By  on July 11, 2008

There's nothing like some graffiti in the windows to give a store an edge.

At least, that's what Lord & Taylor executives were thinking Wednesday when Tats Cru, a group of five artists who wield aerosol cans instead of paint brushes, graffitied up the Fifth Avenue flagship's bank of windows. They created skyscrapers and streetscapes, and a lot of color to provide depth perception. As pedestrians and camera crews watched, the artists worked deftly, creating 14 murals on 15-foot-by-18-foot vinyl banners at a rate of about two an hour.

"Their colorful murals portray the free spirit of our city," said LaVelle Olexa, Lord & Taylor's senior vice president of public relations.

They also provide a vivid backdrop for the summery hoodies, jeans and layered looks from Lucky, Free People, Betsey Johnson, Ed Hardy and other labels that Lord & Taylor spotlights this season. The retailer has been working hard to shed a reputation as a store where your grandmother shops and has been building up contemporary offerings to develop a modern appeal for the family.

The company has become adventurous with its windows, having included sculptures by Thomas Beale, Chakaia Booker and Manolo Valdes, and the paintings of Juan Genoves, Red Grooms, Thierry Despont, Richard Estes, Larry Rivers and mainland China's Gu Gan, Guo Jin, Liu Kuo-Sung and Yang Yangping.

"We are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to promote fashion and art," said Manoel Renha, vice president of visual merchandising, fashion and special events. "I'm a true believer that fashion and art is a perfect marriage."

For one Father's Day, some vintage Stingrays once ended up in the windows.

The Tats Cru murals will be on display in the windows through July 27. The artists are Wilfredo Feliciano, Hector Nazario, Sotero Ortiz and the twins, Raoul and David Perre. Their street names areBio, Nicer, BG 183, How and Nosm, respectively.

Graffiti typically conjures images of unsightly and unwanted lettering scrawled or painted on property and is often associated with vandalism. However, Tats Cru has helped transform graffiti into a legitimate form of art and expression. The group's work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution and has adorned the walls of hospitals, museums, schools and businesses.

"We've been working together for over 12 years as a group," said Bio. "Each of us plays a different role. One guy does the background. One guy does the lettering. One guy does the portraits. It depends. But in the end, the actual product looks like it's been done by one individual. That's because we have been working together for so long."

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