As the Visual Manager at the highly-anticipated Vancouver opening of Swedish modern-minimalist brand COS, Blanche Macdonald Global Fashion Marketing graduate and Saskatoon-native, Janelle Knihnitski has successfully circumnavigated the Vancouver fashion scene, testing fate and ambitiously pursuing her goals to land herself in this coveted role. Besides being aligned with Janelle’s values and personal aesthetic, another fulfilling aspect of life with COS is that Janelle has already had the opportunity to travel to Montreal, New York, Toronto and Miami in her new position. Maintaining this sleek and resplendent space is no easy feat, but Janelle has demonstrated she is up to the task. Enthusiastic to learn, eager to grow and excited for what’s next to come, meet Janelle Knihnitski, accomplished, adventurous and a visionary in her creative field.
As Head of Visual at COS, what does an average workday look like for you?
There isn’t really an average workday at COS because there are so many facets to the job. Your objective as a visual is to ensure the store represents the brand and is cohesive with the company globally. This can involve anything from merchandising a room and styling mannequins to using your tool kit and building window props (I’ve become very good friends with my drill). At the same time looking at the targets and re-evaluating your merchandising and making a change while working with your team on achieving visual standards.
There is a lot that goes into the job and you can take inspirations from many different resources; the website, newsletters and company documents. You want a customer to walk into a store in Vancouver and walk into a store in London and recognize that it is the same brand just in different environments. Everyday is a different adventure, which keeps you on your toes. Making it always feel new and exciting!
Becoming part of the team for this highly-anticipated store opening must have been really exciting. What were the stepping stones for you to achieve such a coveted role?
Yes it was and still is very exciting. It’s been quite a journey to get where I am now and I couldn’t be happier, it just took some time to realize my goals and what truly makes me happy at work.
I’m originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan—The Paris of the Prairies! The city is beautiful and I have wonderful friends and family there but it came to a point where I needed more. So I packed my bags and made my way to Vancouver to attend the Fashion Marketing Program at Canada’s Top Fashion School.
Once I graduated I worked my way up to management, mostly in operations. But I always found myself merchandising and helping with visuals. So I decided that if I’m going to work I might as well be doing what makes me happy. The next step was hard to do, but I decided to quit my job and start over. I had no backup plan and barely any savings. The months following were quite an adventure, you get to be pretty inventive when you don’t have a job. But it gave me the opportunity to look for a career that would make me truly happy.
So I re-started from the ground up working in visuals, I worked hard and stuck to my goals and the right people started to take notice. It gave me the confidence to take my career to the next level and find a company that I truly believed in.
Now here I am working at COS as the Visual Manager! I believe in their values, I love the clothes and the space is a dream to work with. I started in September and have gotten to travel to so many places already; I’ve gotten to see Montreal, New York, Toronto and Miami.
The opening was a lot of hard work and busy days but it was amazing. We had COS employees from all over the world coming to support us here in Vancouver to make the opening a success. Now I have friends from Canada, London, Spain, France and Austria. It’s incredible that this company invests in their employee trainings so that they can travel around the world sharing their knowledge to ensure every opening is a success. I can’t wait to see where this journey will take me, who I’m going to meet and where I’ll get to go.
I’m excited to learn, ready to grow and eager to continue on this adventure!
How did the Blanche Macdonald Career Department help you in pursuing your goals?
When you attend Blanche Macdonald you are given an opportunity to make connections with professionals in the fashion industry; [Blanche Macdonald Career Director] Mel Watts is one of those people. She was always there to help me with volunteering, where to intern and job openings.
There are a number of platforms to look for a career and sometimes it would result in a job and sometimes a wild goose chase. But when I would come back to Blanche Macdonald and reach out to Mel for a job or to do some recruiting, she would show up with her fiery red hair, make you feel supported and get the best outcome for you.
What was your favourite part of your Fashion Marketing program experience?
Any one of [Blanche Macdonald Fashion Program Director and Instructor] Peggy’s Morrison’s classes. It was such an honour to be in her classes and learn from her, she has so much knowledge and passion. I would be so excited to go to school and sit in her classes and just devour what she had to offer. Her personal experiences brought a unique insight into what she shared in class, it was naturally engaging.
How would you describe your personal style?
Minimal, considered and with an emphasis on shapes. I’m all about being comfortable (aka a fashionable potato sack), so now it’s figuring out how to take that and combine it with neutral tones, movable silhouettes and adding a becoming accessory to bring it all together.
If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life what would it be?
JK: I’m really into cropped trousers right now so I would definitely be wearing those with some clean cut sneakers, a kimono sleeved shirt and this great beige duster coat I got on sale in New York City.
What movie title best describes your life?
Thelma and Louise. I’m up for adventures, I’ll try most things once. I believe that I’m strong and I try to live in the moment for the lasting moment.
What advice would you have for someone who is just graduating?
Be kind, work hard and remember that the right people always eventually notice. Sometimes you have to wait longer for the results but it will ultimately work out. Kindness and work ethic goes a long way when there is so much hustle and bustle in the workplace.
Learn about yourself, celebrate your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses. As long as you try to work on yourself everyday or week or month, you’re on the path to your own success.
Take the time to connect; even a five-minute conversation can go a long way. It’s a chance to bond with your team members and you never know when you’ll need to rely on that connection.