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This season’s crop of holiday windows touch on tradition and myth, high tech and high concept. There’s nostalgia at Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and Mitsukoshi; food for thought at Barneys New York; technically manipulated scenes at Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, and grand puppets, satirical mannequins and globe-trotting dummies at Printemps, Harvey Nichols and Bergdorf Goodman.
At Herald Square, Macy’s tells the story of Virginia O’Hanlon — of “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” fame — a real girl who, in 1897, wrote to the New York Sun, expressing her doubts about the big guy’s existence. Macy’s has taken a theatrical and high-tech approach creating window “sets” with curtains that rise, synchronized lighting, sound, animated movements and LCD screens.
Lord & Taylor is known for its charming mechanical windows that since 1938 have depicted scenes of the holidays. The retailer this year has taken an egalitarian turn, inviting customers to share favorite holiday memories and traditions over Facebook and in letters. Scenes inspired by the submissions include trimming a tree, a holiday party, picking out a tree, sitting for a family photo, a white Christmas, a child’s first bike, a big family celebration, Christmas baking, a holiday party overflowing onto a fire escape, waiting for Santa and watching holiday TV specials. The customers and stories that inspired each mechanical scene are displayed in the windows.
Japanese department store chain Mitsukoshi interpreted “The Nutcracker” two ways. The Nihonbashi district store in Tokyo features scenes from the classic Christmas tale, while the Ginza store windows use traditional elements mixed with modern touches, such as neon lights shaped like thought bubbles. Various scenes depict Clara, the main character, who dreams of a prince, sleeping in her bed or sitting atop a merry-go-round horse surrounded by fantastical toys and mounds of presents. At Takashimaya in Nihonbashi, shadow puppets in the shapes of rabbits, reindeer, wolves, doves and other animals decorate the holiday windows.
Bloomingdale’s “Happy, Merry, Peace and Love” theme translates into a sleek electronic vision of environs to the north, where great pines and fir trees are blanketed in snow. Close to 100 digital screens assembled in a mosaic format fill the windows and play computer-generated animations of a wintery landscape illuminated by falling snow.
“Wish You Were Here,” the theme of Bergdorf Goodman’s lush, fantastical holiday windows, depicts travel on a grand and quirky scale. A trip to the moon window with a telescopelike contraption was inspired by a 1902 silent film by Georges Méliès, director of the first science-fiction movie; Jules Verne, and Flash Gordon. There’s an elegantly dressed mannequin on top of Pegasus wearing a coat of pom-poms. Maps cover the walls where two world travelers rest beside vintage luggage as cherubs and hot-air balloons hover overhead. Nautical stripes, vintage model boats, clocks and antique diving masks fill another window.
At Saks Fifth Avenue, bubbles seemingly interact with snowflakes on the facade of the New York flagship through state-of-the-art projection technology. Visual effects of two evanescent natural wonders include snow gathering on the ledges, bubbles floating from windows and the entire facade appearing to freeze over. Mapping the landmark building’s details into a computer and creating a vivid 3-D projection made the special effects possible. Fashion found its way into the windows via one-of-a-kind dresses by Calvin Klein, Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta and Proenza Schouler, among others.
There’s fashion at Printemps on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris, which is celebrating the good life with opulent Christmas window displays inspired by the grandeur of France’s chateaus. Modern-day Marie Antoinettes should find plenty of inspiration in puppets designed by Alber Elbaz, which wear miniature versions of his covetable Lanvin tuxedos and dresses.
At Paris’ BHV on Rue de Rivoli, Christmas has gone to the circus. Windows designed by Olivia Ruiz feature a puppet modeled after a French pop singer as the ringleader of a menagerie of quirky creatures, including a miniature girl with three legs and three eyes. In another window, Santa is striking a ballet pose atop a colorful baton, while circus acts are performed by dolls.
Galeries Lafayette, also on Boulevard Haussmann, has taken a cue from musicals such as “Cabaret,” “Hairspray,” “Grease” and “Mamma Mia!”
Harvey Nichols gave windows depicting traditional Christmas songs a kitschy spin. Mannequins with cartoonish, oversize heads and Champagne glasses party to the tune of “Ding Dong Merrily on High.” There’s an homage to “Frosty the Snowman” and a window for “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” that’s lined in purple and red tinsel and festooned with disco balls.
Diverging from traditional scenes of families roasting chestnuts or baking Christmas cookies, Barneys New York whipped its own food theme into a froth. Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Guy Fieri and Wolfgang Puck on a giant shrimp are in the throes of a food fight. The Gals of Food will feature reigning female chefs Rachael Ray, Ina Garten and Anne Burrell, who is trapped in the oven.
La Rinascente tapped eight international artists to create window installations primarily using paper, creating a paperland wonderland. The choice of material was intended to be entertaining, magical and also ecological. Vittorio Radice, chief executive officer, said hiring designers and artists is a return to La Rinascente’s roots. After all, Giorgio Armani started his career as a window-dresser there.