VMSD - October 2011 - (Page 56)
Interview by Whitney Harrod
Michele La Grego
The Express vp discusses the yin and yang of store design and letting the product speak for itself.
Your career has included working abroad for Levi Strauss & Co. and most recently for Express, serving as senior vp of visual merchandising and store design. What has been the biggest change in visual merchandising in the last few years? The virtual world has changed how customers shop. You can buy anything on your smartphone whenever, wherever. So stores need to go the extra mile and engage customers with great service and great presentations that deliver an experience they cannot get online. What have you learned about cultural shopping patterns during your work abroad as well as in the U.S.? In certain countries, you cannot use mannequins or show body parts in imagery. In some cases, I had to come up with a few options to showcase outfits and fashion messages in the window and in-store. As companies expand globally, it’s important to understand how people shop outside of the western world based on cultural and religious differences. The visual basics may not translate so well.
Brussels. Multiple countries are only a train ride away.
Designer Ann Demeulemeester. She has not veered off her path in two decades. Her work is simple, fluid and intricate.
Frank Lloyd Wright. The way he utilized natural materials and techniques that embrace the natural environment in his work were so unique during that time.
You’ve said that designers sometimes focus too much on store design and not enough on the fashion in the store. How did you take this into consideration in the new Express format? We started the project with design firm Wonderwall by visiting multiple stores and discussing how product is presented, as well as the role mannequin displays play in showing fashion. Wonderwall wanted to understand the product assortment, the merchandise presentation and the difference in capacity between key items and fashion items and how they were displayed at Express. As a retailer, we appreciated this because sometimes the focus is on a beautiful store and not how product needs to work in the space. Why did you take the storefront window experience and replicate it in-store with illuminated vitrines? The vitrines communicate the Express fashion messages by lifestyle. Punctuating each room by showing a party, casual, wear to work and denim fashion statement was very deliberate. It clearly shows our product assortment and is an intuitive navigational feature. There’s a lot of in-store technology, including interactive touchscreens and video monitors streaming fashion shows and events, in this new format. Why was this important to the overall store experience? The integration of multimedia elements allows us to showcase our products and our brand in the way they look best – in motion. Our customers like to interact with brands via social media and mobile, so we provided this smartphone-inspired option that reflects the way they live their lives. How do you know when a visual merchandising display is successful? Every Monday morning when I see the sales reports. x
56 OCTOBER 2011 | vmsd.com
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of VMSD - October 2011
VMSD - October 2011
From the Editor
VMSD Editorial Advisory Board
Grazing in Their Own Backyards
This Express Goes Uptown and Down
VMSD - October 2011