September 23, 2014
September 22, 2014
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Portfolio: David Chang
Five questions with the visual stylist behind window and in-store displays at Toronto's toniest retailers.

David Chang is a Toronto-based visual stylist. His work has delighted the public and brought some magic to the windows and in-store displays of Holt Renfrew, Tiffany’s and The Room at the Bay. How did you end up working in visual display? I started working in that world about ten years ago, while I was still at the University of Toronto. My best friend insisted that I apply at Holt Renfrew for an event they were hosting which required some extra hands. Feeling a little green, and knowing the reputation of a Holt’s window, I was a bit hesitant. Luckily my little art portfolio and my enthusiasm ended up getting me a contract job, which then turned into full-time job. For the most part I continue to work in the luxury retail sector, installing visual displays for Tiffany’s, creating headpieces and styling product for events at the Room at the Bay, and also working with the brilliant team at Holts on some of their interior and window displays. Are the clothes important, or are they secondary to the overall idea? What’s your interest in fashion? Fashion is pretty integral to what I do. My job is essential in selling product – really expensive product. But in addition to that it’s about communicating to passerby ways to dress. The looks we see on the runway and in magazines have to somehow be translated into the visuals I create, and be brought to life through a unique narrative that is both exciting and accessible to the consumer. Window displays are also meant to be aspirational, so it’s essential that what’s been chosen product-wise has to be the best of the best from the season, and reflective of the narrative or concept being conveyed. The Holts windows in particular have always expressed a great deal of fantasy, intrigue and storytelling, which is why they have the cult following they do. There is always a lot of anticipation surrounding their reveal, much like how the fashion hungry are eager to see the looks and trends for next season. In a similar respect, I think I will always be connected to fashion because I love the excitement of change and I am continually amazed at how people challenge and re-interpret the idea of dress season after season. Tell us about your background. I was born and raised in Toronto. I come from a family of creative individuals. My father is a sculptor, my mother is pretty much a jack-of-all-trades, my sister is a fashion designer and my brother creates online education programs. As for myself I did a degree in Fine Art at U of T thinking that I would pursue an art career, then swiftly decided to do a Bachelor of Design at OCAD, in their industrial design program. Could you elaborate on your process? Any good display starts off with a theme or idea. It could be something culture specific like [referencing] an art retrospective at a museum; trend specific like the bold colour statements we’ve been seeing this season on the runway; or even just an interesting notion like flightless birds migrating through a mirrored landscape. It has to be alluring and captivating or else it’s completely forgettable. There are a lot of tear sheets pulled from various design, art, and fashion magazines that I glean inspiration from. They help me realize and flesh out the things I need to make or style. In addition to those sources, my process as a visual stylist is also very hands-on, feeling and understanding the materials I need to work with. I rely heavily on my own aesthetic intuition as an artist and designer, which has taken a long time to perfect, and it’s continually evolving as things around me change socially and creatively. But what I do is also not a solitary job. My work is very collaborative and involves the input and creative energy of so many talented people who are responsible for making a fantasy come to life. What are your impressions of Toronto’s fashion scene? I think it’s on the cusp of being something great. Especially over the past five or six years, I’ve noticed a lot of progress. However, I feel it lacks the finesse and confidence of London and New York. Partly because both established and upcoming designers are underfunded and Canadians as a whole are just not supporting and investing enough in local design. But I love Toronto. I was born and raised here so I will always have a strong affinity with it. I like the idea of Toronto as an ongoing project which I hope to contribute to one way or another.  

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