LIVE PEOPLE, BUTTERFLIES AND FAIRY TALES … LOOK FOR THESE AND MORE THIS CHRISTMAS
Byline: Lisa Lockwood / With contributions from Rusty Williamson, Dallas / James Fallon, London
The sun is blazing, the air conditioner is humming, the sunglasses are on and Saint-Tropez is calling.
Time to think about the Christmas windows.
“That’s my life,” sighed Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys New York, about the typical schedule for making Christmas plans. “You have to get the jingle bells on when everybody’s on the beach.”
Contacted by WWD in the first half of July, retailers were jealously guarding their holiday strategies as if they were Hamptons parking permits. Still, some let loose juicy details about the windows, catalogs and advertising schemes to come.
After last year’s millennium-themed windows, retailers said they will move in new directions. Barneys will use real people in its Christmas windows; Neiman Marcus will design a butterfly motif; Lord & Taylor will recreate a circus; Harrods will convert the main windows into a crystal “skating rink” designed by Swarovski; Bergdorf Goodman’s will possess a dreamlike quality; Stanley Korshak’s will sport accents of lush and exotic flowers; Saks Fifth Avenue’s will tell an exclusive Christmas tale based on dolls called Little Souls; and Galeries Lafayette will tap Jean-Charles Castelbajac to design its holiday windows.
“You have to start to pull it together now because it goes in sooner than you think,” warned Barneys’ Doonan. “You have to keep moving the goal post. Part of the fun of it is keeping yourself stimulated. I have some wild ideas.”
He said this year, Barneys doesn’t plan to collaborate with a magazine for its windows, as it did the past two with Talk and InStyle. World famous for its over-the-top and witty windows, Barneys’ new twist this year is live people as props. “I don’t think anyone’s done this in Christmas windows. I’m inspired by ‘Survivor’ and ‘Real People’,” said Doonan. His creative team is working on the logistics now. “Obviously, they do need bathroom breaks.”
Barneys’ theme will be “A Retro Christmas,” with live-action vignettes in all Barneys windows, depicting the Forties through the Eighties. Doonan expects to wardrobe the real people from the vintage clothing departments. “Many designers are so vintage-inspired; it won’t be hard to costume them from the store.” Doonan chose to go retro because, “People are defining themselves by collecting Seventies stuff, and Forties stuff.”
Why leave out the Nineties? “The Nineties is a tough one,” said Doonan. “Most people are still living that. It has to be something you can do a lot of pastiche with.” The Fifties window, for instance, will show a woman making a cheese fondue and a man reading a vintage newspaper. The Seventies window will have a David Bowie record album and Linda Lovelace video on the floor. “We’ll have guidelines,” added Doonan. “There will be no hanky-panky in the windows.”
He also tossed out an offer. “If someone wants to be in New York for Christmas and doesn’t have anywhere to stay, give me a call.”
Inside the stores, Doonan expects to design the Co-op “to make sure the inside looks madly festive.”
In a similar spirit, Barneys wants its holiday mailer to be “completely hedonistic” and chock-full of must-have gifts. “So many of your designer customers buy three things for themselves for every one thing they buy for other people.”
While Barneys will go live, Saks Fifth Avenue will be playing with dolls this Christmas.
“The idea came from a special doll that is sold at Saks called Little Souls, and the windows will tell a story of one of these dolls,” said Jaqui Lividini, senior vice president, fashion merchandising and communications at Saks. “The whole story was created for us.”
The book, called “One Enchanted Christmas,” will be sold exclusively at Saks. The Little Souls dolls were created by two women who live outside Philadelphia, who had worked at Kmart together and couldn’t afford children’s toys, so they used found objects to create dolls. Some have big feet, others glasses and unruly hair, said Lividini.
Saks’s holiday catalog will contain three little books polybagged together, entitled “Perfect for Him,” “Perfect for Her” and “Just Plain Perfect,” said Russ Hardin, senior vice president, creative brand management at Saks.
Butterflies — but not real ones — will inhabit Neiman Marcus’s Christmas windows.
“We’ll continue to work with butterflies as an element, and the color palette will be white, silver and have an icy feel,” said Ignaz Gorischek, vice president of visual planning and presentation at Neiman Marcus. He said the butterfly, a Neiman Marcus icon, “is beautiful and can be interpreted in thousands of ways.” Window designers will suspend butterfly garlands in silver and white and then place round mirrors in the windows so the butterflies appear to be dancing around.
“We’ll instill some movement in it, and it will be soft and beautiful — and they’ll be secondary to what’s happening with the merchandise.” In-store, he said, he’ll add white feathers and crystallized, cracked-glass ornaments. “We’ll also put in trees and wreaths and garlands.”
In the designer couture area, for example, displays will include hand-beaded frames hung on trees; and in intimate apparel, hand-beaded and sequin ornaments.
Gorischek said his staff works on the store decorations and windows more than a year in advance. “We subtly change it every year, and every third year we do an entirely new look.” This is a year for a new look, he noted.
Well known for its fantasy Christmas catalog and “The Book,” Neiman Marcus is cooking up some creative ideas for those media, too. The holiday version of “The Book” will carry the theme, “HoHoHo,” and ads and catalog pages will play off that, said Ann Richardson, vice president of advertising. The 200-page catalog will be mailed to customers the first week of November.
Some Neiman Marcus ads will also carry the tag line “Coolest Holiday Presence.” Neiman Marcus will buy eight to 12 ad pages in InStyle’s Objects of Desire section in November; another eight to 12 pages in December W’s Precious Jewelry section (published by Fairchild Publications, which also publishes WWD), and the November-December precious jewelry section of Departures.
