Retail display is an art form. Your shop window, shop floor, brochure and website should exude creativity and your brand style. Olivia Gregory is a master of this art. The London based freelance creative director and stylist has provided her expertise in interiors, prop styling, set design and retail design for some of the biggest department stores and style & fashion publications.
Andrew Moore of Shopfitting Warehouse caught up with Olivia to talk about life as a stylist and tips that retailers and visual merchandisers can apply to their own displays.
Olivia, tell me how you became a creative director and stylist?
My mum was an interior designer and I remember tearing out the pages of her copies of The World of Interiors from a young age. I had always loved make believe and theatre and did some work experience with a theatre designer. I then decided to train in set and costume design at Central St Martins. After this I went on to intern at Wallpaper magazine* assisting stylists here. My 5 month stint here confirmed for me how much I liked creating temporary imaginary worlds, the pace of the magazine world, the magic of the world through a lens. I did one issue for a very small fashion/interiors mag but I got the cover shot to work with. This helped me a few months later when I found myself in the legendary Vogue House and was given a chance to style the pages of House and Garden magazine. I stayed there for 8 years!
What projects have you been working on recently?
It’s been quite a mix. A particularly interesting project was a fashion shoot in Ireland for BHLDN. The ideas were bold, dramatic and dreamy and we shot in beautiful moss covered forest and an ancient castle. I’ve also been shooting for Liberty and working with their new fabrics for interiors. So much pattern and colour.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Anything and everything! Nature, antiques, textiles, travel, photography, fashion, films, music videos… The list could go on.
What do you love most about your job?
I love coming up with concepts and the satisfaction that comes from seeing it come together. There always seems to be a little magic to it. I love the variety of people I meet, from the photographers to the designers, and people that make it happen.
What are the difficulties of your job and how do you overcome them?
As much as it’s a creative job there are a lot of logistical and practical difficulties; it can be stressful. The only way to cope is by making the most of your team, working through the problems and believing that it always works out for the best in the end….
Which piece of work are you most proud of?
I am still very proud of the fabric shoots I used to do abroad while I was at House and Garden. Particularly one we did in Namibia, in the sand-filled rooms of Kolmanskop. Seeing out a project like this from conception to the final shots is very rewarding.
What is your creative process after receiving a brief?
It really depends on the brief. There is always some visual research but for me it is very important to sketch out my ideas. It helps me work out what is needed, what can be edited and helps me see the bigger picture.
What advice would you give to aspiring independent retailers on retail display?
I find retail display very inspiring and often find myself stopping in the streets to take a picture of a shop window. The windows that stand out for me are often the most surprising ones. I would say it is a good idea to be very open as to where you take your inspiration from and to be brave & bold, and not necessarily focus on what would supposedly appeal to the masses.
You can see more of Olivia’s work on her website www.oliviagregory.com
Take a look at how Olivia used 4ft heavy duty clothes rails from Shopfitting Warehouse for an extravagant fashion display in Elle Decoration magazine.
Olivia’s umbrella photoshoot in Vietnam, photos taken by House and Garden Magazine photographer, John Mason.