We have stores in almost 20 countries, with more opening this year! That’s where Alli W. comes in. She’s the International Brand Presentation Associate Manager who travels around the world to make sure our stores look perfect whether you’re in Dubai, Tokyo, or Mexico City.
How did you discover your passion for visual merchandising?
I’ve been loving this aspect of the business for so long, it’s hard to pinpoint the “when”. I started working at the AE store in Cranberry Township when I was 16 — when that store was still the “Lab Store”. [We have a lab store at the AE Home Office where we build the seasonal presentation that you see in stores.] I worked as a sales associate, but with so much direct contact to the visual merchandising side of things, I guess I caught the bug. I immediately understood the effect visual merchandising could have on the business. I had the opportunity to work with my former boss and my current boss, whom both worked in visual at that time. Funny how things go full circle!
How did you get your start as a visual merchandising manager?
Like I said, it all started at the store in Cranberry. When the lab store moved to Warrendale, I came along as well. I worked there on my summer breaks in high school and college. From there, I bounced around – I did some freelance copy writing for the web and I did the voice-over for Aerie when it was initially launched. I left AE for a bit to pursue my dreams of becoming an on-air news anchor, and when I decided it wasn’t for me, I came back to the lab. At that time, there weren’t any full-time openings at the lab, but I knew I wanted to stay with the company. I explored other opportunities and became a College Trek Manager of the first 77kids store and opened the Ross Park 77kids store as well. A few months into that opening, I was called back for an interview in visual as an Assistant Lab Coordinator for Men’s.
What misconceptions do you think people have about store presentation/visual merchandising?
It’s not just “fluff”, and it’s not just making things “pretty”. It’s creative and it’s strategic, and a lot of thought goes into how the floor is set each and every season. Visual merchandising, without a doubt, affects the business — for the positive when executed properly, and obviously the flip side of that, the negative, when it’s not.
Who or what has been the most important influence in your life?
Without a doubt, my mum. She is my rock, and the strongest person I know. She told me something once that I never forgot, and to this day, it’s the best advice I’ve ever received: “Believe in yourself, who you are, and what you stand for. Don’t lower yourself to others, make them rise to who you are.”
What is your dream job?
I’m not sure yet, but my current job is my dream right now. I can’t imagine doing anything else. A year ago I never expected to be doing this job, but it’s the best surprise I could have asked for. I’ll just wait to see what other surprises get thrown my way!
What is next on your ‘To Do In Life’ list?
A vacation?! I’m thinking Boracay. That or sand surfing next time I’m in the Middle East!
How would you describe your style?
Eclectic. I go to the beat of my own drum. Some days I’m girly, some days I’m preppy, some days I’m more rock n’ roll. It depends on my mood… and whatever laundry is clean from all the traveling!
How does your work influence your style?
It makes me open to a lot more things I never thought I’d wear. Being in other countries and seeing how they dress and accessorize has definitely inspired me and spiced up my style—it’s made me mix colors, patterns, and prints like I never thought I would.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration in the people I love, the places I love, and the things I love. My mum, my sister, my boyfriend, my dog, all my family and friends, Pittsburgh, fashion magazines, gossip magazines, good books from any genre, 70’s music, junk food, and my new home – NYC. Whether it’s the big things in life, or the little things, I try to find something beautiful in it all.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Traveling—learning new cultures and making new friends all over the world. It is an eye-opening experience to see how people all over the world live, work, and play. There are days when it’s tiring, but it’s always worth it.
Where have you traveled for your job?
It’s becoming quite the list… Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Russia, Poland, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong, China, the Philippines, and Mexico.
What is your favorite place you have traveled to for AE?
That’s tough. I have different favorites for different reasons, and there is something that I love about each place I’ve visited. But the food and the beaches in Israel are the absolute best!