MANHATTAN’S GLASS ACT
Byline: Sharon Edelson
NEW YORK — From heartwarming scenes at Lord & Taylor to dark, detritus-filled environments at Barneys New York, this year’s holiday windows in some of New York’s key stores explore hope and charity, envy and power, in unusual and unexpected ways.
In Bergdorf Goodman’s modern fairy tales, Cinderella wears John Galliano’s chamois suede eyelet evening dress. The joke, of course, is that poor Cinderella can afford a Galliano, but the dress is made of chamois, a cloth often used for washing cars.
In another window, the princess is aware of the pea’s presence beneath mattresses covered with Frette linens and Loro Piana cashmere throws.
Bergdorf’s Fifth Avenue windows are framed in laurel leaves, and each has an emblem inscribed with one word.
“Dream” is for the princess and the pea, “hope” for Cinderella and “charity” appears over Little Red Riding Hood, who wears a red and black Morgane Le Fay to Grandmother’s house, the wolf in hot pursuit.
“They’re very sophisticated and opulent windows,” said Richard Lambertson, the store’s senior vice president and creative director. “We wanted to do something other than piles of merchandise, and mechanicals are not our thing. Charm is a big word we use to describe them.”
At Bloomingdale’s, the theme is “divide and conquer” as the Bloomingdale’s express train chugs through the flagship’s Lexington Avenue windows, making stops in Miami, Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, passing huge candy-covered sculptures of landmarks along the way.
“It’s been a real banner year for Bloomingdale’s because we’ve moved to the West Coast,” said Rachel Arnold, vice president and creative director for visual merchandising. “We wanted something that would carry the energy and spirit of our existing stores. In the Seventies and Eighties, Bloomingdale’s was an incredible institution. We feel a resurgence of the exciting theatrical qualities retailing can offer, which it hasn’t done in the last few years.”
“What are you going to do if you get mice?” asked a man walking by a window last week, eyeing all the candy.
“We have a good exterminator,” a store executive said.
“If you get mice, you’re dead meat,” the man replied.
Barneys’ windows encourage audience participation. In the window “Politically Incorrect Yule,” a tribute to blondes of the 20th century, a wig is attached to the glass with the sign, “Be a Blonde. Stick your head here.”
The window is filled with blondes’ artifacts — Jenny Garth’s collection of platform shoes, Ivana Trump’s combs and Courtney Love’s guitar. The secret to Traci Lord’s stardom is revealed as a black high-heeled sandal with rhinestone buckle.
Another window, called “Neurotic Yule,” is a tribute to Sigmund Freud, but might also symbolize the Pressman family’s anxiety over its ongoing fight with Isetan, Barneys’ estranged Japanese partner. Televisions flash disturbing messages — such as, “I dreamed I was burning” — that only Freud could interpret.
Things are much lighter at Lord & Taylor, where warm holiday scenes have a nicely worn look, filled with vintage toys in Victorian costumes. There’s a Raggedy Ann and Andy decorating their home as a door opens to reveal a snowman carrying gifts.
A grandmother bear in a Lincoln log cabin with a puzzle floor reads to a Victorian doll and nutcracker tucked into a Tinkertoy bed. In another window, a teddy bear Santa and his sleigh are drawn by marionette rocking horses to a giant globe.
For a low tech interactive touch, passersby can press labels on the windows to play notes of Jingle Bells.
The windows at the new Moschino store on Madison Avenue take on the weighty subject of religion, but like everything Moschino, there is humor.
A Star of David, Madonna and child, Buddha, Totem, Pharaoh, Shiva and African mask share the window, which has a dark blue background flecked with stars. The disco ball and legend, “Be Good!” add the levity, said Piero Capobianco, Moschino’s set designer.
At the new Valentino boutique, there is a larger-than-life illustration of an angel with a multimedia installation by Jill Buchanan, a creative director and fashion illustrator. Pictures of the designer, his friends and the celebrities that wear his clothes are projected on the angel’s wings.
The idea for the display is “transcendence and ascendence,” a spokeswoman said. “It’s the signature Valentino we all know and the emerging Valentino that’s more modern.”
Saks Fifth Avenue’s fantasy windows are based on a children’s book called “Ship of Dreams,” illustrated by Dean Morrissey. The tale — about a small child who dreams of a red wagon that flies into the air, then is caught by the Sandman and dragged onto his fantasy boat — is brought to life by mechanical figures.
“It’s not a Christmas story per se, but it’s a real fantasy,” said Ken Smart, vice president of corporate visual design. “We at Saks don’t need it to be a Christmas story. We need it to be fun, childlike and upbeat. The six Fifth Avenue windows are a gift to the community. Obviously, there are a lot of retailers out there trying to push product, and we are too, with our other windows.”
Henri Bendel is pushing merchandise with the theme:
“Something for everyone from under the Bendel tree.” The tree, designed by Robert Isabell, is in the store’s atrium. In the windows are oversized velvet-flocked Christmas trees and brown and white signature Bendel gift boxes. Each window is filled with products from different areas of the store, such as Gilded Cage and New Createurs, and will have a new color story every two weeks.
Macy’s has the twin task of pushing products and entertaining the throngs of passersby at Herald Square.
This year, Sam Joseph, Macy’s window director, hit the archives and recreated store interiors from the early 1900s as backdrops. One window looks like Macy’s main floor at the turn of the century. The windows are populated by Styrofoam animals dressed in velvet Edwardian and Victorian outfits.
Miss Giraffe is trying on a hat in the ladies’ accessories department in one window. In another, Mrs. Hippo is trying to squeeze her way into a Christmas frock.
Joseph worked in lots of products. “We’re probably the only store in the city that features the merchandise this way.
“I’ve really done the windows for kids,” he added.
“I don’t think a window designer is worth anything if he doesn’t have the mind of a nine-year-old.”