Students’ window displays selected for the high street

Students’ window displays selected for the high street

skillVM 2011 winners announced

The best up-and-coming visual merchandisers in the UK have been announced at the live window dressing competition, skillVM.

The competition saw eight teams battle it out in a live competition to be named skillVM 2011 champions and for a chance to have their designs recreated in a London store this summer.

The hugely competitive and close-run event was held at the In-Store Show in London’s Olympia on Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th June. The results were benchmarked against official WorldSkills UK levels, with the following outcome:

Advanced category:

Gold – Melissa Dunne and Jenna Stephenson, Liverpool Community College

Bronze – Jazz Boustany and Elizabeth Sampson, City College Brighton and Hove

Highly Commended – Patrick Broderick and Charlotte Fox, East Berkshire College

Higher category:

Gold – Lai Chi Ho and Wakana Murata, London College of Fashion

Silver – Hollie Keirl and Lauren Ellam, West Cheshire College

Bronze – Olivia Watts and Rebecca Dwyer, Hugh Baird College, Liverpool

The gold winners will have their designs recreated this summer in two windows at Peter Jones in Sloane Square, London, with the help of their team of visual merchandising professionals.

Steven Dempsey, skillVM judge and Visual Merchandising and Marketing Manager for Peter Jones, the landmark Chelsea branch of John Lewis department stores, said: “Congratulations to the Gold winning teams. Both of these teams successfully combined artistic flair with technical skills and commercial awareness – just what is needed to be a good visual merchandiser. We look forward to having the two teams in store re-creating their designs in our windows and I am sure our customers will enjoy the displays. The standard of entries was really high and it is a huge achievement for these students.”

The contestants’ journey to the final launched back in March, when they had to submit their initial designs on the themes colour blocking or extraordinary from the ordinary. The shortlisted teams then had to build scale models of their windows at the heats in May. The top four teams in each category were selected to attend the final and transform their designs into a full-scale window display.

To ensure the finalists’ experience was similar to a professional visual merchandisers’ job, the teams were given a budget of £200 to source materials and just four hours to install their displays. To add to the pressure, they had to work under the full gaze of the judges and retail industry insiders at the final.

skillVM head judge Alan Westcott said: “This has been a fantastic competition and once again we have shown the extensive visual merchandising talent present in the UK.  Each of the students should be extremely proud of themselves. Their designs have successfully progressed from their initial sketches to the professional full-scale displays we have seen at the final. And at the final they have worked against the clock which is never easy, and also produced their displays in front of their peers and industry professionals.

Handing out the awards, Chair of Skillsmart Retail, Martin Beaumont told the audience: “Visual merchandising is at the heart of retail. A good shop window has the power to stop a passer-by and attract them into a shop. Especially in today’s difficult times, retail needs visual merchandising more than ever. skillVM is the perfect way to promote these skills and showcase the importance of visual merchandising in retail.”

Advanced category gold medalist, Melissa Dunne said: “It is amazing to win, we are so happy. We were confident with our design but the competition was so strong that we didn’t expect to win.”

Higher category gold medalist, Chi Ho Lai said: “It’s great to get gold! Last year we won silver, so it is good to know we have improved.  I’m leaving college at the end of the year and am looking forward to getting a job in visual merchandising as it is definitely my passion.”

skillVM was created in 2008 by Skillsmart Retail, the Sector Skills Council for Retail, to show off the wealth of talent within retail, which remains the UK’s largest private sector employer with 2.8 million employees.

Full competition details, images from skillVM and more information can be found


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