Inspired by the ability of visual merchandisers everywhere to turn ordinary materials into the extraordinary, Iron Merchant MC Joe Baer, founder of ZenGenius (Columbus, Ohio), led more than 50 participants in the Little Black Dress challenge during IRDC in Chicago. “It’s the special, extraordinary moments that catch our attention,” Baer told participants before arming them with a basic tool set, stacks of colored paper, white matte mannequins from Mondo and black dresses donated by Macy’s Chicago. Inspired by IRDC’s location in the Windy City, this year’s secret ingredient was a battery-operated fan, which each team had to incorporate into their final displays.
After taking five minutes to brainstorm with teammates, each team had less than one hour to create an applause-worthy window display, which IRDC attendees voted on the following day.
Another nod to this year’s location, three of the five teams were led by local visual merchandising professionals, including Jon Jones, Macy’s Chicago; Amanda Wolfson, Oak Street Design; and Crystal Glover of INDO. Michael Hale of Retail REHAB represented the 2011 winning team, and all four took on returning Iron Merchant champion Bevan Bloemendaal of Timberland, who had three sashes to his name before leading the Blue Team to victory this year. Bloemendaal was joined by teammates Amy Tauchert, Timberland; Beth Harlor, P&G; Gina Thompson, Vellum; Ned Clark, Econoco/Mondo; Nick Glenn, Ludlow Group, and Helene Alland, The TJX Cos.
Together the group crafted an Art Noir installation and amped up their black frock with accordion paper fans that blew in the wind using the secret ingredient. Other teams showed their creative sides crafting paper wigs, falling leaves, city scenes and Michigan Avenue graphics on the display’s plexi windows.
The 2012 Iron Merchant participants included:
Michael Hale, Retail REHAB; Brent Schilling, Miller Zell; Natalie Coulter, Belle Flaneur; Robin Novak, FRCH Design Worldwide; Rachel Zsembery, Bergmeyer Associates; Ken Rooney, Yankee Candle Co.; and Suzanne Sottile, Visualeyes Design
Jon Jones, Macy’s Chicago; Tracy Zaslow, Ross-Simons; Jeffrey Barcan, Gruskin Group; Mary Martel, Econoco/Mondo; Pam Levine, Levine Design Group; Jack Finn, Mitsubishi - Alpolic; and Siobhan Carmichael, Cadillac Fairview Corp.
Amanda Wolfson, Oak Street Design; Heather Elema, Cadillac Fairview Corp.; Tess Johnson; Holden Knecht, Columbia Sportswear Co.; Brandon Genova, The Integer Group, and Pilar De Colsa, C&A
Crystal Glover, INDO; Megan Miller, University of Cincinnati, Linsey Burritt, INDO; Vincent McGinley, HMS Host; Sandra Rivera, C&A; Alessandra Canessa; and Alyson Riddle, Oakley
Thanks again to our sponsors who donated supplies to this year’s challenge:
Macy’s Inc., Mondo Mannequins, Centiva, Chippenhook and ZenGenius.
Photography: Richard Cadan, Fairfield, Conn.