It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, thanks to Dominican University’s fashion department. Students in the retail promotion and visual merchandizing class decorated storefronts for four local shops in the grand tradition of holiday window displays.
The class was split into four groups and assigned to work with their designated retailer, three in Oak Park and one in Forest Park. With a budget of $100, the groups were tasked with creating displays with a cohesive theme in line with the stores’ aesthetic. Concept boards were made by every student. Associate professor Melissa Fernandez Carr chose the strongest concept for each group, which became the basis for their project.
The size of the groups correlated with the surface area of the windows. Seven worked on displays for Epyk Luxury in Forest Park, while only a pair of students were responsible for the side window of Oak Park’s Ten Thousand Villages. The remaining two groups worked with Sugar Fixe bakery and Jayne boutique in downtown Oak Park. All groups were expected to satisfy the wishes of the retailers as well as the project requirements.
“It’s exciting to see the hard work they put in,” said Carr.
The three shops in Oak Park make for great window shopping as all are located on Marion Street, but don’t forget to check out Epyk Luxury, 7446 Madison St. The group assigned to the Forest Park retailer created a winter wonderland display across two large windows.
“I want it to bring smiles to everybody’s faces,” said sophomore Chloe Cabrales of her group’s display.
Cabrales served as project lead for her group, which meant she handled all communication between the group and Epyk Luxury staff. This project served as the first time Cabrales had ever created a display for an actual store. Her group’s collaborative spirit proved to be Cabrales’ favorite part of the entire assignment.
“It was just really powerful to see creative minds work together,” she said.
The secular winter wonderland consists of cotton draped over the windowsills to look like freshly fallen snow. Fairy lights twinkle on the support structures, while artificial flurries sit atop wrapped boxes and garlands. Keeping things chilly, Epyk Luxury employees dressed the mannequins in jackets and coats.
“I’m definitely considering doing like visual merchandising as a career, so it was kind of like a steppingstone to my future a little bit,” Cabrales said.
Glitz and glamor took center stage over at Jayne, 122 N. Marion St., where students highlighted the sequined holiday dresses on display with all white décor. The end result of the semester-long project is a point of pride for junior Madison Creamer, who initially battled some nervousness over the assignment.
“I’m proud of myself and everyone else in our group. Even though I was scared to do it, I still did it,” Creamer said. “And it turned out exactly the way I expected it to, and it was great.”
Senior Kathryn Greenlea and her partner kept things cozy at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade shop at 121 N. Marion St. In their corner window, the pair created a fireplace and rug scene that complemented the Christmas tree displayed in the main window, which was put together by the store’s staff.
“They definitely took what they’ve learned in their merchandising class to make a really cohesive display that kind of told the story,” Ten Thousand Villages shop director Megan Sliz said of the student duo.
Greenlea had an edge on other groups when it came to communicating with her group’s retailer. She is a part-time employee at Ten Thousand Villages, where she handles some of the shop’s marketing and sales. The project allowed her to use those skills in an academic setting, while working closely with her partner.
The students in charge of the Sugar Fixe windows embraced the passage of time, rather than one particular season. The transition of fall to winter served as the concept for the bakery, 119 N. Marion St., with one side of the window devoted to fallen leaves and rich autumnal colors. The other side makes for a wintry dream, with ornaments, presents and seasonal Sugar Fixe treats.
“It’s kind of like seeing a story as you walk around the building,” said project lead Virdiana Delgado, who will graduate from the university this month.
Upon completion of the project, the entire class met outside the shops to see the window displays in all their glory. This was not only a fun and festive unveiling after months of work, but an opportunity for students to receive feedback from their peers and their professor. The students will be able to include the project in their portfolios, which they will use to find employment after completing their studies.
“They gave the stores what they were looking for, so I’m really excited for them to have that real world experience,” said Carr.