professor King explained to us that he wanted to see how well all of us worked under pressure. While working in the Visual Merchandising field you are not always going to have the time, money, and supplies needed to execute a display. The most important part is how well you work with what you have and if you can create a successful end product.
This was my in-class P.O.P. Assignment. When I picked up the Zyrtec bottle, I automatically thought of allergies and springtime. I happened to have gardening gloves in my tool box and I created the tag line “Get Back in the Garden.” Although there was the pressure of the time crunch on this project, I totally enjoyed creating it!
Welcome back to school fellow LIM College students! Have you walked past Bergdorf Goodman’s windows this past week? One of my personal favorite stores known for their visual displays has taken a very unique turn for their current windows. Back-to-school: a theme which you would rarely see a high-end department store on 5th Avenue display in their windows.
Bergdorf Goodman, never one to disappoint, displayed back to school in a way you would not see displayed by any other store. They displayed desks hanging from the walls, repetitive globes, and even a life-size skeleton you would see in a science class standing in front of a chalkboard. My absolute favorite one of these five windows would have to be the single girl, in a very chic outfit, sitting outside of the principal’s office.
These windows definitely give you the feeling of being on a university campus in the fall. The fashion that was chosen was right on target with the neutral colors for fall and the sophistication of the windows. Similar to what Bergdorf Goodman does in all of their windows, everything from the floor to the ceilings is telling a story and that is so important for visual to be complete to engage their customers.
When creating visual displays the important thing I learned from my classes at LIM College is to find something ordinary and make it extraordinary. The most effective displays are the ones that use everyday products and turn them into works of art. These are the types of displays that make people on the street stop and stare into the windows.
While walking down Fifth Avenue to school this week, I could not help myself from stopping to stare at Saks Fifth Avenue’s new window displays.
They created these large brown structures coming down from the ceiling and onto the walls. When I got a closer look I realized that these structures were made out of brown paper lunch bags. Lunch bags are such a common thing that people are so quick to use and throw away, but this Visual Merchandising team decided to take the ordinary brown paper bag and make it extraordinary.
While taking Product Presentation this past spring semester at LIM College, one of our projects was to create multiple displays using the same product. I chose a gold bracelet. We were encouraged to use found objects in our displays.
In these two displays I decided to use objects that we see every day. In the first display on the left, I decided to multiply picture frames to create an artistic look. In the display to the right, I made two structures out of clothespins.
Another retail store that incorporates everyday objects into their displays is Anthropologie. They always take found objects to the next level and create beautiful windows.
Along with working in a retail environment, it is important for an aspiring Visual Merchandiser to gain additional experience by completing an internship or picking up freelance work.
Getting an internship: During my second year at LIM College, I obtained a corporate Visual Merchandising internship at Versace USA. I found this internship through LIM's job database Symplicity. https://limcollege-csm.symplicity.com/
While working at Versace, I learned a lot about what it would be like to work as a full-time Visual Merchandiser, catering to a high-end market. Being the only Visual Merchandiser on staff, besides my Visual Manager, I was able to gain a lot of work experience. Working just the two of us to create holiday displays on 5th Avenue was the most stressful, eye-opening, and exciting time of my life. Working for a high-end brand, I learned the importance of brand image and how visual displays can affect consumers. Working as a Visual Intern for Versace, I gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into maintaining a high-end flagship store on Fifth Avenue.
The Versace store on 5th Avenue, that I completed my Work Project 2 Internship.
A window display I assisted on during my Internship at Versace.
Doing freelance work: Freelance work is very important for a Visual Merchandiser trying to gain work experience. While working as a freelancer you are not considered an intern, but a part of the visual team. Most of the time companies may hire a visual merchandiser as a freelancer to test the waters before hiring them full-time. Freelancing also gives the Visual Merchandiser a chance to add to their portfolio, learn the working environments of different companies, and meet other people in the industry.
After taking a class at LIM, a professor contacted me to ask if I wanted to freelance for The Gap Co. While freelancing for The Gap, I got the chance to do visuals for the Banana Republic Showroom, Gap Kids and Baby, and Gap Men and Gap Women’s showrooms. The time I spent at The Gap broadened my work experience and my portfolio.
Visual displays similar to the ones I created in the Gap Showrooms.
Having experience in the Visual Merchandising field is very important when getting hired for a full-time position. While studying at LIM College, students are encouraged to gain as much work experience as possible prior to graduating.
LIM College offers a number of ways, including internships and volunteer opportunities, to help students add to their resumes and make meaningful connections in the industry. Following are a few ways in which an LIM student can gain Visual Merchandising experience prior to graduating:
Working in a retail store: During my freshman year at LIM, I took a part-time retail job at the Oakley store in my local mall. While working at Oakley, I learned that Visual Merchandising was going to be my future career path. I learned the importance of product placement and window displays. I also learned that it’s the small things that matter the most in visual displays, such as keeping them clean, neat and relevant to the customer. I think that it is important for any Visual Merchandiser to have retail experience so that they can learn how people shop and the effects of visual displays.
A visual display similar to the ones I maintained while working for Oakley
-- Tara Mangiero
By definition, Visual Merchandising is the activity and profession of developing floor plans and three-dimensional displays in order to maximize sales. To me, Visual Merchandising is something that changed my life. It changed how I shop, how I walk down the street, and ultimately my career path.
Coming into New York City I did not even know that Visual Merchandising existed as a profession. I knew that people who worked in retail stores created displays to show off the best products and newest styles, but I had no idea how much creativity, passion, and time goes into creating these displays.
Once I had taken my first Visual Merchandising class at LIM College I was automatically hooked. I realized I could have a career that catered to both my love of fashion and art. I switched my major and became completely obsessed with everything visual. I began walking down Fifth Avenue just to look at the newest windows and displays of the high-end stores. It didn’t stop there. I realized that not only were there great Visual Merchandising displays in high- end stores, but there were also great displays in stores of all price ranges. I started to realize that Visual Merchandising is so important to any store’s individual image.
During the classes that I take at LIM as a Visual Merchandising major, I get to learn from professors who have worked in this profession and pass down their knowledge of what goes into making creative displays. A lot of the projects that we create in class become great portfolio pieces that I can bring on job interviews in the future.
As a junior at LIM, I wanted to create a place where students who loved making visual displays could create projects without the stress of grades or guidelines. With the help of the Office of Student Life and a few of my friends, we started the Visual Merchandising Club at LIM.
This past year the Visual Merchandising Club created a display for LIM’s Friends and Family Weekend and also created a display for the 2012 LIM Annual Fashion Show.
LIM College Visual Merchandising Club
LIM College Visual Merchandising students at work
Visual project in the LIM 5th Avenue Lounge that a team and I created.
A project I created in Product Presentation class, creating my own display for 4 separate stores using the same product
DJ Booth display for 2012 LIM Fashion Show created by the Visual Merchandising Club
A display created by the Visual Merchandising Club for LIM’s Friends and Family Weekend Casino Night.