Saturday, 30 July 2011

How Does H&M do it?

So H&M have done it again, announcing another celeb collaboration earlier this week. Brand Beckham is in full swing as David follows in the kitten heel steps of his wife Victoria and branches out into the fashion world.

But what is it that makes H&M so appealing to the A-list? We have seen the high street chain collaborate with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld who was the first high end designer to work with the brand and then quickly following suit were Stella McCartney, Jimmy Choo and most recently Lanvin.

Press releases this week also confirmed the brand will be working creative director Donatella Versace with the range featuring inspiration from her iconic luxurious leather pieces.

But why H&M? The brand has been developed intricately, with television advertisements, city centre billboard posters, press releases and a consistent amount of products featuring in the top fashion magazines.

However, in my opinion, the store itself still needs alot of work with its messy product merchandising, boring window displays often miserable staff in my experience. Touching on the staffing issues, H&M hit the news again this week and not for the right reasons.
 Staff within the store's New York branches have joined a Labour Union.

Any brand can pull in high end endorsements and collaborations but if the store's themselves aren't shoppable or don't promote a positive atmosphere, they will be without customers and staff. And without those, retail cannot commence forward.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Ethereal Autumn Windows at Harvey Nichols

Everytime I visit Leeds, I make a beeline for Harvey Nichols just to window shop - quiet literally!

Their windows are a work of art and an inspiration to any Visual Merchandiser. The Autumnal windows did not dissapoint with a spooky ethereal feel making for a picturesque fall.

 The green branches are a green vinyl that has been placed on the glass to mirror the use of the black branches inside giving a 3D effect.
The mannequins have been dressed and styled in lovely warm autumnal colours such as maroon, camel and grey. The layering of knitwear and mixing of textures on the left is very clever.

 The best dressers always see a mannequin as functional - maybe allowing her to hold her dress in one hand or be pulling back her jacket with another. With the below mannequin I would have put her in some maroon tights and had her holding her skirt to show this.
If you look closely enough, the mannequins have fabulous long lashes and smokey eye shadow on and bits of diamante- a truly magical look!
 My favourite window of the two, its wonderful how these mannequins are more posable by leaning on the branches and even sitting high upon them! Again, a mixture of textures from fur to silk have been used and the vividenss of the orange hair sets them out from the Autumn back drop.

Even the window vinyl of the store directory has a font that fits with the ethereal and mystical setting of the windows - deffinately a favourite of mine from Harvey Nichols so far!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Shopping The High Street

Tuesdays are a great day to go shopping; its the day when most stores get their deliveries of lovely new stock and the day all their sale replenishment has been distributed to the shop floor.

This evening I took to Primark, River Island, New Look and H&M (I've been busy!) and found some gorgeous pieces to take me into Autumn!

First on my shopping trip was River Island were I picked up this silk ethnic print dress. The cut comes off the shoulder. I'll be wearing it now with fringed sandals and beaded jewellery and come Autumn with a faux fur gilet and ankle boots. The price was marked up from £30 To £15 but it scanned in at just £10 - I love it when that happens!
 A close up of the print on the River Island dress.
 hNext I hit Primark - I only try to shop here for basics and the odd staple piece but I couldn't resist this kimono style cotton mix jacket. I'm wearing mine with a pleated maxi skirt. £13.

 At H&M I saw this in the window (ah the power of visual merchandising!) and just loved the pleated skirt and batwing sleeves. £24.99.

Having a good rake around in the New Look shoe sale, I came across these cute leopard print kitten heels! Leopard print continues to be huge in Autumn thanks to Marc Jacobs and I couldn't resist these at just £6 - bargain!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Visual Merchandising Display

I have never posted any of my own visual merchandising projects on my blog before, but this is one that has been a huge money making success in the store where I work. My friend and I developed the concept of a vintage boutique and using props we brought it to life a few weeks ago.

I updated it yesterday with some gorgeous Autumn stock from the Biba range instore. Biba is focussing on gorgeous retro patterns in soft knitwear, pussy bow blouses, ruffled shirt fronts and 70's style flared sleeves on silk dresses.

 We gave the vintage wardrobe a paint treatment in the decadent colours of gold and black and staple gunned a faux fur leopard treatment to the back which is the iconic look and feel for Biba.
 Front dressings promote add on sales and add interest to the display.
 Clashing 70's prints are key to this Autumn's trends, taking inspiration from high designer catwalks such as Missoni.
 Mannequin styling includes mixing textures such as faux fur, suede, silk ruffles and tweed.
 Taking inspiration from vintage boutqiue dress outs to show the customers different ways of wearing the collection's key pieces and displaying accessories such as bags, candles and jewellery to promote add on sales.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

I'm a Shop Shopper

Everywhere I look on the high street today, brands are constantly advertising their online stores. "Shop Online Its Easy" "Save More When You Buy Online". With retail seemingly stuck in a rut, I'm wondering if stores are focussing too much on their online content as opposed to their individual stores.

