Now in its 13th year of the fashion education business, the University of Fashion is expanding. As many of you already know, we have hundreds of lessons in the fashion design disciplines of draping, pattern making, sewing, fashion drawing, menswear, knitwear, childrenswear, swimwear, accessories, CAD fashion art and CAD pattern making, as well as product development lessons that include how to create tech packs and how to start your own brand.
Our fashion lecture series focuses on topics such as costume history, textiles, trend forecasting, sustainable fashion, licensing, branding, plus sizes, influencer marketing, fashion law and explores assorted careers within the fashion industry.
Our fashion business discipline concentrates on the retail segment of the industry with lessons on retail math, marketing and merchandising, understanding retail profit and loss and now…visual merchandising.
We are thrilled to announce that our new visual merchandising series will be taught by none other than Marcie Cooperman. If the name sounds familiar it’s because Marcie is the author of Color: How to Use It , has been an instructor at Parsons for more than 20 years and has already created nine very popular lessons for UoF on the topics of color theory and knitwear. Marcie is truly a Renaissance woman. She is an artist (oils & watercolors are her passion), an author, a professor and has had an eponymous fashion design custom service in hand knits since the late 1980s.
In her new series for UoF, Marcie explores the world of visual merchandising and the tools that retailers use in their store to create excitement and interest for their target market, via the store’s exterior and store window, to the store’s interior merchandising presentation. You’ll learn the planogram, the organizational system of the products in the store, and how visual merchandising uses the display, an important tool in showing how the clothing will look on the body. Whether you plan to open your own retail store or not, the information you’ll glean from Marcie’s new series will inspire both designers and retailers alike.
With today’s launch of the first lesson in the series, Introduction to Visual Merchandising, I thought I’d sit down (virtually of course) to find out more about Marcie and the important role visual merchandising plays in our industry.
Francesca: What sparked your interest in Visual Merchandising?
Marcie: I have always thought about art, design, fashion, color and composition, certainly since I was a little girl. When I was about seven, I started painting with oil paints, and I designed my own embroidery projects. I had strong ideas about what colors to use. And I had opinions about store windows in those days, too, long before I knew there was something called visual merchandising.
In those days, my Mom and I designed dresses for her to make for me, and I fashioned scraps of fabric into clothing for dolls that I made myself. And I used whatever scraps I had to design and make furniture for room interiors. My passion for color took root when Mom took me to buy yarns in a store that was like a dreamscape: it was in a barn, and skeins of colored yarns were hanging from the rafters all around me. Going into a yarn shop today to buy knitting yarns still makes me feel like that.
As I became a teenager, my career ideas always included interior design, retail design, and fashion design. I loved it all, and it wasn’t possible for me to choose a career in just one of those areas. For me, color and composition were the central concept, and all types of design were visual expressions of them. Why limit myself? So, I went to school for both fashion design and interior design.
When I received my MBA in Marketing at Stern School of Business at NYU, it all came together in a business sense. Visual Merchandising is the ultimate combination of everything I love: color and design, composition, retailing and marketing, all pointed toward creating an emotional connection with the customer. And I’ve always taught it with a focus on color and composition.
Francesca: Which store interiors & windows do you think are the most successful?
Marcie: I am very impressed with Coach. They are always creative and unusual, and successful in appealing to the customer through very directive use of color and design. They use lines and shapes skillfully to direct the eye to the product, and easily convey what the brand is all about. And yet it all seems so simple, as if their choices were the only ones to make. I always stand in front of Coach windows for a while, digesting the beauty of the products and display elements; I think it’s a real strength that it inspires me do that.
Hermes windows are also incredibly innovative, especially in their use of color. They are intense and cheery, and clearly, the designer is proficient in using color relationships. There is always a sense of whimsy in Hermes windows, and that makes them stand out. They are essentially Hermes. We see the same sensibility in the website design, too, so the message is coordinated; that is crucial in brand messaging to the world.
