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Autumn on display

New season's wares always bring new display challenges. Drapers talks to visual merchandising experts and retailers for tips to make the most of autumn's looks

METALLICS Alison Fairley

Director, Visual Brand Matters, with clients including Bank and Gap

"Metallic will continue as one of the biggest trends, because it has been shown by the vast majority of designers. Opposites definitely do attract, with metallic jacquards, satins, silks and jerseys evident in sporty casual right the way through to eveningwear.

"I think the key to merchandising this trend is to be really precise with how the ranges are grouped through product segmentation. When metallic is grouped together en-masse, it makes it very difficult to differentiate individual pieces and fails to inspire confidence in consumers to know how to wear it.

"I think metallic is best treated as a design theme, to showcase the different product categories and end uses available. It can be teamed with denim in casual and with silks in occasionwear."

Karl McKeever

Brand director, Visual Thinking, with clients including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's and Oasis

"For autumn, the metallic story takes in copper and bronze shades as well as the more usual gold and silver palette, so I think that the best way to approach it is to find ways to maximise it and bring all the colours together into an area full of shimmering, gleaming effect.

"Some retailers will want to go in that direction, grouping everything shiny, PVC and patent together into a themed look. But others will prefer something bolder and more dynamic, putting metallic pieces together with black denim or chunky black tights.

"Metallics are often synthetic fabrics, which means they can look quite shabby if they are not well maintained. Pressing is important, and loose threads should be snipped off to keep a high-gloss feel."

Deryane Tadd

Owner of The Dressing Room in St Albans

"I decided not to buy into the silver story and focused on a gold and bronze palette instead, with mini dresses, tunics and smocks at the fore. It looks much fresher and will give the store a point of difference.

"I also think it's too obvious to sit silver alongside grey - another key colour for the autumn - which is how a lot of retailers will merchandise the look. Gold and bronze will work just as well with the grey knitwear and wide-leg trousers I've ordered.

"I have also bought into some chocolate brown pieces to accommodate the tastes of customers who don't like wearing grey. This will be a perfect match for the gold."

CHUNKY KNITS

Alison Fairley

Company director, Visual Brand Matters

"As with all key trends, it's so important to give consumers ideas and confidence on how to wear the look. If chunky knits are the new coat, they must be displayed in this way. It should be about layering; long-sleeved shirts and T-shirts worn under chunky short-sleeved knits, accessorised with wide belts and scarves

"The weight of these items means they don't lend themselves to hangers, while folding may make take them from chunky to just plain bulky. Instead, laying them flat on a table shows off any detailing and maintains form, but keeps densities minimal."

Karl McKeever

Brand director, Visual Thinking

"One of the main challenges in this category is the weight of the garments. If chunky knits are hung on the wrong hangers they can become misshapen or even drag on the ground, so it is essential to use well-formed, shouldered hangers to retain their shape. Alternatively, tissue paper padding can be used to give form and spread the weight of the garments.

"On mannequins, chunky knitwear can sometimes lack shape so poseable mannequins can be used to gather and tuck the fabric. 'Show me how' imagery is a good way to show customers how to wear the look."

Anna Park

Founder of womenswear boutique Anna, with stores in London and East Anglia

"Chunky knits tend to be long, so you are limited on rail space if you use double rails. Also, if you hang them there is the danger that they will stretch, so folding is definitely recommended.

"The problem with this is that no one ever picks up anything that is folded unless they're in Benetton, but we are very customer friendly so we do all the unfolding and refolding for people.

"We have bought heavily into chunky knits for autumn, especially sleeveless or short-sleeved versions in light grey, oatmeal, pale shell pink and purple. I'm hoping our customers will buy into the trend early in the season and wear them in layers. I have slashed the amount of coats I've bought into for autumn, because I think knits will be used much more as coats this season.

"In terms of display, we tend to use every possible surface. For instance, in our King's Road store in London, we have a leather chair, long blanket box and a shelved dresser over which we drape and fold pieces. We always merchandise by colour, and usually in complete looks. For us, the point is to make life as easy as possible for our customers, so we always put complete outfits with the knits, as we would with coats."

LEATHER

Alison Fairley

Company director, Visual Brand Matters

"Forget the shapeless leather jacket - this season's leather is all about extreme tailoring. With fantastic detailing such as nipped-in waists and cap sleeves, these items need to be displayed as a statement piece on a mannequin, with understated extras and not too many accessories.

"There's no doubt that black will be a bestseller. For the more basic styles, interest can be created through clever co-ordination with more colourful ranges."

Karl McKeever

Brand director, Visual Thinking

"This look seems to be predominantly focused on black, so the key visual merchandising difficulty is in creating highlights of depth and tone.

"Contrast backgrounds can be used to give a 3D effect, and if the product is displayed on mannequins, clever lighting can help to create shadows and definition. Black on black can look very sophisticated if shadows are created between the mannequins. However, it's vital that product is grouped carefully to show all the different shapes to their best effect."

Lyn Gardner

Owner of The Square womenswear boutique in Bath

"Leather will be a huge story for autumn 07. I'm sure that leather jackets will garner the same kind of interest that handbags are generating at the moment - customers will never have enough because they're great investment pieces.

"We've bought into the heavenly second-skin styles from Prada through to more directional pieces by Rick Owens. To highlight the significance of the trend, we're planning to give the mannequin-dominated display area in the store over to the leather theme."

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