The visual merchandise (VM) team's spring brief was rather straightforward — refurbish a classic Kombi van and position it on display in our flagship South Yarra store window. As you can see they nailed the brief, creating a modern Kombi to reflect our current menswear collection and evoke the nostalgia of a traditional Australian summer camping road trip. Here, they talk us through the project, from sourcing the perfect van to refurbishing and dressing the final display.
The project started mid-April in a meeting with Kerrin, head of menswear, who had just returned from a big inspiration trip. For the summer collection he had this incredible mood board and described a surfer guy travelling down the coast in his Kombi – it was a very clear vision and he and Sophie Holt were very excited about it. In that meeting they said, half jokingly, “Wouldn’t it be great to get a Kombi in the store?” We took it literally, and jumped at the challenge.
We went straight into sourcing the right Kombi and with only 10-11 weeks to turn the entire project around, we luckily found one after only 10 days. We were introduced to a guy who had a van decaying in his front yard for 8 years - but was reluctant to part with it. At first glance it was a disaster: mustard yellow with vines and grass sprouting out everywhere. We had to really convince him to sell to us, which made us realise just how passionate people are about their Kombis.
With no motor, our new van had to be towed everywhere. Our first stop was to the car wash where we sprayed it down and gave it a thorough clean so we could see what we were working with. Then to the panel beaters to make it safe: removing the fuel tank and so forth. We asked them to cut out portions of the side and roof (as per our designs pictured above). Next stop was our carpenters for a fresh paint job. We had always visualised blue and off-white which felt right in our minds. It needed to have that nostalgic feeling and be an authentic VW colour. Most importantly, it had to perfectly suit the menswear product.
The next phase was having the body work and interior painting done. That’s when we started to get really creative with where we wanted to display product. The van was going into a window and be on display, but we also wanted people to interact with it — to pick up products, to sit in the front seat and so forth. We also needed the interior to be on brand and have that link between nostalgia and modern. It was about adding that softness and brand handwriting and we thought of modern ways of interpreting glove boxes, storage, and side doors. We added touches of personality, such as the CR number plate that references the year CR was founded, 1974.
The biggest stress of all was seeing if it would actually fit inside the store — in the end we had 50ml each side which was cutting it very fine. That was such an exciting moment because then we could really play with dressing it and putting all the product in and the props: camping thermos and cups, plants, books and maps.
We also have a huge lightbox image of the Great Ocean Road, which is important to set the Kombi scene in context. Along with the greenery and props, it helps to make it feel like you’re a part of that road trip. Other VM elements about the area are fixtures based on camping that help create a snapshot of being away. Our role is about making the whole store experience exciting and to us that’s what the Kombi does. It stops people in their tracks and draws them into store. If we can keep doing that and keep reinventing that experience for people, that’s exactly what’s exciting about being a part of the visual merchandise team.