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Q&A with Brett Horton, Guess

Guess’ director of store design finds opportunity – and humor – in everything he does, even his love/hate relationship with in-store technology

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You designed for a variety of sectors, including schools, commercial and residential, before joining Guess in 2002. What about retail kept your interest?
The pace. Design is a continuing exploration and testing of ideas, and there is no faster feedback than retail. The need to evolve in response to changing business and consumer needs means no down time, no boredom, no chance to stagnate.

How have customers’ needs changed in the last decade?
The biggest shift has been in the local expectations customers have of global brands. A one-size-fits-all approach to store design, and brands in general, is no longer acceptable. Customers expect brands to interpret and incorporate local attitudes, experiences and design sensibilities, which creates a wonderful dialogue between the brand and the end user.

What’s the biggest challenge you face today as a director of store design?
Maintaining brand consistency and relevancy on a global scale with faster timelines, tighter budgets and a broader range of more informed customers. But from that challenge comes opportunity to innovate and refine the design response to address not only today’s retail environment, but tomorrow’s, as well.

Guess recently opened its largest U.S. store on Fifth Avenue. How does this store represent the future of the brand?
The Fifth Avenue store speaks to the global reach of the Guess brand, while anchoring it and letting it celebrate New York’s architectural and fashion ethos. It’s a celebration of Guess heritage and a promise of what’s to come.

The store is populated with an abundance of mannequins. What made you go that route?
Great mannequins can capture the essence of a product. To avoid repetitiveness and dumbing down the visual presentation, our creative team developed custom poses and finishes for each product category. Then they created stylized presentations that anchor the various shops within the store and capture the young, sexy, adventurous spirit of the Guess girl.

How is in-store technology helping you create a more engaging store experience for consumers?
I’ll admit, it’s a love/hate relationship. Today’s consumer is plugged in, informed and in a hurry. Emerging technologies are allowing us to reach more customers faster. But we’re discovering that increased interactivity also requires a faster turn for content.

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What challenges does that present?
It’s no longer a one-month or one-week refresh. It has to be a continuous stream of new and unique experiences.

Before you became a designer, what was your childhood dream job?
The usual – football player, movie theater usher, astronaut, ruler of the world. Turns out I’m slow, talk too much and have a very bad equilibrium. Narrowed
it down a bit.

Signature fashion statement:
Chucks. And whatever my wife, Ashley, says looks good on me.
Favorite saying:
“Be humble. Be confident. Be nice.” I heard it at a conference. I have no idea who said it, but it stuck.
If you could be any cartoon character, who would it be?
Stewie Griffin. He’s smart, funny and his head is shaped like a football. Pretty much perfect.
 

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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:
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