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Role Call | Faye McLeod, Visual Image Director

Faye McLeod, visual image director at Louis Vuitton, says "Digital media is changing the retail landscape, but this does not change the goal of a good window."
Faye McLeod | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Kati Chitrakorn

There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. Role Call highlights some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them. For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

NEW YORK, United States — Faye McLeod is the visual image director at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Glasgow-born McLeod earned a degree in fashion design at the city's Cardonald College, and, after graduation, swiftly moved into the domain of window and set design, working at Topshop and Selfridges. In 2009, McLeod joined Louis Vuitton as creative director of visual merchandising. Her first major production for the French fashion house was the opening of its New Bond Street maison in 2010, for which she created a 'Cabinet Curiosite' filled with creatures in glass jars.

In 2012, McLeod was promoted to visual image director of LVMH. Today, she oversees the windows for more than 460 stores globally, working with senior designer Ansel Thompson and a team of 23 people, planning the displays for stores such as Louis Vuitton and Dior as far as 12 months in advance.

BoF: Please describe your current role.

First and foremost, I’m a dreamer and storyteller. As visual image director at LVMH, windows are how I communicate stories to the world. I aspire to engage people on the other side of the glass in an emotional way. Bringing together diverse groups of people (artists, designers, illustrators, scientists, engineers), I create teams that will research, design, develop and produce these windows.

Within my department, my daily task is to inspire, invent, challenge and break the rules. Within Louis Vuitton, my job is to work with the artistic directors, to support and interpret their vision. It's also essential to work with the CEO and our company's business leaders, to insure that we are supporting their overall business strategies and building the brand. We do not work inside a bubble.

BoF: What attracted you to window-dressing and set design? 

Growing up in Glasgow, my mother owned a vintage shop and was always collecting all sorts of things. In retrospect, since a young age, I've been interested in the way objects can be arranged. My father is an engineer, so I've always been fascinated by how things are made and how they function. As I grew older, I learned about fashion designers and stylists, yet still never realised window-dressing was an actual profession. It was only after discovering the work of Linda Fargo at Bergdorf Goodman and Simon Doonan at Barneys, did I see the potential. Their work always had a sense of freedom and fun. Why wouldn't I want to do that?

Never forget that a good window, while innovative in idea, must also be practical and user-friendly.

BoF: What does building a good window installation involve? Where do you begin and what are the important things to consider?

It starts with a good idea, which can come from anyone and anywhere. These ideas are explored through images, sketches and study models (digital and analogue). As ideas are tested, we develop them into digital 3D models and renderings — or even 3D prints — to test the concept within the architecture of our windows. We never forget that a good window, while innovative in idea, must also be practical and user-friendly for the store staff.

These renderings and mock-ups are then presented to our artistic directors and business leaders. Only after many revisions, does the final window begin to take form. The technical aspects of production are also critical. When producing hundreds of windows around the world, which need to be unveiled in concert, it’s easy to lose the importance of quality. Our production team works in harmony with the design team to ensure we stay true to the creative vision.

BoF: What are some of your favourite places to find props and materials for your sets?

The Internet! Google is an amazing tool. I have no specfic habits for shopping for props and looking for inspiration. I frequent Tokyu Hands, a massive household goods store in Shibuya, Tokyo; Chelsea furnishings boutique Mantiques Modern; Mokuba on Rue Montmartre; the Venusrox jeweller and Portobello Market in London's Notting Hill; and flea markets in Brooklyn and Paris.

BoF: What is the most exciting product or initiative you have worked on?

We worked on an incredible project with Frank Gehry, who constructed the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris and our store windows in New York City. We worked in his studio in Los Angeles, using specialised Gehry software and learning from the master himself. He really has an appreciation for windows, which comes from his father. Yayoi Kusama is another icon I've had the pleasure of working with. She welcomed us into her world and gave us the freedom to create her vision. She allowed us to dip her head in silicon with straws up her nose, so we could create a life-size Kusama for our maison's windows. Kusma spread such love in our windows, bringing with her a sense of humour and passion which we all value very much.

BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do? What tools should people have?

There is no denying that digital media is changing the retail landscape in all kinds of ways, but this does not change the goal of a good window. What it presents, in fact, is an additional medium in which to do good windows! I like to think of digital screens as windows, with different design constraints and their own set of opportunities. The stories we can tell with this new medium are only limited by our imagination. It’s an exciting time for window-dressing. Discipline is a good way to begin honing your skills. Visit lots of stores and imagine how you could make them better.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

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