Some think it is colours in a shop. Some think that it is just 'dressing windows'. Many don't even know what it is.
Kami Lai is a young creative, from Glasgow, Scotland. Having began her career in the fashion world at Glasgow Caledonian University, she decided moving to Liverpool for a specialist course would help her achieve her professional goals in Visual Merchandising. She now lives down south, having studied there for a year to gain her degree at Hugh Baird College.
We went down to Bootle in Liverpool to feast our eyes on her wonderful end of year exhibition.
The night before she unveiled her creation, Kami Lai was found scraping paint off a greyed exhibition floor. Blood, sweat and tears were invested into this project. Intertwining all she'd learnt, Lai created a Visual Merchandising presentation that was nothing short of spectacular.
Kami’s idea stemmed from her own impatience with shopping. Not all of us like to traipse around stores all day trying to find the perfect garment. What if you could go into a shop knowing exactly what your perfect garment looks like and exactly where to find it?
The strategic and well constructed layout of her design breaks down the typical high-street layout and builds a simpler, more modern process. ‘Off The Shelf’ is "Fast Fashion straight off the catwalk".
Kami ended up in supermarkets, as part of her research. She noted an intriguing difference in the way we shop in supermarkets in comparison to how we shop in retail.
“In the supermarkets, I was walking around thinking ‘this is quite handy' just picking things up and dropping them in my basket. When I went into normal retail stores and looked for a simple black dress, I ended up going round five stores not finding what I wanted. If [the retail stores] had been in a supermarket layout, I could just go look at a sign, and go to the dress section. It’s all about convenience.
She now has a folio of professional work that unlocks the door to an impressive career. Moving to Liverpool to follow her drams has proved well worth all the nerves. She reminisces about her first few days in a new city:
“At the start I’d realise I was talking too fast, and they would always call me ‘dolly’ or ‘love.’ My first day I came and just followed a crowd and ended up in the wrong room. I had to find my way around thinking ‘Where [the hell] is the toilet?’ As time goes on I’m feeling a lot more confident. I feel like I can be myself now.”
Kami's exhibition is the end-product of a challenging five-month process. For this time she was a designer, a photographer, an artist, a labourer and a printer. ‘Off The Shelf’ is just the tip of Kami's iceberg. Some could be forgiven for hearing ‘Visual Merchandising’ and seeing window displays at Harvey Nichols. While this is the route some do take after graduation, Kami isn’t one to rule out any option.
“A lot of people think it’s just a window display that we do. People don’t understand that all the photos here, we’ve done. All the models, make up, hair, we book it. You’ve got to build your own things. We’re all rounded designers. People don’t understand that. One of my friends asked me “What is a Visual Merchandiser?” I was like “Well…”
Visual Merchandising means immersing yourself into the world of the subject. It means taking every ounce of your time to research a topic and devise a visual representation which will show said topic's relevance in the modern world.
“I might go abroad. There’s a guy in Hong Kong that said he could get me into Ralph Lauren and my grandparents live there so you never know. I really wanted to go to New York and intern at Vera Wang or somewhere, Bridal really gets me. If I go Harvey Nicholls, you might see me in my window. You never know. “
Confidence is a must in a field like this, for if you don't believe in your product, then who else will? Whether it’s in Hong Kong, New York, or here in Scotland: one things for sure, Kami Lai will be somewhere combining the beautiful and the convenient to make life that little bit easier.