by Carolyn Robbins February 27, 2016 0 Comments

During one of my first days as a retail store decorator in the Union Square Macy's in San Francisco, I was given a task by the display director to fill a vignette in the bath department. A simple job. I thought. There was a curved back wall behind a counter with a built in sink on a cabinet. I began by hanging curio shelving,  bath accessories from the department's inventory.  I added fragrances and soaps that fit my color scheme of bath towels. It looked alright I thought, until the director's assistant came by. She was always dressed to the hilt, never yielding a hammer or worked a sewing machine. She simply 'had the eye' for what was right. Janette gasped as her red hair flipping around with her glance towards my display. I stood by, as we were instructed to do, when the brass showed up for reviews. She picked up a nearby phone, announcing a gathering of all creative staff to the bath department immediately, for a display critique.

The frolicking display boys tore my vignette apart as per her orders, whispering apologies to me under their breath. Finally there was an empty counter and dead silence. "Time to learn!" she announced with a stare in my direction. All nine display folks, led by Janette, took the elevator to the furniture floor to watch her stack five items onto a moving cart:  a beautiful baroque style mirror, a crystal lamp with a silk shade, a thick green glass soap dish and a few small landscape oil paintings. We were on our way back to the bath display area.

Janette had the boys hang the mirror over the sink and the little paintings off the side wall. She turned on the lamp for a warm glow of light over a stack of celadon colored towels. She tore a soap wrapper open describing how important it is to break packages in order for the customer to appreciate the products. All of this quite new to me.

That was the day I learned about less is more and don't mess with the small stuff. Janette's sink counter was elegant, peaceful and not at all what I had horribly attempted to do. The crew came over one by one, giving me hugs telling me not to worry; that I was new and soon I would 'get it'. Janette imparted only a few words after the boys left: "Never disappoint me like this again. You are the only woman here. The men need to be put in their place because they too often think they are hot shit." They were hot shit and I was lucky to have them as my first design teachers.

I'll never forget Janette embarrassing me so, and yet,  at the same time teaching me my first lesson in selecting carefully. Well worth any discomfort; is the enlightenment that comes soon after.

 



Carolyn Robbins
Carolyn Robbins

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