Merchandising, adventure, love of work.

Some might call it flow, the idea of doing something that you really love, all the time. There are people like that that I’ve met — they just flow, in the happiness of the practice.

What I wonder about is the concept of flow in retail experience. I contemplate that in two levels, one: experiencer flow, where do you move, in the explication of place, how do you find merchandise, how are you surprised and engaged; and finally — buy. Two, the second level, is in the love of the retelling of retail, the love of selling, doing and making offers to people. Retail is hard work, some people simply love the exchange, while others are more disconnected from the notion of gathering up “ideas” and finally selling them on the market. There is love here, in the product. A couple of stores | stories come to mind. Souvenir, better known as Curtis Steiner — it’s his love and visioning.

Another lover of selling ideas and inspirations might be Bitters Co., a group of women that wander the world, exploring and gathering things that interest them — things that they love to sell, and items that they offer, literally, in experience.

Another might be Maxfield, LA. Pricey, but an interesting mix, which might be described, as in the NYTimes, as “destination stores that you must make pilgrimages to just for your edification. You go for the same reason you go to great little museums or unique homes: to bask in an expansive articulation of a particular style, a unified curatorial vision.”

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

“The goods at Maxfield in Los Angeles represent decades of a rare and decadent taste allowed to ferment, boil over and roll out as far and wide as its whims demand. Just stumbling around inside the store is a master class in aesthetic sophistication, and this is why you go…” according to Times writer, Cintra Wilson.

Retail, the telling, is about that, the idea of reaching out in a kind of storytelling in experience, that comes along with product offerings that align in support of that experience. Point is: the challenge of who cares? Caring, or brand love, comes in the relationships and community that are built around product and premise.

There are surely plenty of others; and I’m sure you’ve got your own favorites. I’ve written about many of my own.

Every brand has a group of lovers around it.

Anthropologie has those lovers at the top. Keith Johnson (right), the global merchandising buyer is the partner of Glen Senk, the CEO of the Anthropologie parent company, Urban Outfitters. And while you might say that they are the chief leadership circle of the brand love of the Anthropologie concept, they’re in love which eachother (since childhood, according to the storytelling that’s wrapped around their relationship).

Keith Johnson, as well, has his own TV show, that supports his global forays for merchandising buys that represent the style of the story. Man Shops Globe, the venturesome buying reality series is described, by Anthropologie.com, as “a worldwide adventure of his high-pursuit, ends-of-the-earth excursions, from flea markets in Paris to remote villages in India to obscure art studios across the globe.

China, Argentina, South Africa, Brazil, France, England, India, or Scandinavia, Johnson hits the ground running with a different team of local experts and artists who help him acquire and re-imagine a new life for the eclectic objects he finds. Working against the clock and driven by his own competitive spirit, he is inexhaustible in his search for uncommon design. This series is also distinguished by Johnson’s appreciation of the creative process: each episode will showcase exquisite and delightful objects as well as the artists and process behind the work.”

Nice idea, (and junket) and interestingly enough, leads back to the brand, Anthropologie. Anthropologie has a very particular and personal style, that relies on the intellectual curiosity of its audience; it presumes that everyone aspires to a kind of global eclecticism — and a love of the handmade. That hand made influence speaks to the quality of the website, which is formed of a collage-like rendering of imagery, taped photographs and pieced of paper, with water-dabbed typography and a tinted field of imagery.

That sense of the hand-made imbues everything else,

from product to gathered interiors, a collated assemblage of hand touched patterning, patina and artful installations of both merchandising props, gathered from the world, coupled with a kind of matched sensibility.

pattern on patterning

spacious cluttering

inventive windows

the handmade wall, treated; blasted brick and loosely strung chandelier

conceptually aspirational merchandising installations

simple restraint

I’m looking for love. I’m looking for those that love their work, people that celebrate the practice in the emerging, daily imaginings of what they do — what they aspire to, and what they can bring to their sense of personal lifecraft.

That story extends.

I’ll try to practice what I preach.

Exploring the human brand:

Tim Girvin | GIRVIN
Twitter: http://twitter.com/tgirvin

People with nice things to say about Anthropologie (and where some of the imagery came from, aside from Anthropologie):

All other imagery comes from sites that are linked in the text.