Even though I’m studying interior design, I know that visual merchandising and styling are connected, not the same, different objectives, but all part of the same family. And so I was thrilled to meet Tori Allen recently, a stylist of various spaces and projects.
Tori studied Product Development and fell in love with styling. She works full-time as Visual Merchandiser for the beautiful Manon Bis and Manon Cie stores, as well as on a variety of exciting projects on the side. She will launch www.toriallen.com.au in early April and her blog ‘the outpost’ will be linked off this site, including all things nice, and a behind-the-scenes perspective of the events, shoots and visual merchandising projects she works on.
Tori is one of those people you instantly warm to, someone who you’d love to have as your friend. She was warm and energetic with a big smile. Earlier that morning (at 5am; I did say energetic) Tori had been to the flower markets in Footscray to pick up fresh flowers for the store. Tori obviously has a thing for flowers (most of her Instagram posts feature beautiful arrangements!).
Tori explained that her plan for the day was to disassemble the current window display and create a ‘market’ themed window and store infused with bright colours. This, Tori said would take a couple of days; the first to do the window and start on the rest of the store, and then another day or so to finish the styling of the shop to tie in with the new theme. The store and its products are predominately a natural palette interspersed with a few, brightly coloured products. She explained that these products would be bought to the front of the store to support the colours of the window; yellows, greens, hot pink.
We immediately got to work painting three cardboard boxes white out the back of the shop, dodging cars coming down the alley way. These boxes would form the base of the window display. The white paint ran out, and the paint roller wasn’t quite up to the job, so we walked down the street to the paint shop to pick up supplies as well as to the fruit store to buy the glossiest, brightest lemons, green apples and oranges we could find to use as props and create colour in the window, which would then be used throughout the store. It was clear this is a very hands on (and pretty random) job!
This fruit and paint expedition gave us a chance to chat, and for Tori to give me the lowdown on visual merchandising basics; what elements make a good window and store layout, what’s involved in styling a store and how she came to be doing what she does. Tori explained that VM is different to Interior Design in that the aim is to sell product, so each window planned by Tori must always come back to the product. In this instance, the window would feature the market baskets amongst other products sold at Manon Bis, and the supporting props would be the colourful fruit.
She reiterated the importance of clever styling in any store, proving this by explaining that the dusty pink dress they currently featured in the window had sold out (there is a two-week window cycle, so this is impressive). Tori also shared other tips and elements to consider, such as the fact Manon Bis is located in front of a red light on Malvern Rd, which means that passers-by have a good 30-60 seconds to study the window from their car, before the light goes green. Bonus.
Time raced on and I had to leave for college, but over a quick coffee Tori gave me a list as long as your arm of stylists, designers, creative commentators and game changers to follow via blogs, Instagram and other outlets. She also showed me how she plans each window, by keeping tabs on fashion and lifestyle trends, various magazines, blogs and websites, identifying elements of different scenes and pulling them together to create, what I think, are some amazing creations. Tori is always working way ahead of her current schedule and has a huge bank of ideas to support her projects. This was really fascinating and it in turn gave me ideas on how to focus my time and research.
What was also exciting was how open and helpful Tori was. Here is a woman, a few years down the track from me, achieving some great things professionally and creating these beautiful whimsical vignettes for brides, retailers, charity events, and no doubt a whole host of other people and projects. After all, I only spent a morning with her!