Recap of the Best 2009 Holiday Windows

Even though the season is behind us there’s still time for a quick recap of the best windows of 2009. Armed with a camera, a quick stroll proved that even in the middle of a recession, ’tis the season for glitz, glamor and whimsy on  5th Avenue.

In the past we haven’t noticed anything particularly special about the windows at Tiffany’s.  They are, after all, incredibly small, but this year we noticed that what they lacked in size, Tiffany certainly made up for in detail.

Beautiful layered winter wonderlands made up of cut paper created fanciful stories around Santa in his sleigh or Cinderella in her carriage. Tiffany jewels acted as head pieces, handbags, dog collars and stoles for the miniature characters inside.

Bergdorf Goodman’s 5th Avenue Windows

Always a personal favorite for their consistently opulent and heavily detailed styling, Bergdorf’s 2009 holiday windows did not disappoint.  The theme this year of  “Curiouser and Curiouser” brought to life new twists on Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” and  “Alice in Wonderland.” (Note be sure to click on the images to see larger versions as the details here are key)

The first window creates an homage to the written word and features the writer’s world constructed entirely out of paper. From giant pen to typewriter, cat, flamingo, and dodo bird, every carefully crafted object hearkens to Carroll’s fantasies.

Or here we see a Victorian themed tree house set in a forest of roses. Notice the very late rabbit emerging from the door in the stump?

Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, this window also reminds me of a MC Escher illusion where hundreds of staircases at various scales spiral up and down in all directions. It’s almost more than anyone can take in.

Here a full-size mannequin stands front and center, while a miniature version of herself shrinks off into the distance holding the key.

And, by the way, in the middle of all of this, how could one not notice those slamming boots?

Another window, a magical world created entirely out of Venetian mirrored glass, simply cannot be captured on film. It is at once radiating and captivating. It features a girl trying to enter a large fireplace as portrayed in “Through the Looking Glass” and every item, from her jeweled gown, to the fire burning in the fireplace, has a mirrored surface.

Last but not least, the most enticing and dynamic window features an interpretation of a game room where the King and Queen of Hearts are pawns in a giant game of chess. The most disarming part of the scene is that it is shown entirely overhead. The floor of the room is actually the back wall of the window.

Every pattern, every object is black, white, or red, inspired by playing cards and gaming. Note how the Queen’s face is really the black and white stylized illustration commonly found on a playing card and how as the King pours his coffee, it is really running sideways, not down into the cup.

This is definitely a mind-bender to behold and will surely go down as one of the greatest retail windows of all time, at least in my book.

Bergdorf Goodman’s 58th Street Windows

On the north and south sides of the building, the fantastical world of Bergdorf Goodman’s continues. It seems that their theme is consistently mannequins with animal heads or people interacting with animals. Trés chic.

In this window the contrast of the deep mossy green horses to the white shimmering dress and feathers is a colorist’s joy.

Here the layers upon layers of red plaids makes me wonder how could anything ever be mis-matched? Perhaps if you put enough variety together it becomes symmetry yet again?

And this odd equestrian-themed room is straight out of a safari, only the beasts of choice are small giraffes.

Bergdorf Goodman Men’s Windows

Across 5th Avenue, the animal themes continued as the windows at Bergdorf Goodman’s men’s building featured scenes from the new Wes Anderson movie, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” filmed entirely using stop animation. These windows showcase actual sets from the movie along with a nice clip showing the animators in action and  what actually goes into making a full-length feature this complex.

Paired with the scenes are men’s apparel which complement the color palette and styling of the sets. Mr. Fox, after all, is a sophisticated working man himself.


Five years ago, my friend and former colleague, Tim Wisgerhof, initiated the concept that Saks should “own” snow. The premise was simple, the exterior of the building was adorned in LED snowflakes that literally dance and delight to music while the traditional store windows themselves focus in on a children’s book story centering around snow.

This year the story is based on the children’s book, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Flake.” There’s of course a frame from the story in every window and an audio track to guide you through the story. This year visitors can get involved as well and “tweet” their holiday wishes  to “#holidaywindows” to have their text message displayed on monitors inside.

Sadly, Tim is no long with Saks, so although the windows bear his big picture concept, they do not bear his personal style and flair, which I feel is a loss. I’m not sure if the windows were as clever or sophisticated as I’ve found them in years past. I did, however, like the first window with this wind-up toy playing on the phrase “Wherever you wind up is where you were meant to be.”


Drawing upon the theme of partnering with a children’s book, Gucci’s partnership with the children’s book “Snowman in Africa” not only took over their holiday windows but their featured product line as well. Michael Robert’s graphic illustrations literally leapt from the holiday windows onto the bags themselves.  Not only is this a great extension of a marketing campaign, but a noteworthy one as well, as 100% of all book sales and 25% of all merchandise sales go to UNICEF.

Louis Vuitton

Inspirational messages were a bit of a theme this year as Louis Vuitton also had a directional message.  Their travel-inspired windows featured old fashioned train station flip boards touting cities, traditional LV icons, and the message “If you don’t know where you are going any road will lead you there.”

Sounds like great advice for a directionless economy on the brink of a new decade. How about some good old-fashioned New Year’s resolutions? Pick a direction, pick a destination and go for it!

I also admire how LV continues to activate not just their windows, but their entire facade. The coin-like icons that adorn the exterior promote the new LV city guides, a series of books on the world’s metropolitan hot spots and what’s moving and shaking the hearts of these cities today.

Henri Bendel’s

Speaking of owning concepts, Henri Bendel’s windows seem to always center around sugary sweet bejeweled fantasies. Their “brown and white ball” this year features thousands of Swarovski crystals covering every surface of an opulent masquerade party. Here the  sparkling crystal champagne flows like water and even the mice under the floor boards are having a fabulous time.

The opulent glitz and glam of every surface is truly something to behold, and  best captured in person where one can discover that every detail is literally encrusted. Apparently Henri Bendel has been quoted as saying, “I’d rather sparkle and shine,” and never was it more true than in these windows.

And, in the end, even NYC Transit was swayed to get into the holiday spirit. Check out the temporary signage they erected for the occasion. Next stop North Pole indeed!