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Checking Out: Catherine Keywan

Originally Published April 1, 2024, in VMSD's March/April 20224 Issue

By: Steve Kaufman

 

CATHERINE KEYWAN

Bergmeyer’s Senior Interior Designer — and 2020 VMSD Designer Dozen winner – got her initial inspiration from TV. She painted her room and redecorated her house. Now, she’s doing that work for the world of retail brands.

 

Catherine Keywan

I always wonder how young people find their way into this profession. How did it start for you?

HGTV. When I was 12, I was hooked on it, especially the show ‘Trading Spaces.’ I loved the way they renovated interiors and I wanted to do that myself. My parents gave me opportunities to redecorate in our house, in my bedroom or a spare bathroom. Painting a wall makes a difference. Art can transform a space. I never looked back.


How very understanding of your parents?

They always wanted me to follow my passions, to be confident in whatever career decision I made. They both had business backgrounds, so having a daughter who wanted to pursue art and design was not something they were familiar with, but they were supportive. They helped me research colleges, leading to Endicott College (Beverly, Mass.), which had an interior design program, a study abroad program, and an internship program.


📷 Courtesy of Bergmeyer

Leading to retail design?

No, actually, my favorite project in school was office design. For the first time, I was assigned a real brand: Ducati Motors, manufacturers of luxury motorcycles. It was office design, but really I was creating a branded environment for the first time. I had to learn about the company’s history, values, and markets, and create an inspiring office for their employees that embodied Ducati’s mission and ethos. I couldn’t articulate that at the time, but looking back, I realize that was my grounding point for what I’ve gone on to do.


But retail came along when you moved to Bergmeyer?

They had an opening on their retail design team. My first project was for Brahmin, the luxury leather goods company. We were doing store concept design and in-store shops. I was blown away by the customization of retail design. Custom millwork, custom colors, light fixtures. Not feeling restricted to finishes from a library or a catalog. I’d never had that expansive of an opportunity – or working so closely with a real brand, creating unique experiences. Very powerful. And very rewarding.


 

Browsing History

Wrangler started making jeans in 1904 as Hudson Overalls. Designing their pop-up in Fred Segal’s Sunset Boulevard store must have been an experience for you.

It was an opportunity for the brand to get exposure to a different customer base and tell its story to a new, sophisticated market. We delved into Wrangler’s history for inspiration. A heritage brand with a new narrative relating to today’s world. We used fixtures, graphics, signage, and propping that rotated over the course of the pop-up to highlight various eras of the company’s history. A brand that started as workwear then evolved denim into styles favorited by cowboys, rock stars, and NASCAR drivers. Today, it’s still rooted in rodeo and cowboy cool. It’s successful in each iteration. That storytelling in the pop-up is what made it fun for me.


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