2005 Fashion Marketing graduate Bart Adriaensen talks to us about his career in visual merchandising.
What are you working on at the moment?
I currently work as a visual manager for a Belgian clothing retailer, overseeing the visual strategy for 145 stores in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. My main objective is to drive sales and strengthen the brand, through commercial presentation and activation of the collections at our off-line points of sale, i.e. brick-and-mortar stores.
What did you do after Regent's?
I graduated from Regent's in 2005. After a short stint as a production assistant to Belgian designer Bruno Pieters, I joined Swedish fast fashion retailer H&M as a visual merchandiser. I've worked as a visual merchandiser ever since, at different strategic levels, from store-based, to regional visual merchandiser, to the conceptual work that I do now.
Tell us about your future plans.
The challenge facing the company that I work for is quite a large one. Due to the rise of online sales and with the competition becoming fiercer, retail has become increasingly tough, including in Europe. In order for the company I work for to be ready for the future, we have tweaked our strategy. We've moved away from process-based developments, and we only do things for our customer base – which we have now clearly defined.
This approach has impacted the organisation of the company, and I am overseeing the transition for my department. It's a great challenge which allows me to use the expertise I've acquired throughout my career in visual merchandising. At the same time, I am in a position that allows me to use my creativity in finding visual merchandising solutions to the challenges we face as a company. Eventually, I hope to expand my expertise even further, and set up a consultancy to help retail businesses which are going through these kind of transitions.
What's your fondest memory of Regent's?
I still have very fond memories of the time I was writing my thesis. This was during spring 2005, and the weather was lovely. I would read and write in our design studio, amidst my friends who were running around preparing for their graduate fashion show. I remember that I used to always bring in strawberries for everyone. I read somewhere that the green seeds are slightly radioactive, and they could help focus and concentration. I was always looking out for the well-being of my friends!
What would you say to current students or graduates starting out in their careers in fashion?
I would say to make sure to acquire as much hands-on experience during your time at university. This will help you get a head start in an industry that moves at an incredibly fast pace and has no intention of slowing down. Regent's prepared me well, but you must also know that your education does not stop after graduation. That's when you start acquiring skills specific to the job or industry you are working in. It may take some trying before you know which direction to push yourself into. Trust your gut, I would say, and grab the opportunities when they present themselves.