By  on November 24, 2004

NEW YORK — Opera-haunting ghouls, Russian epics and Tammy Faye Baker are giving Santa and Rudolf a run for their money this holiday season.

While traditional holiday themes are plentiful in store windows, some major New York retailers opted for Hollywood tie-ins, product plugs and a campy spoof or two.

“New York windows are a great way for a production company to get their message across,” said Joe Cotugno, vice president of visual merchandising at Bloomingdale’s, who said Warner Bros. initially contacted the store about partnering with the “Phantom of the Opera” movie and helped finance the cost of its windows.

Macy’s has scenes taken from the “Polar Express” movie for its Broadway windows, while Barneys New York partnered with Vanity Fair to feature caricatures by artist Robert Risko that have run in the magazine (which, like WWD, is owned by Advance Publications Inc). Saks has teamed with Philips Electronics to present a high tech lighting extravaganza on its facade, and has tableaux inspired by “SantaKid” — author James Patterson’s new children’s book — in its Fifth Avenue windows. Among other stores, Lord & Taylor collaborated with the U.S. Postal Service for its window displays, which were inspired by postal service through the ages.

Bergdorf Goodman took a different approach than the competition by mixing opulent and luxurious tableaux inspired by the film “Dr. Zhivago,” the changing of the seasons and old-time fairy tales, said Linda Fargo, vice president of visual merchandising.

“We had the opportunity to tie-in with a book and we talked about it a lot, but as a company, we decided strategically it wasn’t the right decision for us,” Fargo said. “Windows reflect the soul and the strength of your company, and we feel strongly that this is a time for us to do something original and present a homemade, handmade vision.”

One window celebrates overindulgence and has figurines covered in chocolate surrounded by cakes and all manner of chocolate edibles, while another window has a giant white peacock and women dressed in white furs decked in jewelry and surrounded by crystals hanging from branches overhead.

Barneys’ windows burst with activity as lights, fashion and illustrations combine to create exuberant images.“We have done windows where magazines were involved, but we have never done windows where we have been able to use content from the magazine,” said Simon Doonan, creative director. “I have always loved Risko’s work and I approached [VF editor] Graydon Carter and we decided this was a good way to have a retrospective of his work.”

A diverse crowd is showcased in the more than 70 caricatures crowding the windows, which are grouped into four tableaux. “Divas and Deities” includes women such as Audrey Hepburn and Anna Wintour; “Tramps, Scamps and Vamps” features Dolly Parton and Tammy Faye Baker; “Hunks and Blokes” features Paul Newman and Bruce Lee, and President George W. Bush, Oprah Winfrey and Larry King are among those depicted in the “Movers and Shakers” window.

Real Vanity Fair covers are displayed on the floor, and frocks from some of the magazine’s advertisers are pictured, adding another commercial element. Red dresses from designers such as Lanvin, Narciso Rodriguez, Marc Jacobs, Versace and Helmut Lang are among those showcased in the windows, which are surrounded by flashing lights.

At Lord & Taylor, mechanical windows re-create old-time themes of mail transportation, such as a reproduction of a steamboat floating along the Mississippi River and a scene depicting a stagecoach traveling in the Colorado Rockies. A large reproduction of the stamp that inspired the scene is affixed to each window.

“We looked to create something that was timely and appropriate but not commercial,” noted Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president of fashion merchandising. The store also has giant reproductions of the holiday stamps on its facade.

Henri Bendel hasn’t put in its holiday windows yet, but they will feature lush topiary geometric designs in boxwood, said Teril Turner, director of marketing. “We are going for a clean and elegant look,” she noted.

Barneys New York

Window Designer: Simon Doonan (creative director)

Theme: Tribute to Vanity Fair magazine illustrator Robert Risko.

Commercial tie-in: Dresses and tuxedos from Vanity Fair advertisers are featured, and the magazine covers are displayed on the bottom of each tableau.Quirky fact: Caricatures of President George W. Bush and Vanity Fair editor in chief Graydon Carter are displayed next to each other, a cheeky reference to Carter’s vocal opposition to the president.


Window Designer: Joe Cotugno(vice president of visual merchandising).

Theme: “Phantom of the Opera”film from Warner Bros.

Commercial tie-in: In-store shops with fashions, cosmetics and accessories inspired by the movie are installed at select Bloomingdale’s locations, and the soundtrack will be sold in company stores nationwide.

Quirky fact: A giant image of the Phantom’s mask is projected on the store’s facade.

Bergdorf Goodman

Window Designers: Linda Fargo (the store’s vice president of visual merchandising) and David Hoey.

Theme: “Dr. Zhivago,’’ luxury and fairy-tale visions of the holiday.

Commercial tie-in: None.

Quirky fact: More than 750 pieces of chocolate — a mixture of edible and fake — were used in the chocolate tableau.


Window Designer: Sam Joseph

Theme: “Polar Express” film from Warner Bros.

Commercial tie-in: No merchandise for sale, but

scenes from the movie are projected from the windows.

Quirky fact: A clay model reproduction of green eggs and ham — Joseph’s trademark — is secreted in the windows.

Lord & Taylor

Window Designer: Manoel Renha

Theme: Salute to the U.S. Postal Service.

Commercial tie-in: While not exactly commercial, the store had a special in-store postal station through Nov. 20 and mail sent from there was postmarked Lord & Taylor.

Quirky fact: The store has a policy of not featuring merchandise in holiday windows.Saks Fifth Avenue

Window Designer: Tim Wisgerhof

Theme: Snowflakes and James Patterson’s new “SantaKid” children’s book.Commercial tie-in: The book will be sold along with “SantaKid”-themed merchandise such as mugs and platters.

Quirky fact: More than 72,000 lights from Philips Electronics are used in the 50 snowflakes on the store facade.

Henri Bendel

Window Designer: An in-house team.

Theme: Topiary elements.

Commercial tie-in: The Bendel’s box.

Quirky fact: The giant wreath marks the first time Bendel’s has hung anything on its facade.

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