By Aimee Chanthadavong

Final-year RMIT University Visual Merchandising students have been provided an opportunity to put their skills to the test by transforming the windows at Country Road’s flagship store in South Yarra, Melbourne with a creative display.

Justin Compton, Visual Merchandising teacher in the School of Design TAFE told Retailbiz the collaboration between RMIT and Country Road, which involves 18 students, is in its fourth year.

“It began in 2007 after meeting with Country Road's visual brand manager, John Rogers about engaging our students with industry, giving them a real life visual merchandising experience and giving them the opportunity to work alongside an iconic Australian retail brand,” he said.

Jacqui Moore, Country Road marketing group general manager, said the project is an integral process for the students to be a part of in making them industry ready.

“It’s a unique opportunity for the students to showcase their skills while working on a real-life commercial objective with the same limitations and challenges they would face in everyday business,” she said.

“They have to learn about working within a budget, sourcing materials, negotiating costs, working with manufacturers as well as working with us as the client.”

According to Compton, the students’ brief was to capture facets of the Country Road brand – womenswear, menswear, kidswear, accessories and homeware – while taking inspiration from seasonal themes and maintaining brand identity.

Working alongside Heilam Choy the visual merchandising creative manager for Country Road and Mark Tigani, the students are responsible for designing, manufacturing and installing the window dressing for the store.

“Heilam and Mark push the students to come up with innovative and original concepts for the windows. Over the past four years the windows manufacturing and installing three very different windows,” Compton said.

Moore added that Country Road’s role is to mentor the group.

“Working closely with them to guide and challenge them, help them build their confidence and sell their concepts, provide feedback from a commercial perspective and focus their attention on expectations of them as future VM professionals,” she said.

“Our windows are our most valuable marketing asset and our customers have always responded very positively.  The RMIT project always stimulates an enthusiastic response because it creates a talking point and we get lots of positive feedback about the value of supporting and nurturing young talent.”

The student's disply will run until 7 October at Country Road's South Yarra store.