2011 Holiday Window Highlights

Great holiday retail windows embody the entire romance of the shopping season. When I was young, the trend was dioramas of animatronic characters set amid a snowy scene. These days retailers and window designers are encouraged to think a bit more outside the box, and the more they let their imagination wander, the better. In fact, the out-of-the-ordinary is more apt to capture peoples’ attention.

Here are some windows that struck me on a recent trip down 5th Avenue.

Bergdorf Goodman’s
Bergdorf’s is really in a class all their own. Year ’round they stand head and shoulders above other retail windows because of their artistic concepts and rich attention to detail. This elongated mannequin and giraffe aren’t even part of  the main attraction this year, but they fit perfectly in a narrow side window and create this feeling that everything in the window is slightly stretched.

In another side window I was impressed by the play on perspective as the wall turns into the floor.

This little character helps create the illusion. Are we looking in or down? Either way, note how he is created from beautiful tapestry and blends in the backdrop.

The main event is the five windows all styled under the theme “Carnival of the Animals.” Each window has its own material theme, color and concept. And each of them is amazing in its own right. The mosaic tile encrusted window, “Testing the Waters” at the top of this post, took 10 months to build.

This window entitled “Teachers Pet” is styled entirely out of paper! I was initially drawn in by the monochromatic feeling and the delicate nature of the colors, then as my eyes adjusted I began to notice little details. The delicately cut border, the wispy plumes on the peacock’s feathers, how was that happening? Paper. Three hundred types of paper to be exact.

Just to give you a sense of the overall scale of this extravaganza, this zebra is life-size. There are also a life-size ostrich, panda bear, aardvark, and white peacock among other animals all within this one window.

Fundamentally it’s the layered concept that make this window sing. Bees presented on a honeycombed book hive.

Two delicately cut primate faces presented side by side on contrasting book pages.

A hamster habitrail cut/carved out of the inside of a book.

It is a fantasy wonderland, the kind that doesn’t need to animate or be made out of snow.

Tiffany & Co.
Inspired by the carousel in Central Park, Tiffany’s 2011 holiday windows continue to impress. Proving that good things come in small packages, Tiffany’s first challenge is to draw viewers into their tiny windows. Their solution: build up, out, and on top of their existing frames. The rounded form creates the illusion that the carousel is bursting out from the store within.

Like a box, within a bag, under a bow, the real magic is set within six tiny circular windows. As you peer into these windows, scenes of Central Park and the carousel come to life. The narrative is based upon the book “The Winter Carousel” by David Melling.

As always, I really enjoyed Tiffany’s play on perspective.  This scene shows an overhead of Manhattan, with Central Park in the center as the carousel horse lifts into the sky like Santa’s sleigh.

There are many little baubles to be discovered. Check out the miniature Tiffany’s with miniature versions of the holiday windows.

And a beautiful jeweled present waits at the door.

A few years ago, Saks raised the holiday window “bar” by covering the entire building facade with snowflakes. However, the snowflakes came with a lot of armature and hardware that marred the clean aesthetic of the building during the day.

This year, Saks has cleaned up their design by using projection which requires no hardware on their building at all. (Just a giant generator, set up on Rock Center’s roof. 🙂

Although I found the lumen of the projection to be a little dim amid the other bright city lights, the quality of the animation was an upgrade. Designed to tie in with the windows below, giant pipes pump out bubbles, which turn into snowflakes and dance along the windows and molding.

It’s truly a fun spectacle, set to music, and the designers at Pentagram throw in a few of the other Tromp d’Oeille tricks, such as moving parts of the building and unlocking vaults, common among projection installations these days.

The windows below are also based on a story,”Who Makes the Snow,” written for the occasion and for sale at Saks. I actually really enjoyed reading the words on windows which were lyrical in nature.

Visually the windows weren’t as compelling, but I found this window on the side street to be striking.

Here’s hoping you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!