Stereotypically as Brits, there is nothing we all love more than to be stood queuing in a shop on a Saturday afternoon surrounded by the buzz of happy ( and angry) shoppers.

We also love being able to see what we want to buy - we want the experience of it before we actually purchase it. We want to raid River Island's rails and run into the fitting rooms with our friends and have a good old laugh at each others outfit selections. We also want to be able to have a choice. Us girls love seeing something in Topshop but then 'hanging on' and looking around all the other shops just in case we find something even better; but more often than not we end up right back were we started.

But what would be the fun of doing this online? There's no fun in waiting for the web page to load or even freeze just as your putting the payment through. Or even getting all the way to the end of the transaction only to be told the item is no longer in stock (some brands really need to work on their e-retail services!) We want to see it, feel it, have it and wear it NOW!

I think I've shopped online once and wouldn't rush to do it again. I missed the whole shopping experience. The getting dressed up in a morning to go into town, looking at store's window displays, being inspired by the mannequin styling and even being influenced to buy more as you have everything under one roof - you can't view everything on one page (well you can but who really wants to wait for that to upload?!).

When I internet shopped, I think I tricked my mind into thinking that it eliminates the aching feet of trawling around the shops, the nasty suprise of when you no longer fit into your usual size 10 jeans and the having to stand in a long queue to pay. But instead I got a crampy finger from over clicking the mouse pad, waiting a day or two for the item to be delivered and then still getting the nasty shock of not been able to fit my leg into Topshops new denim range! (Well they do have small sizing afterall...)

I think I'll be sticking to good old fashioned retail therapy - the experience is too conversational to miss!

(Image 1 from
 Image 2 from
 Image 3 from

Monday, 18 July 2011

Using Social Media to Great Effect

The high street twitter world is a buzz these last few weeks as popular brand Warehouse takes over with their committed social media interaction.

The week started with them being in the top 100 follow Friday charts alongside the likes of popular celebrities such as  Victoria Beckham and competitor brand Topshop.

Next, customers and major fans of Warehouse have been selected over the last week to win special "Warestyle Treats". From the poorly to the needy, from the number one fans to the newbies everyone has been getting in on the action!

The gifts have been fabulous ranging from hi-tech cameras and ipods,  manicure and pampering kits and (the best prizes in my opinion) Warehouse vouchers and specially selected items from their Autumn range.

laurenemma_ an avid follower of the brand recently tweeted "deffo think a few companies could learn a few things from @warestyle, they've got people talking with their amazing good deeds!"    

So how do they keep the social media world buzzing about their brand?

The lovely team behind the Warehouse twitter (@Warestyle) update their tweets on a regular basis, delivering the hottest and most up to date brand information and behind the scenes action; even on a weekend!
Their facebook page is full of brand-loving customers and fans all chatting about the new products and their recent gorgeous purchases!

The Warehouse customer feels involved within the development of the brand and through twitter and facebook feel that they are being rewarded for their loyalty. And not only does a Wareshopper love freebies, they love the interaction the brand has with them. Warehouse is renowned for offering a personal service within teir stores and now they are offering one outside of them too!

So lets keep the tweet world and facebook planet a buzz about Warehouse and you never know, a Warestyle treat may be rewarded to you soon!

(Follow Warehouse on twitter @Warestyle
 Shout about their treats via #WareStyleTreats
 Facebook them through WAREHOUSE )

Accessorize with Matalan this Autumn

I was in Matalan the other day and it was so busy! It was great to see that the rebranding of the store is really paying off and being a huge success. What was also great to see was the brand's Autumn product coming through - there are some amazing pieces taking direct influence from the designer catwalks.

When I was invited to Matalan's Autumn Winter 2011 press event a few weeks back, I spied lots of must-have accessories. As all girls (and  some guys) know, accessories can make or break an outfit. Here are a few snaps I managed to take of my favourite pieces from the up and coming collection.

 This was a really cool way of displaying all the fab winter boots at the event.
 I can't wait to get my hands on these! Who needs Dr Martins when you can pick these up for £30! I already have them in black!
 Forget Summer's dainty chains and jewellery, winter is about big bold cuffs. I love the snake skin effect, sure to give any outfit an added edge.
 Matalan goes all Gothic on us with this metallic cuff. What works well with this is you can readjust the size to fit your wrist.
 I heart this peacock necklace with jewel coloured detail.

Matalan also had feminine underwear, vintage inspired satchels and cosy scarves gallore at the event. I can't wait to start seeing it hitting our stores and online too!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Is the Visual Merchandiser No More?

