Every morning on my way to work I drive past Mitchells sneaking a glance at the windows to see what’s new. When the new displays are up, it’s a skillful balance between taking in the splendor and not rear-ending the guy in front of me. For the past eight years the bold, graphic displays at Westport’s mother ship have provided a splash of fresh scenery to an otherwise ordinary commute. Today I got the opportunity to meet with Mitchells’ Visual Director Kristin Tichy to find out the details on what inspires her and how she makes it all happen.
Kristin went to school for fashion merchandising and psychology and has been with Mitchells for the last fourteen years. She oversees the visuals and displays for Mitchells, Richards and Marshs. Her staff of five plays a big role in helping her get it all done without a hitch.
What do you love most about what you do?
The fact that it’s different everyday; windows, signage, floor moves. I love keeping the store exciting for our customers.
What is your process for the window installations?
Everything is produced in-house. We determine our color story or theme then use Adobe Illustrator to design everything to scale. From there we create the graphics, logos, quotes on a vinyl machine. When we are ready to install the new displays, we pull merchandise from the floor to use in the windows. It takes about a week to complete the windows in both Mitchells and Richards. For Marshs the whole team travels there, and we can accomplish everything in one day.
How far in advance do you begin prepping for the holiday season?
We install our fall windows in August. Holiday displays are planned out about four months in advance.
When are the installations done?
Most of the time we do the windows during working hours. Our customers are interested in what we are doing and sometimes they like to stop and watch. The holiday windows are more elaborate, so we work after-hours with music turned up!
Sources of inspiration
Magazines, nature, the design on a piece of clothing in the store. Each season we meet as a team and brainstorm ideas, I like hearing ideas from everyone. We also work with a lot of talented artists and galleries; Amy Simon Fine Art and Appleton Art in Westport, and Weber Fine Art in Greenwich and with an artist named Karen Riley.
Valentine’s Day from a few years ago; it was really graphic with lips and hearts. For fall one year we did these sweeping trees and had wooden swings hanging, which was a fun one. We never duplicate our displays; I don’t want anyone to say they’ve seen it before.
Sometimes we design dresses using different materials such as newspaper, tissue, or packing foam. One year a customer asked to buy a dress in the window at Richards not realizing it wasn’t a real dress but one we made of tissue.
Something we didn’t know
We use a solution of water and baby shampoo to apply the vinyl decals in the windows. It’s slippery so we can easily move them around until they are in the right position. We use a spray bottle to apply it so at least one of us usually spends the day smelling like a baby.
An idea that didn’t work
We were creating a Christmas tree display in the entrance of Mitchells for the holidays. We had six trees ranging from six feet to nine feet. The team spent about six hours setting them up, and when I looked at it I remember thinking, this looks like we’re selling Christmas trees! It was too much, so we ended up taking one down and rearranged the rest.
What size are the clothes on the displays?
Women’s usually a size 4 or 6 for the windows, size 2 for floor displays. Men’s either a 40 or 40 long. The clothes are never damaged on the displays, so they are usually returned to the floor afterward.
Cucinelli and Vince. I love coats and boots; they are my splurges because they last. My favorite boots are the ones I’m wearing—metallic silver booties from Very Volatile.
Key pieces and comfort. I have to be able to move displays, shelving, mannequins…can’t wear heels at this job.
A really long camel Burberry coat.
To work with children or possibly as a doula. After I had my daughter, Scarlett, two years ago I thought I would be good at helping other women with childbirth.
My daughter is always with me. If I have to work an event, my daughter comes to the store with me. She sits in her Ergobaby Carrier on my back while I move fixtures around the store. Everyone wants me to stop so they can talk and play with her but because I have to work to we keep moving!
Disorganization. I am very organized; everything has to be put away where it goes. I’m constantly asking my staff to clean up and get things organized.
I live in Sandy Hook on a lake so we spend a lot of time boating in the summer. I love being outside and with my daughter.
670 Post Road East, Westport
359 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich