Have you ever walked past a store and been stopped in your tracks by its window display? I'm thinking most people would, at the very least, find themselves pausing as they wander past a LABoratory store. I also wouldn't mind betting I'm not the only one amongst us who once thought how awesome it would be to work in visual merchandising for a living and spend all day dreaming up amazing themed displays. The best part is, it doesn't feel like they received a box from head office labeled "display window" along with every other store in a chain...resulting only in a cookie cutter look. In actual fact, it's quite the opposite. If you check the details, a lot of work has gone into making the displays look as gorgeous as they do...and it doesn't just apply to the window...the interior of the store is an extension of the gorgeousness...ceilings, walls, shelves, dressing rooms...it just keeps going.
And so, as it often does, a conversation on Twitter started and we discovered there were stores dotted around regional Victoria and I discovered they also have a blog...which turned out to be awesome because it goes into more detail about the displays. But, I wanted to find out a little more...so I contacted Katie who works for their head office and has a lot to do with their visual merchandising.
Q: How do the ideas for the displays come about, what do you use & are they varied store to store? A: Our displays are different in every store. We collect "things" from op-shops (aka thrifting for any US readers) around Geelong and the surf coast, and put little themed stories together. We then add to those stories with craft techniques, (e.g. modge-podging the glass to make it coloured) and try to rotate these stories amongst our stores.
Q: Who does all the crafting for the displays and what role do you play in thecompany? A:We have a team of "Crafty Minxes" that help with the displays and the craft involved. I usually do most of the shelf displays and collecting from op-shops but occasionally people donate things as well. I work at head office but I visit the stores on a regular basis to add to and change the displays. We do a lot in our 'home time' as we all have different roles, for example I work in the design/product side of things but also manage the visual merchandising and the new store openings as well. We are all very passionate crafters and love creating new things.
(the above collage sourcing pictures from their blog...Aunty Lewie's lampshades!)
Q: Who is the legendary Aunty Lewie who gets mentioned so often on the blog? A: Aunty Lewie is actually an aunty of our head designer. She has been in the fashion industry for over 20 years and has worked in visual merchandising and store setups for a long time. She is now retired but has come on board as my right hand man to help with craft & new stores. I'd be lost without her.
Q: How did The LABoratory begin and were there always plans for multiple stores? The LABoratory was originally started to fill a nice in the boutique market to create ladies & children's wear for independent retailers. We design and create for our own labels such as Ellis & Dewey, A Little Birdie Told Me..., Alessi & Basics. We also used to do children's wear labels Two Belles and Tommy Rocket. We opened our flagship store in Geelong West on Pakington St in 2006 and our head office is also in the area. Original plans were to be mainly wholesale but in the last 12 months our retail stores have done exceptionally well in a tough market so we have continued to grow...adding 6 stores in under 12 months with more planned in the future. In saying that, we pride ourselves on the intricate details and unique feel of our stores so we want to keep the feel of a small quality family business. As a result of our manufacturing process, we can produce small quantities of certain styles which means putting limited numbers in each store. This, combined with our limited edition fabrics, means you are less likely to run into someone wearing the same outfit as you!
(the above collage using photos from their blog)
Q: How important is visual merchandising to The LABoratory? A: We use our windows to draw people in and set us apart from everyone else. Most businesses in retail cut back on visual merchandising when times get tough, but we feel its important to invest in this type of draw card as it makes us unique and special...we love being different! :)
Q: What next for the LABoratory? A: We are currently setting up store in Launceston so keep an eye out as there will be more new ideas coming up! You can visit www.thelaboratory.com.au for pictures of all our stores
Reading their blog I discovered that the Bendigo store currently has the largest window spaces, so we are lucky to get the largest store displays. Past displays have included living traveling plants, milk carton cities, paper mache characters, murals, yarn trees & book sculptures. They also have used the crafting expertise of various regional schools and crafting groups, in addition to the aforementioned "tireless crafty minxes". Sometimes they have interns from the fields of fashion, graphic design and visual merchandising contributing to the design & installation. If you're local, you can check out the store at the end of Bath Lane, for other locations check the website above. Thanks Katie!