Meet Laura Avey, Visual Merchandiser and Illustrator for fashion at Harrods. Laura studied at BA Fashion Illustration (now BA (Hons) Fashion Imaging and Illustration) at LCF, and 5 years after graduation, she tells us about her career journey so far.
Hi Laura! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. How’s everything going ?
No problem! Everything is going well – we are currently winding down from a few very hectic weeks in the VM team at Harrods, so I’m enjoying the slightly quieter time while it lasts, as it never lasts for very long before we are preparing for the next busy period.
Could you give us a little introduction of yourself and your current line of work? What does day to day look like for you?
I studied BA Fashion Illustration at LCF after doing an art foundation at my local art college.I was never really too sure what I wanted to end up doing but I always was super creative and have had always had real love for fashion. No day is ever the same in my current role at Harrods.
We do everything from designing, planning and styling our own schemes, to overseeing brand installs from anything from Rag & Bone to Chanel. It’s a real mixed bag but at the end of the day my job is to keep the store looking as great as possible through the means of displays!
I also illustrate on the side, this can be specific to VM (like drawing artwork that then becomes a printed prop) or can be used for a promotion by another team in the store like events.
What do you find most challenging about your job? Equally, what do you enjoy the most?
The job definitely has its rewards, stepping back and looking at a display you’ve designed on the computer, to then seeing it live on the shop-floor with customers stopping to take photos is great. Unfortunately, as soon as you step back and appreciate your work, you then need to start planning the next scheme! Juggling all projects at the same time can be a challenge, especially as we work so far in advance! We can be dealing with six different brands’ pop-up installs, as well as starting to talk about Christmas installs for the next year when we are in the peak of summer!
You’ve shifted slightly into Visual Merchandising – how did that come about?
I went on to become a Visual Merchandiser for the M&S store in Westfield straight after I finished my LCF course, right round the corner from Lime Grove! I actually started working before I officially graduated, so ended up taking time off to do so! I spent a year at M&S where I learnt all the basics of display. A year later I felt it was time I moved on, and actually had several interviews with different teams within Harrods before I was eventually successful in gaining a position with the fashion VM team. I have now been here for four years covering everything from childrenswear to sportswear to womenswear.
I was also lucky enough to have my illustration work recognised and had a role created especially for me at Harrods. I am the only ‘Visual Merchandiser & Illustrator’ within the business which is a great achievement.
My work can be used to show how a proposed area may look for a scheme we are proposing to physically being printed and displayed throughout the store and social media channels. It’s very exciting and means my role is incredibly varied!
What encouraged your career in Illustration?
As I said previously, I’ve always been really creative and loved drawing. Attending LCF was always a dream of mine, so when I found the course that combined both, I knew I had to apply. Three years of drawing every day was great, you really begin to see improvement within your work.
What career options are there for someone looking to go into Illustration?
I think the options are open and hugely varied. I gained my job with the skills I had learnt in the varied modules from the Uni course, even thought it meant I wasn’t actually illustrating.
There are obviously illustration specific roles, but illustration slots into lots of areas that you might not necessarily think of. There is still a real love for hand drawn artwork and designs!
You’re an alumna of LCF – how would you describe your experience?
The people you come across at university are like no other! Being within a creative environment really encourages you to go outside your comfort zone. The stories and experiences the tutors bring to their work and teachings is amazing.
Why did you choose LCF?
There was no other option, LCF is the place you go to study Fashion. If i didn’t go to LCF, I wasn’t going anywhere!
What’s your top piece of advice for a current student looking to pursue a career in illustration?
I also would say to keep drawing, tell and show people your drawings, as you never know what might happen. My work was seen by the right person within the business and it lead to where i am now, you never know who is looking!