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Checking Out: Polar Buranasatit

The freelance New York-based visual merchandiser specializes in local stories for local stores – especially when he “tea’s” one up



You refer to your work as “Polarizing.” Very clever. What does that mean to you?

To me, it means adding the essence of myself and my style to my works. I always want to create something unique, well crafted and well designed. I always want my clients to get the best and most effective windows, and the best way to stand out is working with the Polarizer himself!

How did you get into visual merchandising?

One afternoon, my parents took me shopping at a big downtown Bangkok department store. When we walked past the windows, I saw some people dressing a mannequin, and I thought ‘Wow, that looks fun!’ When I got home, I built my own department store with Lego blocks. It had two windows, and I changed them every week.

What brought you to New York?

I went to study for a visual presentation degree at FIT and met my mentor, Anne Kong. I wouldn’t be where I am now without her amazing guidance. Also, New York offers more opportunities for me in window displays than back home.


Manhattan, with all of its stores, large and small, is a great laboratory for visual, isn’t it?

I focus on small independent retailers because the way I work is very personal. With smaller retailers, you can design the window specifically for the particular location and local customer. I also make most of the props myself. It would be more difficult to do that work with chain retailers – a lot of multiple locations and national rollouts. I also prefer having creative freedom when I design the windows.

Describe some of your work.

A long-time client is Harney & Sons in SoHo. It’s a tea shop but nonetheless I’ve used full-body mannequins and unexpected props to tell a story. I once put a realistic mannequin in a long gown made out of 2800 tea bag wrappers for the New York Fashion Week window. I did a tribute window to Star Trek with Capt. Picard ordering ‘Tea, Earl Grey, hot!’ I had an airplane with a moving propeller in the window to promote the store’s tea flight service.

That’s what I think of as ‘polarizing.’

As of this year, several New York retailers will close their doors. How will this affect the VM community?


I think it’s very important for those of us who work in the community to keep this profession alive. I know online stores are on the rise and a lot of people believe they are taking over brick-and-mortar retail, but I believe visual merchandising is a powerful selling tool, especially window display, because it’s the first thing people see when they walk past the store.

I believe a lot of people still prefer to go to actual stores to see the products in person so they can feel and try them on. In Europe they believe window display is an important tool to get people to visit their stores, while in the U.S., most retailers believe in attracting shoppers with sale signs or displaying their products without telling any visual stories. Don’t get me wrong, there are still U.S. retailers that pay attentions to their windows, and as a result these stores are doing well.



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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