“Take every single bit of criticism and alter it to become advice. Every day is a learning experience and these people have been a part of the industry far longer than I have, so I’m going to value that they’ve taken the time to come and speak to me about how it all is going!”
- Marie Antoniou, Whitehouse Graduate
When Marie Antoniou started her Bachelor of Design, specialising in Fashion, at Whitehouse Institute of Design in 2008, the vision she had of her future was of her own designer fashion label. Many fashion students at Whitehouse start off with this professional dream – after all, the glitz and glamour of being a fashion designer is particularly alluring. Fashion Design is one of the most sought after careers in Australia, and although there are plenty of opportunities for budding Australian designers, there are a multitude of other roles within the fashion industry that are lesser known but equally rewarding. One of the beauties of going through fashion school is learning a set of skills that prepares you for a fashion career with numerous possible outcomes. Three years after Marie graduated from Whitehouse, she tells us in a candid interview about her journey and how she found her fashion calling as a Visual Merchandiser for David Jones.
WH. So, what does a Visual Merchandiser (VM) do?
M.A. Being a visual merchandiser means more than creating amazing windows and in-store displays with mannequins. They are two of my favourite parts of the job, of course, but the job comes with the responsibility of exampling and displaying each individual brand as per the designer’s standard and the standard of the department store. Breaking that down further to the correct brand signage, updated brand collection groupings and overall styling in a safe and secure manner that prevents theft and promotes sales. Ultimately it is all about drawing the customer into the store and keeping them intrigued by the styling work created by VM!
Windows are a main focus of what we do at the Elizabeth Street David Jones store. They are propped out amazingly by national VM and we work with their vision to pull the stock that binds it all together.
WH. Tell us what is a typical day at work?
M.A. Any visual merchandiser will tell you this; no two days are ever the same! On a typical day, we’ll ensure the jobs we had completed the day before haven’t been altered by staff or customers and if so, reinstating them to the original vision. We will take the directive of national VM and work that in with any new brands that need to be displayed. We have to constantly refresh the floors to maintain interest in the stock. Other than that it’s a hell of a lot of fun because you will go in and await for instructions from your trusty leader (manager)!
WH. What is the most exciting thing you have done as a VM so far?
M.A. By far the most exciting thing I have been a part of has been working on the Flower Show that runs through the store and the windows through September! It’s so bright and awe-inspiring to watch the florists work their magic and to be able to mix fashion in just ticks all the boxes for me personally! Bump out is one of the most draining parts of the job but in all honesty, one of the funniest! It could be the delirious exhaustion of working crazy hours, but I wouldn’t have changed that entire experience at all.
WH. What is the best and the not so great part of life as a VM?
M.A. The greatest part is hearing and seeing people take notice of your work. Noticing people take photos of your window and popping it up on their Instagram or Pinterest really excites me!
The not so great part of the job comes down to three little words; ‘one day offer’. Spending excessive amounts of your day putting out signage and ticketing around a flagship store knowing you’re only going to have to take it down the next day is something I find really irritating! Great for the store though!
WH. Have you met any fashion celebrities yet?
M.A. I did run into Joel Madden the other day in the store! Other than that, buyers will often walk through the store with designers and discuss how their brand is going. We will generally get the feedback from them about how it’s all going and what/if anything needs to be changed.
WH. Have you ever had a ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ moment in your fashion career?
M.A. Hahahaha! Haven’t we all in the fashion industry!!! God the amount of times I’ve had to change a grouping because of the tiniest things is ridiculous. But hey, we just gotta roll with the punches!
WH. How do you handle criticism?
M.A. With a smile and a nod – Take every single bit of criticism and alter it to become advice. You are only as weak as you’ll allow yourself to be and somebody having an opinion on your work isn’t going to break me down. Every day is a learning experience and these people have been a part of the industry far longer than I have, so I’m going to value that they’ve taken the time to come and speak to me about how it all is going!
WH. You enrolled as a fashion student at Whitehouse in 2008, back then, what were your professional dreams?
M.A. My dreams were to work in a fashion house and work up to a designer position! But after interning at some fashion houses I realised how much I disliked the environment and changed to VM!
WH. What happened to you after you graduated?
M.A. After graduation I continued to intern and work. I worked at Telstra for a couple of years after I graduated then decided to travel through Europe and when I came back, I worked my way into visual merchandising with Telstra then progressed to where I am today with David Jones!
WH. How did you become a VM?
M.A. I worked my way into it with Telstra then scored the job I have now with David Jones! It’s as simple as that!
WH. What is your advice for the fashion students that will start their first year this month?
M.A. Try and have a clear idea of what you want to do but always try and absorb inspiration from those/everything around you.
WH. And what would you like to tell the fashion graduates of 2013?
M.A. Intern. Intern. Intern!!! Get as much exposure to the industry as you can and then row from there. It’s not about landing yourself a job as soon as you finish, it’s about letting yourself discover what you love! It took me three years after I graduated to figure out that I loved VM!
WH. What are your plans for the future?
M.A. I want to progress into a national VM role and develop my skills as much as I possibly can!! Hopefully then I’ll be able to pass on my knowledge to others who want to grow!