Country Road provides a window of opportunity for visual merchandising students

Six Diploma of Visual Merchandising students have been competitively selected to work on the Country Road Window Project for 2018.

Twelve years ago, the visual merchandising program first entered into what has now become a mutually productive and beneficial relationship with iconic Australian clothing and lifestyle brand Country Road.

This year, RMIT students have once again worked with Country Road’s Creative Design team to create next season’s impressive shop window displays.

Onlookers admire the window display at the Lygon St Country Road store. Photo: Country Road

The Window Project offered students industry experience working alongside professionals from the leading lifestyle brand.

Diploma of Visual Merchandising students Shakira Van Vugt, Kathryn Bell, Emma Smith, Kate Gardner, Luisa Leauanae and Nikki Briggs were required to think creatively while working with various considerations and requirements set by the Country Road team.

The project ran for 11 weeks, from briefing to installation, with weekly meetings to discuss concepts, materials, production and installation requirements. 

During these meetings Country Road staff provided valuable feedback and coaching to the students.

Country Road Visual Merchandising Creative Team Manager Haydn Salmon said the retailer values their long-standing relationship with RMIT’s Diploma of Visual Merchandising program and continues to be impressed by the results year-on-year.

“The strength of the relationship is built upon the opportunity for Country Road and RMIT students to be inspired and learn from each other while participating in a real-life project,” he said. 

While the students were required to draw their inspirations from the 2018 Women’s and Men’s May ranges' colour palettes, textures, mood and key silhouettes, the Country Road Visual Merchandising Creative team expected students to push their understanding of what visual merchandising can do, bringing freshness and innovation, and creating strong street impact and a sense of theatre.

More practically, the students also tackled the less creative but equally important aspects of the real-life industry project. 

Sourcing the materials, manufacturing the display props, considering limitations such as budget, time, labour, working in public spaces, health and safety guidelines, dimensions of the windows, and sustainability were all part of the project. Photo: Country Road

Diploma of Visual Merchandising student, Kathryn Bell loved the hands-on nature of the project,

“It was a really good first-hand experience meeting people in the industry in head office. Being able to make things ourselves for the window that people on the street are going to see was really exciting, " she said.

Once the final window concepts were approved by the client, students installed the windows at the Country Road Lygon Street store themselves, under guidance from the Country Road team.

Senior teacher in the Diploma of Visual Merchandising, Justin Compton praised the mutually beneficial nature of the relationship.

"For students, the strength of the project can be seen in the way they are asked to respond to and operate within a commercial environment where the demands of the Country Road business will impact the outcome of their work. But this is a strength of the project for industry too, of course," he said.

Along with running the Window Project, Country Road is a strong supporter of the RMIT mentoring program and has also employed many graduates.

Country Road also offers a one-year paid intern position for one graduate each year.

Through the Window Project, mentor program and internship, Country Road has taken a long-term, proactive approach to supporting up-and-coming talent in the School of Architecture and Urban Design’s Diploma of Visual Merchandising.

Story: Julia Alessandrini

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