Michelle Kyle kickstarted her career in VM at Urban Outfitters and later moved to sister company Anthropologie, where she currently holds the role of district visual manager. Here, Kyle talks creativity, collaborations and Christmas.
RF. What attracted you to Anthropologie?
MK. I loved the ethos. A strong, stylish, independent female who is well travelled, cultured and aspires to be different. The product offered is unique, crafted and eclectic. There is no other brand that is quite like it. The store experience is captivating, as you enter you are transported. From the burning scents of the candles, considered product curation, handmade display installations and its attention to detail, there are many discovery moments as you move through an Anthropologie store.
RF. As the District Visual Manager at Anthropologie Europe, where do you spend the majority of your time?
MK. I am based in London. Part of my role involves travelling across the UK visiting stores and project managing our in-house creative teams. My role is guiding our creative teams to create the right balance of creativity vs. commerciality with VM styling, product placement and display. I also work closely with the Display Manager to support with window displays, designing new fixture builds and installations throughout the stores. When I’m not travelling I have meetings with the buyers in head office to forward-plan new season set ups and also allow some time for creative research and inspiration.
RF. Each store has its own creative workshop for producing fixtures and props. Why is this important to the brand?
MK. This is fundamental to the creativity for the brand. Each Anthropologie store is unique and has its own sense of identity. We are fortunate that our talented creative teams all have backgrounds in art, design, textiles, sculpture, prop and set design, and build. We tap into each individual’s skill set, allowing their own creativity to bring this into their store environment. We work together as a collaborative process.
RF. Do you ever collaborate with outside agencies, artists and designers?
MK. For Anthropologie, collaboration is key. It brings a sense of community and shared experiences. We are fortunate that we can work with different brands and artists. For example, we have recently collaborated with Liberty on home product and Bethany Gray’s beautiful furniture. We are opening a new store in Barcelona and are hoping to work with local artists to bring the UK and Spanish creative cultures together. We are all very excited.
RF. Anthropologie's windows are widely admired for their creativity and attention to detail. Where do you draw your inspiration?
MK. Living in London is a great source of inspiration. We are surrounded with creativity everywhere. Our briefs arrive from our US head office, where we tailor these for our European markets. A few times a year we travel out to our Philadelphia office and New York stores. My favourite thing to do in London is to sit with coffee and people watch. I seek inspiration from visits to art galleries, films, London Fashion Week, creative talks, street style and magazines. As a keen traveller, my recent trip to Mexico was a visual feast for the eyes and the soul.
RF. What trends are you noticing right now?
MK. Beautiful feminine dresses paired down with chunky trainers, this chic sportswear look filtering down from high-end brands like Balenciaga arriving on the highstreets and taking expensive jewellery and clubbing it together with a simple sporty looking t-shirt or jersey sweater is really modern. The role of social media influencers setting the trends is fresh, it means things are up in the air and that’s exciting for reinventing ideas, the mix up of high-end and high-street allows individuality.
RF. Which materials, tools and techniques do you particularly enjoy working with?
MK. A low budget drives creativity. It is amazing what our teams can do when challenged with a coffee filter or eye makeup remover pad! These mundane objects are transformed into beautiful flowers, foliage and mushrooms; look closely the next time you are in a store! Part of our values are to be respectful in the environment we live in. We use recyclable materials where possible and enjoy giving away old displays to good homes. In one campaign we made full-size whales made from old denim jeans, after his life cycle in store, we donated him to the Natural History Museum. We also like to donate ex-displays to local schools, charities and even weddings, we’re happy that these display installations have an afterlife.
RF. What's your favourite season?
MK. Autumn / Winter. I particularly enjoy our Christmas campaigns, creating the magical, whimsical and unimagined experience. Last year we created a grand piano to scale made from cardboard. The creative teams can go all out on huge displays and product styling, and the creativity for our teams is endless.
RF. Can you tell us anything about your Christmas 2018 scheme?
MK. White! Expect the unexpected.