Where Design and Dressing Collide: My Take on Retail Spaces


While growing Albie Knows, I’d also gotten a chance to work with a number of online interior design platforms, including Laurel & Wolf. They were my very first 3rd party e-design platform and I was both excited & nervous because I had no idea what to expect -- what type of clients & projects would I get, what would the pay amount to... just so many questions.

The highlight of my experience with L&W, however, was when I was asked to submit a piece for their blog, featuring my insights on where merchandising meets design. I was beyond geeked when it finalyl went live! 

 
Kate Spade New York Merchandising by Albie Knows
Kate Spade New York Merchandising by Albie Knows
As we wrap up fashion month and start styling our spring wardrobes, we find ourselves in search of new boutiques that take the typical shopping experience to the next level. From Adidas and Armani Exchange, to Nike and Kate Spade New York, Laurel & Wolf Designer, Albie Knows, spent the majority of her career as a self-proclaimed, “Silent Salesperson,” translating brands’ visions into something tangible and ultimately, transactional. At one time a visual-merchandiser, Albie has made the natural transition into commercial design, substituting fixtures with furniture, and apparel with decorative accents, to create interiors that reflect her clients’ fashion philosophies.
— Laurel & Wolf
 

So what has 10 years of visual merchandising and just over a year of interior design taught me?

1. Take It All Personally

Just as the saying goes, “If they don’t know you personally, don’t take it personal.” Well, when designing for retail spaces, especially fashion spaces, it’s all personal, as I’ve never merchandised for a brand I wouldn’t wear myself. When merchandising, I always keep the brand’s measurables top of mind, because how successful is a presentation if it doesn’t sell? Design is no different. Especially when dealing with residential spaces, I always keep the clients end goal at the forefront of every design, while reminding myself that a livable space should feel both fashionable and functional to its residents.

 
 “Entry to KSNY’s Bridal Suite. Every bride should know what she’s walking into without feeling overwhelmed.”

“Entry to KSNY’s Bridal Suite. Every bride should know what she’s walking into without feeling overwhelmed.”

 

2. Retail is Detail. And so is Design

In a retail space, although clients theoretically want to see it all, they don’t really want to see it all — otherwise, they’d shop online! When creating a first look, it’s my job to give the client a well thought-out, perfectly curated design that reflects what they really want — not just an endless array of options. When sourcing for a client, I have one shot to make a lasting impression. I apply the same thought process as I do when deciding which pieces to highlight in a window presentation.  Yes, I may get a chance to revise my design, but I’ve already laid the foundation with my initial picks.

 
 “This lounge area needed to truly feel like a lounge, not some unattainable fashion museum. Bold stripes and pops of color say ‘fun times ahead!'”

“This lounge area needed to truly feel like a lounge, not some unattainable fashion museum. Bold stripes and pops of color say ‘fun times ahead!'”

 

3. Risky Business is Good Business

I loved working in spaces that did more than simply present the clothing. Designing an entire lifestyle for the clients to envision themselves in is far more rewarding. Who is the client? What do they do? How do they live? I process all of these questions and take design risks that the client may not be willing to take themselves. Bold prints, bright colors, mixing textures — by bringing these elements to life in a seamless way, the client is able to see another side of their personal style.

Albie credits one of her past merchandising projects for her unmatched insight on how to pair product with exceptional interior design.
— Laurel & Wolf
 
 “Gold casings, bright colors, clean lines all say sophistication, yet simple enough that this look could be recreated.”

“Gold casings, bright colors, clean lines all say sophistication, yet simple enough that this look could be recreated.”

 

At Kate Spade New York, it was equally about the decor and the products. Every detail mattered, from how to dress the mannequins to which books to place on the flanking shelves. That was truly my first experience with getting to apply my expertise to a different body of work. For me, where product presentation meets interior design (and had brunch) is where I've found my passion.

 
XO Albie