Maybe you’ve seen his work on the walls of your local Zara store. Or on the mannequins in various BCBG locations. Now you can find the Blanche Macdonald Fashion Marketing grad and Master Merchandiser, Kyle Ziegenhagel creating the colourful and scented displays at LUSH Cosmetics. And not just any LUSH. EVERY LUSH. Kyle happens to be one of six members on the Visual Merchandising team at LUSH headquarters, which means that Kyle and his team have their hands full conceptualizing and creating the visual displays of over 250 LUSH stores across North America. How does he do it?! We chatted with Kyle about making the change from merchandising wearables to non-wearables, the best place he’s travelled, and what a typical day in his life is like. Step right this way and meet Kyle Ziegenhagel, Merchandising Aficionado!
You are one of six members of the LUSH Headquarters Visual Merchandising team. How many stores do you work with? How do you approach the task of merchandising for stores that are in wildly different locales?
We are responsible for the visuals in every store in North America, that’s 256 stores and growing. Oh, there are so many things to consider! The location, climate, lifestyle, and type of customer are just a few things to think about. If you consider super hot Texas, maybe they don’t take hot baths in the summer, or at all! So we’re going to push other products than bath ones. It’s the same thing as fashion. You’re not going to put winter jackets on a mannequin in LA because they don’t need winter jackets. The customer in rural Ohio shops differently than the customer in Manhattan. It’s about learning what those markets’ needs and how they shop.
Describe a typical day in your role at LUSH for us.
Oh man, every day is just so different! My main priority is to oversee all new product launches and campaign windows. That starts from the beginning stages like the concept and the idea behind it, and then once that’s settled, figuring out how that will roll into the shops and what it will look like. It’s a lot of brainstorming and mock displays and then getting the tools together to help the stores execute these ideas. When I’m not doing that, I’m travelling to different stores doing whatever is needed whether it’s setting up for a PR event, or helping with new shop openings – it’s a lot of work! Every day is different but that’s what makes it awesome and so exciting.
We’re curious – what about LUSH drew you in?
I was recruited. It definitely wasn’t something I ever thought I would do, I thought I would be in fashion forever! But as the recruiter told me about the role and the company, I started to do a bit more digging and I started to get super excited about the opportunity to be creating the tools and the directions as opposed to always following a corporate directive. I started to see how fast they were growing and what they were doing and then I learned their company ethics and that pretty much sealed it for me! The cool thing about my love of fashion is that it brought me into this business and through it, I’ve discovered a love of retail. Whether it’s clothing or cosmetics, it’s a massive industry with moving parts and so many things to consider because it’s always changing. That’s what excites me and keeps me going.
Can you compare visual merchandising tactics of LUSH’s products with the fashion and glamour from your previous roles merchandising at BCBG and Zara?
Well, the principles are the same no matter what you’re merchandising. You’re always going to be dealing with proportion, colour, balance, texture, and grouping like products that create visually appealing displays. What it boils down to is creating a customer experience within the shop. You need to know who that customer is, what they’re looking for, and how you can offer it. Zara was fast fashion. Everything was really quick with massive, massive volume. You just wanted to get the product on the floor and keep it fresh, simple and easy to shop. BCBG was a little more elevated. It was more about a luxury shopping experience. BCBG would be merchandised a bit more delicately with a bit more detail. LUSH is a lot more playful, colourful, and ‘out there’ – it’s about a fun experience.
Is there training or info from a certain class in the Fashion Marketing program you took at Blanche Macdonald that you still think of when you’re working?
Totally! When I worked in fashion, all of those fashion fundamentals came in so handy! Things like different designers, terms and fabrics allowed me to do my job so much better. Now that I’m not in fashion every day, I use the business side of it. Classes like Marketing and Visual Merchandising – those are huge for me now. I wish I would’ve paid more attention to Photoshop in class though . . . in the moment I was like “Whatever. I’m gonna be a stylist!” but it’s actually super valuable.
What was your favourite class here? Did you have a favourite teacher?
They were all great in their own way but I loooooved Styling. That’s initially what I thought I was going to do so I loved the class. In reality, the freelance world just wasn’t my thing but I was so lucky that Mel [Watts] was my teacher for Styling and my Career Director. She played a huge role in my success and really helped me once I graduated with the interview process and getting my first job. She’s just awesome.
You’re from Alberta originally so what made you decide to move to Vancouver and come to Blanche Macdonald?
I knew I wanted to go into fashion but I wanted to choose a school in a city that had a vibrant fashion scene happening. Somewhere where there were fashion events, networking opportunities, and volunteer experiences – somewhere I could get real, industry experience as well as education. I was debating between Toronto and Vancouver and in the end, I chose Vancouver because I had a cousin who went to Blanche Macdonald for Makeup and Hair and she spoke so highly of it. That kinda sealed the deal for me.
Did you have any concerns about moving provinces to go to school?
Yeah of course! After graduating high school and coming from a small city it was pretty nerve-wracking to move and not know anyone. I found that pretty quickly the nervousness changed to excitement as soon as I started meeting people with similar interests and making friends who had the same passions.
When you’re not working, where can we find you?
Travelling! Somewhere hot and tropical hopefully! If I’m in Vancouver, I’ll be at the beach or at a restaurant with my friends.
What are the 3 most important skills you need to do your job?
This is a hard one! Problem-solving is massive, I have to be able to think on my feet. Good communication and organizational skills would be the other two probably.
Your mantra is ?
“Be careful of the toes you step on today because they might be connected to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.” My mom taught me that when I was young and it’s always stuck with me! You’re not always gonna get along with everyone and maybe you’d do things differently but there has to be that respect there. You just never know – it’s a small industry!
What is your favourite thing about LUSH?
Above anything else, the really awesome people. I’m lucky that LUSH treats their employees really well. They’ve created a really positive environment that values their employees and their creativity. You’re rewarded for thinking outside the box which is so nice and can be rare. LUSH pushes people to grow in different ways which is so cool.
Any Merchandising tips you can share?
The most important thing is to land on a direction or message or story and keep the display focused. If you try to say too many things, you’ll end up saying nothing and confusing the customer. Keep it focused and clean.
What’s your favourite place you’ve travelled with LUSH?
That’s so hard to pick! New York is always amazing. I’ve been to London for meetings quite a bit which is so fun. It’s cool because I’ve been to cities that I may never have chosen to go to like Dallas, Atlanta, and Washington, DC that were really, really neat! I’m lucky enough that I can say I’ve been to pretty much every major city in North America.