Elsa Schiaparelli, the iconic fashion designer of the 1920s, told us that “dress designing is not a profession, but an art.” When speaking of art, she went on to say, “It’s the way we live.”
In the ’70s, a young upper West Side, N.Y., native and recent FIT graduate put an exclamation point on the notion that show window design is also an art form. Art, like fashion, is a reflection of our society, our culture and of who we are.
Candy Pratts Price was that young artist’s name, and her canvas was Bloomingdale’s (New York) – its famed show windows. Not afraid to break the rules, she set new standards for the visual merchandising industry with windows that dared to capture the essence of the times.
As New York’s world renowned Broadway thrilled theatergoers, a few blocks away, Pratts Price’s artistry, referred to by some as “street theater,” provided a new venue, and perhaps a new definition, of thespian pursuits. Crowds would flock to Lexington Avenue each week as the curtain was raised to reveal her new installations.
Through her vision and creativity she influenced an entire generation of young visual merchandisers and opened doors for many women hoping to enter the field. Every Wednesday and Thursday evening, as the windows were unveiled, scores of visual merchandisers, window designers and other creatives made the pilgrimage to Bloomingdale’s to “see what Candy was doing.”
“It was an amazing time for retail,” says Pratts Price. “And it was an unbelievable journey for me. I had 106 staff members, and I worked side by side with so many wonderful people.” She considers herself blessed to have worked for Marvin Traub, CEO and President at Bloomingdale’s during her time with the famed retailer. “He made us shop, and I could do anything, both inside and outside the store. At one point, I turned Bloomingdale’s into India.”
Her time at Bloomingdale’s was just the beginning of an illustrious and distinguished career. After leaving Bloomingdale’s, Pratts Price went on to build a resume that includes stints as Creative Director at Vogue, Executive Fashion Director at Style.com, Creative Director at Ralph Lauren, Accessories Director for Vogue, Fashion Director for Harper’s Bazaar and Creative Director of the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards.
Recently, she heeded the calling to return to her place behind the window glass. Pratts Price knew Michael Kors quite well professionally from her days at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. “We had a running banter,” she said. “One day he called and left a message saying he had an idea, he needs new media, and I should call him back.”
She called and listened as Kors described his new Graffiti collection, inspired by New York street art of the ’80s, and his desire to shake things up. Intrigued by the dynamic black and white collection, Pratts Price agreed to once again flex her creative wit and return to window design. A full year of planning ensued as she worked with Kors and his design team to help develop the line of merchandise and the window concept to be showcased at New York’s Rockefeller Center.
“Graffiti is a culture that has been elevated to an art,” says Pratts Price. “It’s a desperate need to send a message. Messaging is not new, it’s a code that began in the caves; but now of course it’s electronic.”
The visionary window designer wanted to make an artistic statement utilizing mannequins wearing the Graffiti line of products, including black and white jackets, shoes and bags together with the iconic Kors aviator sunglasses. Collaborating with fashion hairstylist Christiaan, she also wanted to capture the selfie fascination that has gripped contemporary culture. The resultant design solution featured a black and white screen-printed graphic of Kors in his aviators and groupings of skin-toned rotating mannequins sporting multiple aviators while taking selfies of their dramatically sculpted human-hair wigs.
Moreover, Pratts Price’s vision was to translate the window theme into the interior environment. With that in mind, the black and white graffiti motif was seamlessly integrated into the interior detailing of the store. “I can’t stop at the windows, it’s like saying you can look but you can’t come in,” she says of the effort.
Thinking on a grander scale, she wanted to utilize the skating rink and the promenade at Rockefeller Center. While the rink and the promenade weren’t in the offing, what resulted was a global initiative with window installations in Michael Kors stores across the world, from Rockefeller Center and Flatiron in New York to Corso Vittorio Emanuele in Milan to Regent Street in London, Mandarin Gallery in Singapore, Jing’An Kerry Centre in Shanghai and Ginza, Japan.
It’s with her unique vision and creativity that Pratts Price and other forward-thinking contemporary designers will further the artistry of the show window in retail’s digital age.