Display Artist

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Every time you enter a store, you are bound to see numerous mannequins dressed in the latest fashion which a particular store is selling. This is not for decoration, but for customers to get an idea of how two items of clothing would look together and entice them to buy.

Thabo Khoza is a freelance display artist. He started working in this industry at Mr Price and soon moved over to Woolworths. Following this, he was hired by Foschini’s, before becoming a freelance display artist. Thabo’s passion for visual merchandising started when he was in school, advising his friends on the clothes they should wear, what worked well together and what suited them .”A successful display artist needs to know the various trends, colours and fashion of the season,” he says.

Thabo is the founder of 1st Impression Enterprises, an image consultancy and visual merchandising organisation. He says that his second dream before visual merchandising was to become a radio personality, because he loves people and working with them, and learning new things.

Thabo’s company offers numerous services, which are all part of his daily job. These services include fully merchandising a store so that it will appeal to the target market; giving tips on what music to play to match the shoppers’ profile and the merchandise, to increase sales; advising on how staff should dress and present themselves, so that customers can feel they understand their sense of style; and giving tips on how to ensure staff have a vast knowledge of the products that are sold in the store.


A display artist is also known as a window dresser or visual artist. The average salary can start at R5 000 per month.

Job description

A display artist goes to various stores and consults with the store manager regarding the displays or dressing they have been commissioned to do. The display artist will work in various departments, following a specific theme or whatever the specific store manager has in mind regarding the visual merchandising. The mannequins in the shop and windows are dressed by the display artist and everything that goes into the window is chosen by the display artist. He or she is also responsible for conceptualising, designing and implementing window and in-store displays.

Pros and cons

“The pros are that you never have a limitation of learning. You are always visiting new malls and seeing different fashions,” says Thabo.

“The cons,” states Thabo, “are that some store managers don’t listen to your advice and shoppers or customers who complain.”

Required studies and experience

The studies or experience needed for this job vary considerably. Thabo recommends doing a diploma in Fashion Studies if you want to enter this career and he says this job is a talent, not really something that can be learnt. “You also need a passion for fashion.”

Personality types

For a career as a display artist, there are certain personality characteristics that you should have. Firstly, you should have the right attitude, be presentable, vibrant, creative, informative and interested in fashion. You should also be forward thinking, concerned about the future and know what’s going on in the world. Surfing the net should be a passion of yours.

An average day

As a freelance display artist, Thabo’s time is his own. He schedules his day according to what needs to be done. Usually, he will start his day working on the Internet, followed by meeting with clients who have contacted him. He will advise his clients about fashion and visual merchandising. Throughout the day, he will move from one store to another and he usually works with one client for three to four hours.

The best thing about the job

“There is lots of learning and there is no limitation to your creativity, you can mix and match colours as you see fit,” laughs Thabo.

The worst thing about the job

“There is no time to relax and you need to be informed 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” shrugs Thabo.

Thabo’s future dream is to eventually become an area manager, where he would be responsible for checking the displays at various stores around the country.

Gabrielle Venter


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