The role of a Visual Merchandiser, in my opinion, is often misjudged in the retail world with many people thinking we are there to make things look pretty or, in some cases I've come across, to be a maintenence dogsboddy within a store.

As most of us know, we are one of the important support systems within a business to make items look appealing but to also make them sell. Our job consists of analysing customer interactions to shopping so we can merchandise and display products in the most effective (ie most profitable) way possible.

Part of our role is to also style mannequins to the latest catwalk trends to ensure our customers are buying into our looks and the fashion we are using on a daily basis.

As a fashion visual merchandiser myself, I am finding more often than not the creativity of my role is being taken away from me. There are now so many corporate guidelines to follow and directives to implement that the skill of what once was perceived as an important and highly qualified retail role is now disappearing and becoming so easy that even 'regular' shop assistants could do it.

I am now beginning to ponder whether the role of a visual will even be around in the next ten or even five years time? If Head Office are adament on making guidelines for us vm's to "copy" then why pay us a decent salary that matches our skills at all when anyone could do the job when the freedom and creativity is taken away from it?

As the high street seems more in jeopardy than ever, I don't think it would be long before visual merchandisers are a thing of the past. If retail head offices implement strict guidelines such as in my company, then why not cut out the middle man (the vm's) and get a shop assistant to copy instead. I am a firm believer in window displays being the main attractor of customers into a store, but companies would save thousands if they banished corporate window displays.

It's very sad to think an important retail role could be diminishing, but maybe I am wrong? Maybe I just currently work for a strict guideline obsessed store thats stripping away my own creativity and making me into something I am not - a copy cat.

What do you think?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Harper to inherit VB's wardrobe

As the Beckhams rejoice at the birth of their first baby girl, Harper Seven Beckham, millions of women world wide seeth with jealousy over the fabulous wardrobe she will automatically inherit thanks to her mother Victoria.

Not only will Harper receive dresses from Marc Jacobs to Roland Mouret, but also items from her own fashion line too. Jealous? Much? Here are a few of my favourite VB looks that her daughter could inherit when she is old enough.

 VB in tangerine Donna Karan

Looking feminine and flirty in Marc Jacobs

Rocking out in Oscar De La Rente

In a classic black dress

Looking stunning in Rouland Mouret

I can't believe I am jealous of a two day old baby! What are your favourite VB pieces?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Even the Professionals Get It Wrong Sometimes

As a complete magazine junkie (I have been known to buy at the very least sixteen magazines a month!) I scour the fashion pages, pulling out anything that inspires me, except in my favourite glossy monthlys which I treasure on a book (or now magazine) shelf because I am a bit of a hoarder!

However, these magazines give me the confidence that just because the stylists or fashion "experts" work on these bibles, doesn't necessarily mean they are the best in their field. For I have seen many a stylistic photo shoot were appalling outfit choices have been made; remember when Grazia forced you to buy those MC sorry I mean hareem pants or when Now magazine persuaded you that Kerry Katona's cropped denim jeans were the "hot" look of the week.

Flicking through one particular monthly magazine today, I came across the below image. Not only is the maxi dress hideous and surely they will have had something better to pick from, I am more concerned about the outdated ugly gladiator sandals and misplaced hair flower. It seems to me like a half hearted attempt and as though the stylist didn't know what in gods name she was doing!

In my opinion, ditch the tacky gold accessories and opt for bright tropical colours as seen in the print of the dress. Ditch the pale hair flower for an oversized floppy hat in another bright colour.

In magazines I love seeing what all the 'professionals' are wearing cos I'm such a nosey parker. But in the same magazine, I was shocked to see this twenty eight year old fashion buyer picking out her Ibiza looks. Not only were all the looks a tad dull, but the images I have picked out showed her wearing really childish motif t shirts - so tacky! If a celeb was spotted in them, they would be quickly delegated to the "shame" fashion section. I think they meant to put eight years old not twenty eight!

 I hate motif t shirts with a passion! And these two are awful. I think the fashion buyer needs to reassess her own wardrobe before she starts influencing ours, don't you agree?

So from one untrendy fashion professional to another sporting wet-look leggings - the worst creation since  jeggings and hareems came about! The Fashion Director encourages us to team ours with a "simple tee" - aargh leggins and t shirts are so unflattering; keep the butt covered at all times, even Kate Moss can't pull this one off!

I know fashion has an each to their own attitude but it really grates on me when the "experts" give awful advice. So trust your own instincts and have the confidence in knowing that even the experts get it wrong sometimes!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Warehouse Autumn Preview

As you're  probably already aware, Warehouse is my favourite high street brand. Constantly delivering high quality fashion inspired straight from the designer catwalk - they really are "design for the high street". Glamorous, edgy and individual the Warehouse handwriting is consistently strong enabling you to stand out from the crowd in a fabulous Warehouse number.

