Omar Juda infuses global inspiration into Nordstrom’s visual merchandising strategy
Omar Juda isn’t one to shy away from the unfamiliar.
The youngest of five children, he grew up moving between Saudi Arabia and Jordan with his family.
“My parents got me used to being independent, taking care of myself and not relying on other people. Even though I was the youngest, I was probably the least spoiled,” he laughs. “That idea really grew on me: that my life wasn’t challenging enough, and I needed to see more of the world.”
Juda stuck to his credo, leaving home at 18 to travel. His first stop was Malaysia, where he lived for two years. He supported himself with part-time jobs such as working as a call centre agent and restaurant server.
“I wasn’t trying for a career at the time,” he says. “My main goal was to meet people and get to know myself better. It was a great and hard journey at the same time.”
Following Malaysia, Juda lived in Romania for three years, repeating the process of integrating into a foreign culture. He then spent a year in Istanbul.
“[Istanbul] was a bit more familiar to me, as the culture was similar to my childhood in the Middle East, and I was staying with friends,” he says. “After a while, I decided it was time for me to start my career and find something that I was passionate about doing for the rest of my life.”
Juda was drawn to Sheridan after it was recommended by his sister, who was living in Milton at the time. “I went online and went through every single program, reading all the course descriptions from start to finish. When I got to visual merchandising, I knew right away that it matched everything I love and enjoy about design and art,” he says.
He recalls how Louise Franklin, co-ordinator, visual merchandising, supported his transition to Canada, even after visa difficulties caused a three-week delay in his start of the program. “She was incredible, and I never forgot that favour,” he says. “She really sensed how much I wanted to be at Sheridan, and I realized I made the right choice.”
After graduating in 2013, Juda worked at Sears. He enjoyed the multi-subject element of department stores — a direction that would shape his career.
From there, his experience included a stint at Hudson’s Bay Company as a visual presentation associate and freelance consultant roles with Le Chateau, Reitmans, Kitchen Stuff Plus and Sheridan College.
In 2016, Juda was approached by upscale department store chain Nordstrom to work as a full-time visual merchandiser as part of the Seattle, Wash.-based company’s Canadian launch at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre.
After a successful opening in October 2016, Juda moved to Ottawa’s Rideau Centre location as a manager before returning to Toronto in 2018 to take over as visual merchandising manager at Nordstrom’s flagship store at the Eaton Centre.
Today, Juda manages a nine-person team and oversees the store’s merchandising departments, challenging himself and his team every day to create the unexpected.
And despite planting roots in Toronto, Juda continues to travel for both work and pleasure.
“I’m always exploring and in research mode, whether poking through art exhibitions, shows or street fashion in Italy, Paris or here in Toronto,” he says. “I get to learn and get inspired by each city I visit.”