Jonathan Baker M.A. (UEL), M.A. (CSM) is Course Director at one of the world’s leading centres of Fashion, lecturing in Fashion Visual Merchandising & Branding and is former Chief World Expert in VM for WorldSkills.org. He produces visual research for global retailers and industry suppliers, is a freelance VM and Retail consultant with clients in China, Russia, USA, Middle East, guest speaker for commercial events, Academic External Examiner and if that’s not enough is based in LONDON. Look out for our first book, Fashion Visual Merchandising, Winter 2013 published by Bloomsbury Press
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Is there a way of unravelling toes that are so tightly curled inside expensive shoes? A whole weekend and I am still unable to unclench my buttocks too (perhaps a little too much information for you) although after an 'interesting' evening celebrating the best in the Visual Merchandising industry here in London on Friday (mercifully I was with good immediate company) however, I still am rather traumatised from the experience.
It seemed to be a kind of sinister, B movie, employee of the month celebration rather than a prestigious award ceremony. Not that I frequent places such as fast food restaurants, but on the very few occasions that I have - for research obviously - have you ever noticed those rows of photographs of staff usually framed and placed close to the counter? Employee of the month, or, in other words, how to simultaneously be a "winner and a loser". Sadly any prestige attached to these awards has long gone and possibly to the embarrassment of the recipients.
The Australian Drag Queen Vida Las Vegas (no I hadn't heard of him either) hosted the event this year. While I'm not adverse to coarse humour in the slightest, I like it to at least be amusing. With such dreadfully unfunny material (actually no material that could be even microscopically identified) it would seem that the only thing amusing about this act was actually how dreadful it all was - and even that wasn't very amusing. Parading to the UK's visual finest in a painfully cheap velour frock does not a talent make, although of course its nothing slow suffocation wouldn't have cured. The publicly humiliating walkabout - as a last resort pick-on-the-audience-strategy - completely lost us as if we hadn't already been. Thankfully we were spared any miming to CeCe Peniston hits or 'Its raining men' - hallelujah, really.
With intermittent stints from Hot Gussets vaguely amusing routines writhing in faux leopard and glitter, was cringe worthy at best. I'm not particularly au fait with celebrating the untalented, in a room full of so many genuinely talented people, in fact I find it quite insulting, significantly less than entertaining and incredibly sad that in contemporary society that we feel the need to parade our talentless in front of the talented and are expected to find it all so amusing.
While I am of course pleased to see industry colleagues, peers and so on be recognised for their hard work and so they should be, however with information provided for the event that informed us "we had the greatest number of entries ever for this years event and making the final is a great achievement" was soon shattered when it became as ever apparent that the winners were virtually the same as.......well, just about every other year. With supplier sponsored awards it appeared, at least to me, that this was more about securing and maintaining commercial contracts than celebrating the best from industry. Of course this may not be the case (yeah right) but it is at least how it appears from the outside looking in and originates from the lack of transparency (just like employee of the month scenarios) in how these outcomes are actually decided.
Are we not worth more than this? Yes we are. A lot of you in the UK VM industry think it, because an awful lot of you say it to me, but it seems no one else is prepared to say this publicly. However, it would be helpful to have a fairer system of voting for our UK visual best and some transparency in the process in deciding winners to enable those unsung hero's who perhaps are on the periphery of this industry as well as those who are not and yet never receive industry recognition, however, all make such a significant contribution. This may finally make this occasion something worth celebrating, meaningful, and we can as an industry finally be on the path to being recognised as an integral part of the visual industry that we are rather than surplus to requirements when times get tough.
In the meantime, who needs surveys, questionnaires or to reflect on the event when the so dreadfully unentertaining say it all about the (w)hole experience in just one image..........?
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