Think / Thought Pieces / Call Yourself a Creative?

It was with much interest that I delved into this month’s latest round up of the 100 Most Creative People in Business, I was looking forward to our retail community being healthily represented.

It was with much interest that I delved into this month’s latest list of lists in Fast Company Magazine. Billed as a round up of the 100 Most Creative People in Business, I was looking forward to our retail community being healthily represented.

Alas…not so much.

As I began scrolling down the list I went into a cold sweat. Nobody from this wonderful, wide world of retail on the list? Say it ain’t so!

Sure there were people who create the products that sit in the stores. Jonathan Ive for example, perhaps (OK completely) predictably topping the list. There was even someone who helps select the products that grace the floor among the luminaries; although Trish Adams’ legacy at Target goes so very far beyond her title of Senior VP of merchandising. Thanks to her vision, we now have a constantly rotating parade of designer endorsements flooding our high streets and I for one think the world is one heck of a lot more fun because of it.

But still no one you’d say was primarily involved in the design of the store. There were a few architects on the list and I’m not one to knock architects–after all I married one and I work with more than a few–darn fine, brilliant folks one and all. But the architects on the FC list are a breed apart. Described as everything from gurus to gods and not living in the real world that most of us ply our trade in. When these guys design stores, we know the product is not exactly going to end up king, or queen, or even an illegitimate heir for that matter. Stores designed by big name architects are about one thing: big name architects. Of this bunch, Thom Mayne was highest on the list at No. 15. I went into a store he did once, not only was the product playing second fiddle, the architecture actually seemed to be conspiring to keep me from buying anything. Lord Foster followed a few places further back, but he’s another case in point. I recall shopping in a “store” he did for Joseph in London in the ’90s ,and it was like browsing for clothes in a freshly scrubbed submarine–cramped, badly lit and depressingly antiseptic.

This got me to No. 38 and the panic was starting to set in. Surely someone would make the cut? Someone should call the editor. Doesn’t Simon Doonan know about this list? Still no luck as I rounded 50, no one who actually designs stores, or even designs bits of stores, or even knows someone who designs stores, made the cut. It seemed the editors of Fast Company were about to give this unbelievably vibrant business we all work in a slap in the face.

And maybe it’s our own fault. For the longest time, I’ve marveled at how much our discipline dwells in the shadows of its own humility. Ours is an industry bigger than Hollywood serving an engine which by everyone’s admission essentially IS the economy these days. Consumer spending is the oxygen by which Wall Street survives, and if you don’t believe me just look at the past few months.

Yet we, the people who craft the environments wherein the very sales take place, have no Oscars, no true red carpet, no real public presence. We don’t even have a reality show. That Kate what’s-her-face can get a show just by having eight kids. How come there isn’t something taking a peek behind the scenes of this fascinating, drama-ridden insane world of retail?

And even worse than all of this, we couldn’t even make it to the FC list…

Imagine then, my relief, surprise and delight to finally see our sole entry there at No. 54. Masamichi Katayama, principle at Wonderwall and designer of–among other things–Uniqlo’s New York Store from last year! I’m not one to gush, but I believe a small “yay!” did make it past my lips.

Sure its only one entry, and it didn’t make the top 50. But the light hasn’t completely gone out. Any thoughts on who might be that next designer out there already sharpening their pencils for next year’s list? And more to the point, who’s planning their reality show?

Christian Davies, Executive Creative Director, Americas – FITCH

Guest Blogger – Retail Design Diva

Photo: Masamichi Katayama