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Barneys New York Downtown Flagship

So just what is Retail Watch? I’m establishing this new “blog” as a collection of thoughts, musings, and opinions specifically related to the worlds of fashion, retail, beauty and brands. As an Art Director/Designer with over 8 years experience in these areas, I have a deep understanding of how this crazy world works. I also love brands (a lot of people say that, but I really do), and I have LOTS of opinions.

This blog will of course live on, but I want to focus my portfolio site/blog about all this fashion and retail, and focus this blog on design and inspiration. So worry not!

Fashion is a strange type of magic. It’s art that you live in. Or it can be. Once upon a time, fashion was about labels, and the status they carried. Labels evolved into brands, then lifestyle brands, and experiences and now they touch every aspect of what we see and do. And while todays retail landscape is more challenging than ever, there’s also more opportunity than ever.

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So in this blog, I want to focus on that, opportunity. And innovation. And magic. How do we bring a sense of magic, surprise and innovation back into retail? How do we make the shopping experience special? Macy’s tagline is, “the magic of Macy’s.” Have you been to a Macy’s recently and experienced ANY magic? Almost every mall in America has a Macy’s, and what can you see, buy or do at Macy’s that you can’t see, buy or do anywhere else? Or at any other department store for that matter. In the race to consolidate all the department store brands, we’re left with a sea of sameness. And Macy’s isn’t alone. Department stores and retail brands are struggling across the board, unless you’re H&M, Forever 21 and Zara …

So what can brands do? There’s not one simple solution. But it has to be about ideas, innovation and experiences. The solution has to go BEYOND retail. And that’s what I’ll explore on this blog. Gap is off to a great start with their newly launched Generation Gap campaign. Nordstrom has their pop-in shops, H&M/Nike and Adidas has their design/artist/athlete collaborations.

Can retail move forward by looking back? I think so! What happened to all those regional department stores we grew up with? What made them unique and special? What about certain brands creates a connection that lingers? That’s what I want to explore! Feel free to follow, comment, share and let’s start a conversation.

 

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After more than a century, “the Greatest Show on Earth” is coming to and end. Recently it was announced that in May, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end after 146 years in business. The news comes after years of declining sales, animal rights protests and rising production costs. In modern times, this 100+ year old traveling act had to compete against the movies, Netflix, Hulu and every other form of entertainment. While I haven’t been to an actual circus in years, I’ve always thought there was something magical and romantic about it.

So to celebrate the final days of the circus, I wanted to share some pictures from this magical world.

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Equal parts mysterious and creepy, I’ve always thought the circus, and particularly vintage circus photos from the 1800-1950s, are so interesting!

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Life Visits the Circus
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No artist is pleased…

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Vintage Playbill for Oklahoma

As 2016 draws to a close (thank God!), instead of dwelling on all the awful events of the past 365 days, I’m searching for new ways to ignite my creative passion, find joy in side projects, and create abundance through my abilities. Sounds lofty right? Well, it really all goes back to my Pratt MFA thesis I recently blogged about after the election.

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Martha Graham (above).

So what does this have to do with Oklahoma!? Over the weekend, I stumbled across on Instagram post from the Ace Hotel of a page from Agnes de Mille’s biography of Martha Graham. For those who don’t know, Martha Graham was a LEGENDARY dancer and choreographer who’s artistry is compared to that of Frank Lloyd Wright and Picasso for her contribution to the arts. In the passage, Agnes de Mille had recently found wild success  for her work for Oklahoma!, a new musical that became an overnight success. But de Mille wasn’t satisfied as she felt like she’d done better work before that never reached the same success or acclaim.

de Mille states to Graham,


“I had a burning desire to be excellent,

but no faith that I could be” 

In response, Graham gives the most amazing advice, which certainly speaks to me as a designer, but is applicable to artists in all mediums. Graham says,

“There is a vitality,
a life force,
a quickening
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.

And If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine
how good it is
nor how valuable it is
nor how it compares with other expressions.

It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.

Keep the channel open…
No artist is pleased…

There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes “us” MORE alive than the others.”

Martha Graham
( – a letter to Agnes De Mille-)


Amazing right?? The Instagram post (below) literally stopped me in my tracks. I struggle constantly with a feeling of not being “good enough,” or not having an idea that’s original enough. So much so that I typically don’t start anything at all. I’m the one blocking my “channel” .. the only thing (or person) standing in my way is me!

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So that’s the plan for 2017, to keep my channel open. Create abundance with my abilities, and return to a state of joy through exploration, making and sharing my work. I hope you’ll join me on my journey!

 

 

Light a candle.

