Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Native Creative #1: Kristine Casillas

As someone who grew up here in Orange County, I always felt that we got lost between our big neighbors, Los Angeles and San Diego, but we have so much to offer! Now more than ever, Orange County is really thriving with creativity. We are more than beaches and Disneyland. New restaurants, shopping areas, galleries, art walks, and more have made Orange County a worthy destination!

I thought it might be fun to start a semi-regular feature where I interview creative people working and/or living in Orange County. These people might be designers, shop owners, chefs, photographers, and more. Let's get to know our neighbors! At the end of each interview, I will ask the person to share some of their favorite spots in OC to help add to the growing roster of things to see and do.

My first interview is with Kristine Casillas, a Visual Merchandiser at Anthropologie. She currently works in their new South Coast Plaza store. Before joining the team at Anthropologie, she spent 6 years doing visuals at H&M at the Beverly Center. And before that, she spent 3 years at Saks Fifth Avenue in Mission Viejo. 

Kristine is actually one of my best friends, so maybe I kind of cheated having her be my first interview. But she is seriously one of the most badass chicks I know! When one of us has an idea for something we want to make, like a wedding centerpiece, or something we want to make for our homes, and we are aren't sure where to start, Kristine is always the one knows exactly what we need to do. We put her in charge of all projects where we need things to look good. She is the trusted one who showed up at all our weddings before guests arrived to make sure everything was exactly the way we envisioned. I swear, if you gave her some dental floss, floral wire, a box, and some glue, she could MacGuyver you a boat to get off a deserted island.

Introduce yourself!

Howdy, my name is Kristine and I'm a Visual Manager at Anthropologie. I think a lot of people would say that doing visuals at Anthropologie would be a dream job!  I would agree with those people. I've been doing visuals for many moons, and working for Anthropologie is the bees knees! The creative freedom we have is pretty rad! As a Visual Manager, my job is to think creatively, inspire my team, and push the envelope when it comes to displays and merchandising. I also send a million emails, budget, and spend entire days planning for windows and other displays.

You guys have to get really down and dirty doing what you do. I'm talking power tools and more. What else do you do? 

Every store has a DC (Display Coordinator), who are real "down and dirty" craftsmen (or women). Together, the DC and I come up with window and display concepts, and she does most of the constructing for our displays. I help, of course. We use your basic power tools (chop saw, jigsaw, drills and nail guns), but we also get to use fun stuff like crockpots for melting tons of wax, chicken wire (for just about everything), wood burning tools, blow torches, and a lot of dye.

Using natural, organic materials is very important to the company. It's all about how we manipulate them. Our current windows show just that - we've dyed rocks and wheat and displayed them in a pretty interesting way.

No one is an expert at everything but everyone who works for Anthropologie is an expert at something. Whether its sculpting, sewing, knitting or painting, we all have something to bring to the table... and if there's something we dont know how to do, YouTube usually has a demo to teach us. We usually go home covered in sawdust, brightly dyed fingers, and plenty of bruises.

Your job requires you not just to be a store decorator, but a merchandiser too. Tell me more about that. 

Merchandising is what I do most of the day. I have a Merchandiser too. Together, we are responsible for merchandising our apparel and home goods in a way that will inspire our customer to dress herself and her home.

We first separate the apparel and home goods into different concepts. Each concept represents a different customer, usually a "bohemian" type and some sort of "preppy-with-a-vintage-twist" type. Each girl has a unique story to tell, and this is my favorite part - telling her story. We brainstorm and think about who each girl is, what music she listens to, her favorite blogs, where she lives, what she might do for a living. We actually get to spend our day researching different blogs and magazines to get inspiration! Sometimes a movie or an artist is our inspiration.

Once the clothes come in, we decide who would wear it and place into that concept. We then create color stories based on a "narrator" (that key item that she would totally wear), then merchandise the apparel to create outfits for you to buy! Then we add the last layer... accessories, books, candles and plants go into each concept.

Then finally, we dress our forms. We try very hard to be very creative in the way we style our forms. I try to make you rethink how you can wear something. I bet you didn't know how much thought and work went into merchandising!

Store displays change quickly. Is your job pretty fast-paced? 

Very. I work 5 days a week from 6am - 3pm. 3 of the 5 days we receive new apparel; new apparel that has to be merchandised the same day. That means we're constantly moving things around, changing things up and I usually only have from 6am to 10am to do the majority of it.

Our windows and indoor displays are a little different. Once they are set up, they don't change for about 6-8 weeks, but they take that long to install from concept to prototype to actual installation. So once one is installed, we're already conceptualizing the next one.

As the Visual Manager, I am responsible for creating and sticking to timelines. Planning is my middle name, which is funny because in my personal life I'm more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" type!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? 

I don't think school is essential, but it can help. Most people who do what I do started sales associates with a "flare for fashion."  If that's you, then I suggest you talk to your store's Visual Manager and ask to be put on projects and apparel moves, learn how to merchandise, then work your ass off impressing your visual team. If you are in school, then apply for an internship. We use interns all the time. Another idea is to talk to small boutique owners (especially around Christmas) about doing their windows. If you can come up with a fairly inexpensive and creative window concept, they'll probably say yes! Then you will have something to start your portfolio.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not beautifying stores? 

When I'm not beautifying stores, I'm focusing on my 3 kids. I love throwing over-the-top themed birthday parties. I craft for my home and friends too. I'm a bit of a hoarder, so I frequent flea markets and yard sales. I'm trying to revive my sewing skills next. I actually have a degree in fashion design, so it's about time I start putting it to use.

What would be your dream life? 

My dream life?! I'd be a lady of leisure, traveling the world, collecting treasures for one of my many homes, while being intoxicated. (I laughed at this)

I'd be pretty happy being a set designer for a rad show like Mad Men.

Anthropologie has this guy who travels the world buying one of a kind art and furniture (all that amazing old furniture in our stores are from awesome places like belgium circa 1870)... I'd like to have his job.

And maybe one day, I'd like to own my very own children's boutique.

Can you share some of your favorite local Orange County spots?

My favorite places to eat in OC are Memphis, Bruxie, TK Burgers, and that place we get nachos for your birthday! (El Progreso in Lake Forest. Formerly Carmel's).  I love shopping at the Orange Circle. Santa Ana has a cool little artsy fartsy area too.

Thanks Kristine!


Rachael said...

Love this feature!

OT and ET said...

Love! Anthropologie gets everything spot-on it's interesting to see how much heart and soul and planning and energy goes into a store!

Victoria said...

This is awesome, Kelly! I am sharing it with MY Visual Merchandiser now. What a cool feature - loooove your blog!