The Style Room

blogNathan Hicks interview about Visual Merchandising

Nathan Hicks interview about Visual Merchandising

The Style Room has spoken with the award-winning visual director Nathan Hicks about how to translate a luxury brand’s vision and push creative thinking, effectively communicating trend concepts and brand identity to create modern, innovative and visually stunning. Here is the interview:

JC: How did you start in the Visual Merchandising industry?  

NH: My Retail career initially started on the shop-floor as a Sales consultant, but I quickly realised my future was in VM. I had a great mentor who taught me the key fundamentals of great display techniques and the power of Product presentation, these principles still stick with me today. I have also been very considered about the Brands I have chosen to work for and how best to message their individual creative language.

JC: Where does the “Invisible man” name come from?  

NH: Everything I do is Visual / Visible, but the end result is not about Me. Therefore I should remain Invisible.. Like a Illusionist – “If you see the Strings, the Magic is lost..”.  Also, it has an air of mystery about it and I wanted a Brand name that was Memorable and something people would remember.

Nathan Invisible man

JC: You have worked with a lot of luxury brands, how important is the Visual Merchandising for these brands? How often they change their windows?  

NH: I honestly believe at this current moment in time with so many economic pressures on Brands – VM is more important than ever! Consumers are craving Experiences and want to feel part of a Brand’s community and live that lifestyle – so the stores and their visual identity need to be unique. I do feel a lot of Brands change their windows too often, sometimes you can literally ‘talk to yourself’ and feel you must change the displays every week! I think you must always find the right balance with keeping the store fresh with a new focus and not just changing for changes sake. The secret is in the planning, strategic launches throughout the season- inline with key calendar dates and product launches.

Nathan Joseph X Jil Sander
Joseph X Jil Sander

JC: Tell me about your 2 favorite displays so far, and why are they in that position?  

NH: It’s very difficult for me to pick favourites with my Displays, as although they mean everything at the time, once they have been installed – I am already thinking about the next scheme. But if I was to select 2 x standout pieces of work, I think it would be ’THE TUNNEL OF LACE’ & the ‘PLYWOOD’ installations for Joseph. The Tunnel of Lace, was my 1st ever interactive scheme where the consumer could journey through the window installation and where I first really started to challenge a ‘Space’ and how far you could push boundaries. 

Nathan The Tunnel of lace
The Tunnel Of Lace

The Plywood scheme was all about utilising one simple material and shape and amplifying it in a cost effective and sustainable way, also it was about messaging a Season and something as simple as a leaf but in an Abstract form. It had a great warmth and femininity to the aesthetic, which I also loved and felt right for the Brand / Autumn collection.

Nathan Plywood
Plywood

JC: How does your creative process work?  

NH: Everything & I mean everything’ always starts and end with the product! You have to always understand and elevate the product. It should always be the Hero. So many brands don’t understand the balance of ‘Prop vs Product’ and you just end up with a window full of unrelated Props!

JC: What kind of challenges do you face working in the luxury industry? Do they give you the inspiration theme or you present it to the brand (Like the tunnel of lace for example)  

NH: Every Brand has it’s own complexities and it is my job to understand these individual nuances that formulate a Brand’s DNA and how best to translate this through their own visual language. Once I understand the Creative direction of each Brands Code, I can then channel this into both the physical and digital platforms, so there is a consistent experience across every touchpoint.

JC: What are the brands that hire you looking for?  

NH: Personally, I feel that the Brands I collaborate with, have the same ambition in terms of Creative expression and want to create a unique aesthetic that doesn’t mimic or copy any other Brand! You have to stay true to the vision of each Brand and I will always champion and constantly strive for individuality.

Nathan Alaia X Joseph
Alaia X Joseph

JC: When did you decide to start working in this industry?  

NH: I believe anyone who works and shines within the retail industry, simply has it in their Blood! I feel very lucky to work in an industry that allows me to express my creativity and individuality and although I have been doing this for a long time, I love the fact that I’m still learning my craft and that every project feels fresh and completely unique.

JC: What kind of project requires the biggest effort?  

NH: To me, every project requires the same effort – 110% !! It doesn’t matter if it’s a Huge installation of Multiple windows or the tiniest Vitrine, they all require the same amount of “Attention to Detail” – Look at Tiffany Vs Louis Vuitton as examples of Maximum Effort in storytelling..

JC: How long can a complicated window take to be finished from the idea to final product? How many people participate in it? (For example Plastic Restraint)  

NH: A window such as Plastic Restraint can take anywhere upto 6-8 Months to finalise. As the initial concept usually starts when you first experience the Fashion Show, in this instance the Christopher Kane SS Runway. You then meet and collaborate with the Brand and formulate a Creative approach and then work with internal teams from Buying, Marketing & Retail stakeholders to define the most effective launch strategy. It is then down to myself and my team to organise the production and installation with a preferred supplier, in this case it was a real collaborative effort as we used over 120’000 cable ties to produce the visual elements with in this scheme, each one hand tied by a team over 30 people for a duration of almost 3 weeks. I still have the blisters on my hands 🙂

Nathan Plastic Restraint
Plastic Restraint
Nathan Plastic Restraint
Plastic Restraint

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