For several Sundays prior to Christmas, Neiman Marcus will run two to three newspaper ads in major markets with an “Oh Goody, Oh Cool” theme. It will also run single pages in December consumer magazines such as Architectural Digest, Town & Country, Vanity Fair, Vogue and W. These will sport red backgrounds and feature the merchandise in full color. “It creates a red look across the whole page,” said Richardson.
In its Christmas catalog of fantasy gifts, “We’re doing something really different,” said Ginger Reeder, director of public relations for Neiman Marcus Direct. Last year, Neiman’s Christmas catalog had a hologram print with butterflies. This year, Neiman’s Christmas catalog will consist of three smaller-sized books that will be polybagged and sent to customers on Sept. 25. In total, there are about 550 items, and each book will have 100 pages.
One of the fantasy gifts was created by actress Rene Russo, who, along with jewelry designer David Hundley, designed a charm bracelet. “It’s a great-looking silver bracelet, that sells with a heart charm for $600,” said Reeder.
Linda Fargo, vice president of visual presentation at Bergdorf Goodman, protested that it was too early to disclose details about its windows, but noted, “We don’t run with one concept. What holds it together is very fantasy-based. We have a certain sentimentality, without it being too familiar so it becomes trite.”
One hint: There will be a “dreamlike quality to the windows. We’re playing with dreams.”
Teril Turner, director of marketing at Henri Bendel, said this year’s windows will resemble an ice palace with an opulent disco ball made out of cracked glass. “We anticipate that it will look amazing — almost like jewelry,” she said.
In addition, Bendel’s will reprise a tactic from several years ago, installing a Robert Isabell-designed tree and wreath composed of baskets that are filled with dried cloves, oranges and potpourri. A large wreath will be suspended from the fourth floor. Turner said the tree and wreath were built for the store in the early Nineties.
“We will work with Robert Isabell to update that,” she said. The plan is to add more silver and white to the decor. “It’s very Ice Palace, very Cinderella and very feminine. We want it to look very opulent and very warm.” The holiday decor goes up the week of Nov. 12.
Bendel’s will also create a gift catalog that will be “very focused, very edited, with wonderful gift ideas.” The catalog will contain apparel, cosmetics, accessories and gifts, as well as items from the Home area, which will reopen after a hiatus of several years. “What we’re trying to do reflects the spirit of the store. It’s fun, colorful and very gift-oriented, with tabletop items, home decor, picture frames and vases. There will be a small amount of furniture and things for the baby and little dogs.” The catalog will be a combination of illustrations and photographs. The holiday ad campaign will be illustrated by Izak, a French illustrator.
Lord & Taylor, which draws big crowds to its holiday window displays in New York, is planning a circus theme. “We think it will be an awful lot of fun. It’s an important part of what we do,” said Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president of fashion merchandising for Lord & Taylor. Like last year, the windows will focus on a charitable theme involving children.
Olexa said L&T will also design elaborate in-store displays for the windows’ kickoff. “It’s a very strong event for us, in terms of visuals. We’ll have a Santa breakfast with the children, which is always a complete sellout. We’ll have various events that are music-related and circus-related.”
Stanley Korshak, a women’s and men’s designer store in Dallas, is going organic for the holidays with windows and store displays centered on flowers and plants, said Rajan Patel, visual director.
“The front of the store will emulate a charming European country market with real flowers, cedar trees and lots of exotic berries. It’s a warm, inviting and Old World approach that will be echoed throughout the store.”
Stanley Korshak recently opened an in-store fresh flower market that specializes in luxurious and exotic arrangements and plants. At Christmas, the market plans to offer custom wreaths and garlands.
The living-garden approach at Korshak will provide an inviting setting for the store’s high-end merchandise, noted Rose Clark, vice president and visual merchandise manager.
Korshak plans to continue with its holiday direct-mail advertising campaign to top customers. Last year, the mailer was entitled, “Don’t Get Mall-ed” and included reasons why shoppers should stick with Korshak: “Doggie friendly, no cosmetics spritz alley, complimentary champagne and no tired Santas.”
Harrods in London is sticking with tradition. The London department store is theming all its activities under the heading “The Magic of Christmas,” covering windows, a catalog and advertising. The colors for Christmas will be purple and gold.
“Whatever we do at Christmas needs to have a traditional element because a lot of people come to Harrods only at Christmas,” said Andrew Wiles, director of marketing and advertising.
The store kicks it off on Nov. 4 with the arrival of Father Christmas (Santa Claus to Americans). It also is doing a 116-page catalog which will be produced in association with Conde Nast about the store’s Christmas activities, Wiles said. The catalog will be banded with the November issue of House & Garden and will be sent to Harrods’ account and mail-order customers. Overall, about 400,000 copies of the catalog will be distributed.
Harrods will transform the main windows at the front of the store into a crystal “skating rink” designed by Swarovski. Live ice skaters will appear at key times. (Last year, the Swarovski-designed displays featured crystal-covered ice queens.) A magical theme will run throughout the store, with roaming wizards, magicians and genies.
The store’s advertising in season will consist of tactical ads in newspapers and on radio, touting its hours, Wiles said. But Harrods’ fall campaign, themed “New Modern Luxury,” is designed to build up to Christmas, with each month to focus on a different product category — September will be women’s and men’s wear, followed by home furnishings in October.
“It’s about the must-haves in life,” Wiles said. “New Modern Luxury underpins everything we are doing for fall and fits in with the current mood.”
The campaign will appear in fall issues of British magazines as well as on outdoor posters and television. In addition, Harrods plans to do a special modern luxury supplement in Tatler.