DDi - February/March 2012 - (Page 12)
12 | Newsworthy
Eric Feigenbaum wins DDI Markopoulos Award
who developed the Planning and Visual Education Partnership (PAVE), an organization that supports design students through its fundraisers and annual design competition. He has also taught at New York’s LIM College for 12 years, and in 2003 was asked to create and chair their visual merchandising department—home to the first-ever, four-year visual merchandising degree program. In addition to his chair position at LIM, he is currently the New York Editor for VMSD Magazine and president of his own design company, Embrace Design. Read on for a Q&A with this year’s Markopoulos Award winner, Eric Feigenbaum. How did you get started in the design profession? I graduated from York College of the City University of New York with a degree in fine arts. I had no idea there was even something called visual merchandising—I just knew I wanted a career related to the arts. I found an entry-level position as a display trimmer for E.J. Korvette. I was soon promoted to branch store visual merchandising manager. I left to join Stern’s in the same capacity, and was soon promoted to regional coordinator, and then to corporate director of visual merchandising. My design career took off from that point with 14 years at Stern’s, and then continuing as the first visual merchandising director at WalkerGroup/CNI. In your career, what has inspired you as a designer? Successful retail designers have their finger on the pulse of society and the rhythm of our culture. As such, I’ve been inspired by two things: current events, and classical and contemporary art. As a designer, I believe a retail environment should be timeless and universal. I’ve always liked to take traditional elements and give them a contemporary twist to fit into the culture of the day. What is the value of visual in the overall retail landscape?
With concern about the economy, my students often ask about their future in visual merchandising. My response is that they are entering the field at exactly the right time. More and more, retailers are turning to visual merchandising to revive and refresh their selling centers, and to project their brand image to the targeted customer. Visual merchandising has gone from the basement studio to the executive boardroom. It’s an integral component of any retail strategy, and it must be factored into the early stages of the design process. What is the greatest challenge you have experienced to date in your work? I’ve learned that conducting business overseas is a learned skill. Our business partners are no longer up the street—in many cases, they’re across the world. Wherever I have worked, the design process always began with a two-week cultural immersion. Before pencil met paper, an understanding of the client, their customer and their culture was vital. While this may seem challenging, preparing for the complexities of a global society is also extremely rewarding. We must— not merely as retailer designers, but as human beings—embrace, welcome and understand cultures other than our own. Who are your role models/mentors in the retail design field? I have been very fortunate to have had Larry Israel, the former chair of WalkerGroup/CNI, as my mentor. Larry was an iconic figure in retail design, having designed stores since the 1950s. I look to the lessons learned under Larry’s tutelage as the foundation of my store design career. I was also fortunate to have worked closely with Steven Bergquist during my days at Federated. Steven had a great understanding of retail space and knew how to manipulate it for maximum usage. I’ve also been inspired by many of my current colleagues, as well. They include Ralph Pucci—who has an incredible penchant for pushing people to the limits of their talent—Jack Hruska, Ignaz Gorischek, Christine
very year, DDI Magazine presents one outstanding industry professional with the prestigious Markopoulos Award, an honor named after the late visual merchandising legend Andrew Markopoulos. This year, Eric Feigenbaum was given the peer-awarded honor. Feigenbaum began his career in 1986 as corporate director of visual merchandising for Stern’s Department Stores. Nine years later, he went on to become the first director of visual merchandising for the architectural firm WalkerGroup/CNI, where he was involved in the design of stores all over the world. Throughout his career, he has made a point to contribute to the future of the industry. He was part of a small group of industry professionals
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