American Marketer


Saks opens window for visual merchandising students via design contest

May 30, 2014

Dior's window display at Saks Fifth Avenue Dior's window display at Saks Fifth Avenue


U.S. retailer Saks Fifth Avenue is giving an unprecedented look at the creative process behind its window displays to the winners of Design:Retail’s Student Window Challenge.

Design:Retail, formerly DDI, is a publication that focuses on innovative retailers’ use of design, technology and in-store marketing tactics that engage consumers visiting bricks-and-mortar storefronts. As luxury brands and retailers continue to expand their physical footprints to new markets, window displays, as a cross-cultural story-telling device, will be increasingly relevant.

“At design:retail, we are dedicated to supporting and promoting the store design and visual merchandising industry, to include its future leaders,” said Alison Embrey Medina, executive editor of Design:Retail, Alpharetta, GA.

“Events like this one help bring both the art and science of effective window design to the forefront, open to public view,” she said.

“We love being a part of the process, versus just covering the final installation.”

Window to the design world
On June 5, visual merchandising students from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and LIM College will compete in the third annual Student Window Challenge hosted by Design:Retail and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Held at the retailer’s Fifth Avenue flagship store, the student teams will display their work in front of retailer and design firms. The students will be divided into six, two-person teams with three teams representing each school.

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Logo for Design:Retail's Student Window Challenge with Saks Fifth Avenue

During the challenge, the teams will work independently but will have access to the professional insights of Saks’ visual directors. To make the challenge more competitive, the student teams will not know the materials they will work with, or the theme, until the morning of June 5.

The materials used will be donated by event sponsors, many of whom are key suppliers in the retail design industry.

Window panes designed by the student teams will be open for public viewing during the competition from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saks’ will leave the windows up for approximately two weeks after the competition has ended.

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LIM College team window for the 2013 Student Window Challenge

In addition to the panes being on view for the weeks following the challenge, photos of the designs will be featured in print edition of design:retail and online at the publication’s Web site.

First-place winners of the challenge, judged by a panel of Design:Retail editors and members of the Saks’ team, will have the opportunity of a one-day mentorship with the retailer’s visual department. The one-day mentorship will allow the winners to watch and assist in the implementation and breakdown of the retailer’s iconic windows.

After the competition on June 5, students will attend an after party and awards ceremony at Saks’ SnAKS cafe. This will present the students with networking opportunities as members of the retail design community and Design:Retail readers will be in attendance.

The Student Window Challenge will also make a visit to the West coast on July 31 at the Beverly Hills, CA, Saks Fifth Avenue with teams from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. The competition will be followed by an awards ceremony and after party held at the Denim Bar at the Saks men’s department, The Fifth Man.

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FIDM team window for the 2013 Student Window Challenge

Information for last year's Student Window Challenge can be found here for New York and here for Beverly Hills, CA.

Search parties
Luxury brands struggle to find and recruit the top talent for positions across their companies, according to a new study from Boston Consulting Group.

Having the right employees can have a measured impact on a brand’s profits and economic growth, especially in executive and leading creative roles. Because of this luxury brands may need to rethink their existing recruiting strategy to locate the personnel necessary (see story).

Design contests have proved useful for students looking to further his or her careers, and for brands discovering untapped talents.

For example, French luxury conglomerate Kering is co-hosting the third annual “Empowering Imagination” competition for students with Parsons The New School of Design.

Students from Parsons will vie for an internship at one of Kering’s 22 luxury or lifestyle brands. With many luxury brands finding it difficult to discover top talent to fill roles at their companies, this competition offers Kering a pipeline to find its next employees (see story).

The Student Window Challenge will give the Saks the opportunity to see firsthand the abilities of potential employees. The students benefit by receiving a stepping stone for advancement in the industry.

“Having the opportunity to work inside of Saks' windows, alongside their Saks mentors, is a priceless career experience for these students,” Ms. Medina said.

“Their work will be featured next to windows created by seasoned masters of craft, and photos should make for excellent additions to their final portfolios,” she said.

“In addition, the students will have an opportunity to network with some titans of the industry at our after party and awards ceremony, to which we have invited local retailers and designers from across Manhattan.”

Final Take
Jen King, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York

Saks opens window for visual merchandising students via design contest