And there is a wonderful store down in the Flatiron district in NYC called ABC Carpet and Home, and nobody beats their windows! They are just full of amazing things, with gorgeous products and with their own spectacular style! It’s worth a visit just to see the windows. Of course, when you go into the store, you can really feel how it’s also amazingly designed. How exciting it is! It’s impossible not to buy something there.
These are all brands with designers who know how to use color and composition in their displays, and their work is on another level. We can all learn from them.
Francesca: What do you think are the top 5 visuals that make a successful store window?
Marcie: Successful store windows can be designed by students and professionals who have an understanding of how to use color and textures, and lines and shapes, in the most creative way in their work. These are tools that designers must have. How can you design without learning about them? Store displays and windows are an art, an expression of the designer’s creativity based on these tools. Students who know how to use them can go anywhere in their work.
Color relationships actually reach us emotionally and connect with us; we can even feel that we love a brand just because we saw the right colors and textures in a store window display! We can fall in love with what we see, and never forget that feeling because it will bother us until we buy the product that we saw there.
In all of my classes, and these lessons on visual merchandising, I really want to teach every student how to use these tools, so that they can achieve their personal artistic goals and their store’s goals. In those lessons I am devoted to explaining every detail clearly, and to illustrate every concept with great images of window displays. And I evaluate each image, too, to explain what’s happening in those displays and why they work or why they don’t work. It’s always great to see the ones that don’t quite work, so we can understand and learn from them.
The highest goal a store can achieve with an amazing window display is to create an emotional connection with the customers, one so strong that they must come inside to see what the store is selling. Did you ever feel that way? Not only that you must go inside the store, but once you are inside, you feel that it’s so wonderful you cannot go home without buying something there. That’s the power of a great window display, and great visual merchandising that continues inside the store.
Francesca: How important do you think a brand’s store windows should relate to their website presence?
Marcie: Of course, both the store windows and the website, as well as other owned online assets, must be unified and cohesive so that they send the same message about the brand. They should include the same colors and shapes. All signage must relate to the text on the websites in terms of fonts, colors and design.
Every brand needs to have a set of core values and a mission, and those must always be the basis for every display decision it makes – the guide for all design decisions. That’s the way to keep everything unified.
It’s very important for the brand to clearly position itself to the customer in just one very special and differentiated way, and to explain that positioning through all of its visuals: its displays and windows, its clothing, labels and ads, and all other visual materials. Everything has to send the same visual message. Otherwise, the customer could get confused about what this brand is saying, and what it’s all about. And that confused customer won’t see the reason that she must shop at this brand before all others.
Francesca: What other lessons should we expect to see from you in the future?
Marcie: I’m fascinated with fashion design and interior design as they relate to color and composition; I can always tell which designers in both industries know how to use color and which ones have no idea. My point of view in teaching design is always to create from a basis of understanding of color, line and shape – to have an arsenal of shapes to explore for every line of creative thinking. You could take just one shape and go on from there knowing the infinite ways to vary it for a garment.
Imagine using your understanding of those concepts to help you create your fashion design lines! What confidence you can have. How deeply you can dive into the possibilities and come up with a cohesive collection of unique styles that connect with each other and express the brand’s sensibilities.
Francesca: Do you have certain career goals?
Marcie: I have devoted my career to teaching students how to use color and composition in their design work, so that they understand that these are the most precious tools they can have. I want every student to have the confidence of knowing how to use these tools. Color and composition provide a structural framework for students’ imagination, an understanding that allows them to follow their infinite sense of creativity, a skill that frees them to take their ingenuity farther than they can imagine. This is how I feel when I do my fashion and interior design work, and I want all students to feel the same way.
To learn more about Marcie and her blog about color in interior design and fashion design: http://fashionclassroom.com/blog . Also view her LinkedIn page https://www.linkedin.com/in/marcie-cooperman-03613511/
Stay tuned for Marcie’s next lesson: Using Color and Texture in Visual Merchandising