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Checking Out: Leigh Ann Tischler

Bloomingdale’s director of windows recounts an eventful 25-year career in visual merchandising – and it all began as a 12-year-old staring at a store ceiling



Do you remember your introduction to visual?
I remember it clearly. I was 12 years old, shopping at a Macy’s store in Paramus, N.J. It was the juniors department, a huge round room with a rotunda ceiling. I thought, ‘Wow, this must be a really cool job. Who builds all of these displays?’

And a career was born?
Not right away. I graduated from college with a degree in painting and no idea what to do next. You don’t start selling your artwork right away.

Then visual came calling?
I did the calling. I answered an ad for a display person at that same Macy’s store – in that same juniors department.

Was it what you expected?
It was grueling. We were doing holiday, I had to make these huge arrangements of pheasant feathers, pine cones and greenery. It was 14 hours a day that turned, literally, into 14 back-breaking months.

Then what?
I got a 9-month freelance job working on a new Macy’s store in Arlington, Va. I worked with William Herbst, who was renovations coordinator [at the time].

A great mentor.
Yes. I learned a lot. I ordered mannequins, reviewed documents, dealt with special lighting, special fixtures, wallcoverings. I had never cared about a hat riser or countertop fixture before then. But, after a few years, Macy’s stopped building new stores or renovating older ones, so I went my merry way.


So goodbye Macy’s, hello … ?
I went to Bloomingdale’s for three years, as VM for cosmetics and fashion accessories. Then to Sony. They wanted to open high-concept stores around the country.

A fun experience?
An amazing few years. We opened the Metreon center, an entertainment mall in San Francisco, and remodeled Sony Plaza in New York, which had six windows on Madison Avenue, so I was finally working on windows. Christine Belich, who was executive creative director, and I would go to lunch and draw things up on the backs of napkins.

But later, not so much fun?
It got very corporate and a lot of the rules changed. Christine left, Sony moved everyone to San Diego. I saw the writing on the wall. They were going to close the Sony store and Sony Plaza.

So back to Bloomingdale’s?
Yes, in 2011 I landed at Bloomingdale’s, as men’s and kids’ interior visual manager. Then, in 2015, Harry Medina retired as window director. I said, that’s the job I’ve always wanted: a dream job. And I continued to have amazing mentors, like Jack Hruska and John Klimkowski. I feel like a really blessed person. Not a lot of people can say that. 

You’ve worked for some amazing people. Do you recall a particularly important piece of advice?
Toward the end of the Arlington, Va., project, William Herbst said, ‘You’ve got to let go now. You’ve been doing this for eight months. The visual managers and regionals are now going to interpret your vision their way.’ Those words have helped me so. I have a fantastic team, so now I’m not insulted when they don’t like my idea, or they turn my idea into something more amazing.

Difficult for an artist?
Yes, artists are very singular – ‘Nobody’s going to tell me how to do my work.’ If this were my personal artwork, I wouldn’t let anybody change it.




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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