The next time you walk by a beautiful Club Monaco window display, thank Kevin Ling. A student of dance and theatre, Kevin has transferred his knowledge of performing arts to his work in visual arts as a core member of Club Monaco’s visual design team. He brings together art, movement and clothing, transforming stores across the country and enriching your shopping experience. As he puts it, he does arts-and-crafts for a living.
Talentedly: Have you always been interested in working in retail or fashion? What were you doing before this?
Kevin Ling: Before Club Monaco I used to be a dancer out in LA during college and for a short time after. I studied Musical Theater and Dance at UC: Irvine and was lucky enough to be able to perform professionally for a bit. In between gigs I worked retail. I can’t say I had an interest in fashion… I grew up rocking board shorts, hoodies, and rainbows as I tried to spend most of my time at the beach. I actually just fell into working with Club Monaco by responding to a Craig’s List ad of all things when I first moved to New York.
TLY: What enticed you to move cross country?
KL: Before I moved to New York it was always a goal as a performer to make it out here. But by the time I moved I already had hung up my dancing shoes and just wanted a fresh start. People always tell me that I’m crazy for leaving California, but it’s just like the saying “the grass is always greener.” I was always curious about New York and had a lot of connections and friends from college and performing out here already, so I thought why not? No time like the present.
TLY: Do you think your background in dance has influenced how you envision the Club Monaco window displays?
KL: My boss seems to think so. He has told me in the past that one reason he thinks I’m successful at this job is because I use a different part of my brain than people who studied studio art. I am part of a small team that executes my boss’ visions, and when concepting I’m often interested in installations that reflect movement. We’ve done a few installations that tap into that, whether it’s a swirl of gold butterflies flying up a wall or a tornado of newspapers surrounding a grouping of mannequins. I’m guessing my fascination with motion must tie back to the fact that I used to do that for a living.
TLY: What’s the best part of your job?
KL: I get to do arts and crafts and construction for a living — I often come home with paint splattered on me or new unidentifiable cuts but I love every second of it. I also got the opportunity to travel across the US last year for work with store openings, and that was amazing.
TLY: What advice would you give someone wanting to enter the visual design space?
KL: Take any small visual job and express interest in being a display artist — and once you’re given the opportunity to be a part of an installation, work your butt off. This job is hard, grueling work but it is so rewarding and the people you work with make the experience that much more enjoyable.
TLY: What has been your favorite display and why?
KL: My favorite display was one of the first installations I assisted on. It was a dreamcatcher/spiderweb shape of teacups hanging on twine. It was so physically demanding and it was just me and one other doing the installation, but the end result was something that I was so proud of. I think it was the first time I realized that this could be something that could turn into a career. On top of that, it was a lot of fun watching children come in and ask for teacups or just stare at us while we were doing it — it was a truly interactive experience.
TLY: Where do you draw inspiration from?
KL: Travel plays a large part in inspiring the company as a whole, especially our women’s designers. For example, last year our entire beach capsule was inspired by a work trip to Tulum, Mexico. Once they got back we sourced props for stores that replicated the feel of the local shops they visited, and we did a rope installation that was inspired by some of the scenery out there.
TLY: Where are we going to find you in 5 years?
KL: Hopefully you will find me still loving my job, wherever that takes me! I have never been a huge planner. I think life is so much more exciting when you’re not planning or worrying about every next turn.
TLY: Quote or mantra to live by?
KL: “Mind thinks, Heart knows” — it’s from a piece of art that I bought in Soho. Always have to listen to the heart first.
Lydia Loizides is serial entrepreneur, technology provocateur and relentless challenger of the status quo. She spends her days as Founder & CEO of Talentedly, a technology company on a mission to help people grow from good to great at work (technology + people = amazing results). The rest of her waking moments are spent running, reading, learning, and trying to prove that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42. You can follow Lydia @lydiaNYC @GetTalentedly, on LinkedIn and the Huffington Post.