Already the brand is building their Autumn range with many pieces fileting out into stores and online at as we speak. Lets take a look at my two favourite themes up to now and the key pieces I love.

Brooklyn Heights is all about city chic, taking inspiration from industrial New York. The Warehouse city woman is strong, confident and likes to mix men's structural and tailored pieces into her own feminine style for an added edge.

First up, the feature dress of the Brooklyn Heights theme is this rope detail dress. The buttoned up collar, rolled up sleeves take inspiration from your man's wardrobe whilst the belted cinched in waist keeps it feminine and defined. The rope detail industrializes the dress making it a key piece for Autumn. Dress £40.

 The boyfriend cardigan opposes summers slim fit and brightly coloured light weight knit. For just £28 this is a bargain and will be another staple to your Autumn wardrobe. Buy it in a few sizes too big for extra masculine style and then team with skinnies and heels to keep the look city chic.
 A white shirt will be a must have for the upcoming season. I love the rolled up sleeve detail on this one and the structured collar is so NYC! Shirt £35.

 Every girl needs a pair of skinny denim for Autumn and trust Warehouse to deliver the perfect pair. Flattering pocket detail on the derriere and comfortable rise on the hips. Grab a pair of patent heels and your good to go! Jeans £40

I adore this red leather satchel - it will complete your "I wish I was in New York" style. Luxurious and so on trend for AW11 with the colour, update your workwear look right now for just £38.

So Warehouse have catered for the every day city look, but what about of an evening? Warehouse are renowned for their dresses ad embellishment details and feminine edge and the theme Labyrinth does not disappoint.

Ok, I think I'm in love! How gorgeous is the colour pallette used in Labyrinth?! I love this lace detail dress with multicursal patterning. I'll be wearing mine with a statement embellished necklace. Dress £45.

 Warehouse always do a fab take on the iconic leopard print, which I think is kind of the brands trademark print. I'm predicting big things for this dress £60.
 The history of "Labyrinth" dates right back to Greek Mythogolgy and you can deffinately see the Greek inspiration here in this dress. The low cut neckline and the softly pleated material drapes beautifully. Dress £65.
 Don't forget to complete your look with this rather special embellished clutch. The intricacy of the detailing, again seeing the Greek influences makes this a necessary accessory to your night out. Clutch £38.
 I know its too early in the year to say the C word, but I have to! According to reports from the Warehouse press day, sequins and sparkle are going to be massive at Christmas with Warehouse this year. Get in on the action fashionably early with this beautiful shirt. The structural design is perfect for the Labyrinth theme! Wear it now with a block colour maxi skirt. Shirt £60.
So there we have a preview of Warehouse's Autumn collection and if its this good in July, it's going to be amazing come late August early September. Get ahead of the crowd now at

All images taken from
Shop Online or Instore.

Undercover Boss Ann Summers

I just had to tune in to the new episodes of Undercover Boss last night on channel4 as it was featuring the Assistant MD of Ann Summers going back onto the shop floor to see what their stores are really like to work in.

She disguised herself (pretty poorly as she was nearly outed!) and went to three of the brands stores to meet the staff. It was fantastic viewing as the MD (who has never worked on a retail shopfloor in her life) got to hear what the brand was like to work for straight from the hard workers themselves.

 She discovered that the 'veteran' staff members thought the brand was being led astray from its kinkier and more sexualized roots, whereas other staff would love to invest their time in the company on a full time basis but the store only offers full time management positions. She also soon learnt that the cultural Ann Summers Parties were not all they cracked up to be with the hosts having to fork out a large amount of money just to get started themselves.

The Assistant MD was also shocked to see that the shops were looking tred and outdated and even witnessed a few powercuts along the way which led to profit and customer loss.

Having worked at four of some of the largest retailers around, I know that Ann Summers aren't alone in their finding issues. I worked at one company who were forever masking over big problems just because it would be costly to sort them out. I worked at another who couldn't provide full time hours so I was forced to leave. And the other offered no progression routes into better career positions nor any training either.

I think its so important that the bigwigs in Head Offices do take the time to visit their stores and witness what the brand is really like. And its even more important to visit as a suprise so nothing is masked over - a company I previously worked for let you know six weeks in advance when they would be visiting so everything was perfect when they arrived and that was not how the store was on a day to day basis.

Retailers that have a strong work force should want to mentor and mold their passionate staff so the brand image and service is consistenly strong. Everyone should work together, both shop floor, area and Head Office staff and forget about the recruitment hierarchy for a second and focus on the business. Then maybe the highstreet wouldn't be in so much trouble.