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What a week it has been…

I, like the a majority of Americans in this country were stunned, heartbroken and deeply disturbed by the US election results this week. I’ve been lazy in 2016. Admittedly, I’ve only blogged twice this year. Not only have I been lazy in blogging and forcing myself to create the new work I’ve been talking about (for years), but lazy politically. I voted in both the primary and the general elections. But that’s all I did. I didn’t give my time, money or contribute my skills to electing our next president. And looked what happened. Hillary lost for many reasons. But I refuse to forget and not fight for the optimistic version of American she and Bernie Sanders talked about. I will no longer be lazy.

So in the mean time, it’s important to mourn, vent, and act. I feel a DEEP sense of dread and despair, but I feel compelled to channel those feelings into action. You may wonder, this is a design blog, what does the election have to do with art and design?

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In 2015, Toni Morrison wrote this beautiful article for ‘The Nation’ that perfectly illustrates our role as artists and designers in times like these. Morrison writes,

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art. –link

So in 2016, and beyond. I’d like to personally challenge myself to do just that. Not only give my time, money and services to causes I care about, but to finally create the work that speaks to me and brings me joy. It’s so important in times of darkness to find light and joy.

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Poster from my thesis project, above.

Years ago, I blogged countless times about my Pratt MFA thesis centered around the search for “Joy” in the creative process and in a creative life. It consumed me for a solid year. While the process of creating and writing my thesis at Pratt gave me little joy (ironic right), time and distance have inspired me to explore this topic again. And in light of current events, finding, creating and sharing joy has ever been more important. So that’s my challenge to myself. I’m putting this out there in the universe, in words. So keep me accountable.

And take joy.

 

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It’s no secret I’m obsessed with Fornasetti plates. Piero Fornasetti was an Italian painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver. He created more than 11,000 items, many featuring the face of a woman, operatic soprano Lina Cavalieri, as a motif. Fornasetti found her face in a 19th-century magazine. “What inspired me to create more than 500 variations on the face of a woman?” asks Italian designer, Piero Fornasetti of himself. “I don’t know,” he admits, “I began to make them and I never stopped.” The “Tema e Variazioni” (theme and variation) plate series based on Cavalieri’s face numbered more than 350.

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Don’t these look great together? It’s easy to see why they could so easily be turned into patterns for wallpaper. It just goes to show if you have a good idea, or beautiful art or illustration, the applications for that art is limitless! Today the “Theme & Variation” plates have been turned into dinnerware, wallpapers, and printed on just about any object you can imagine.

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Aren’t there great? Check out the wallpaper in use in these interiors below.

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One day when I have a home of my own, I can’t wait to collect the plates and have a Fornasetti bathroom or kitchen! Stay turned as I continue to post about the magical world of Fornasetti. Get into it!

Fornasetti Week

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I’m alive world! After not blogging in almost 9 months (gasp!), I’m ready to come back. A lot has happened since June 2015: I escaped the oppressive rent, freelance design culture, stress and poor quality of life in NYC and headed south for greener pastures. By day I’m an Interactive Art Director based in Atlanta, GA. Outside of work, I’m still passionate about all things relating to fashion, advertising, patterns, and textiles. I have a few creative projects in works, so I’m excited to get those off the ground and share on here (and other places – stay tuned).

To get back in the swing of things, I’m going to devote this entire week to the charming and whimsical world of Fornasetti. I’m obsessed with their trademark plates (pictured above and below) but the world is Fornasetti is filled with many more curiosities I’m sharing this week. So get into it!

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Several weeks ago, under the guidance of Creative Director Stuart Vevers, Coach debuted their first-ever menswear collection at London Fashion week. As any 90’s kid knows, Coach is an American accessories brand, once on top of the word, but has struggled in recent years to establish relevance in todays rapidly shifting fashion landscape. In 2013, Stuart Vevers, formally of Mulberry and Loewe, was appointed Executive Creative Director of the brand and is quickly reshaping Coach into a modern lifestyle brand for a younger generation. In the fall I blogged about Coach’s Fall 14 advertising campaign being one of my favorites, and the Spring 2016 Menswear collection is adding to my growing love for the brand.

I’m so in love with the animal print mixing! So playful, young and graphic. As a guy, I feel like most American brands (J.Crew, Gap, etc) struggle with offering newness each season. This collection is a breath of fresh air! Finally a brand offering something you don’t see in a million other stores. I can’t wait for next spring when this collection is available in stores, and I can’t wait to see what Vevers creates in the seasons to come. So check out more images from the Coach Spring/Summer 2016 Menswear Collection below, and get into it!

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Awesome right, below are some backstage shots captured by Russ McClintock.

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LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!!