Continental Holiday

Christmas glamour returns to the capitals of Europe
Posted January 22, 2007

After years of minimalism, sparse designer trees and discreet decorations, European Christmas shop windows for 2006 were full of opulence, exaggeration, luxury, glamour and eye-catching glitter.

Bright colors accented with gold, silver and pure white transported shoppers to a different world. Recent cinema releases, including “Marie Antoinette” and the new James Bond flick, were replayed as common themes, while classic childhood dreams of Santa were reinterpreted in quirky animated worlds. An eco-conscious message appeared amidst the consumer frenzy, while holiday lights made everything sparkle. Here’s a review of some of Europe’s best seasonal displays.

Antoinette. Marie Antoinette.

Sofia Coppola’s film “Marie Antoinette” inspired many rich holiday decorations. The film’s rococo theme was prominently displayed in the windows of Paris, London and Dusseldorf, Germany, among others.

Elaborate floral decorations became stylized Christmas trees to match the film’s extravagant coiffures. Curtains, tiaras, powdered wigs, butterflies and pastel colors recalled the world of the decadent pre-revolutionary French court. On a note of self-irony, Parisian department store Galeries Lafayette hung its mannequins upside-down to show what an aristocratic life of excess can bring.

The new Bond film, “Casino Royale,” was re-created with remarkable authenticity for the Harrods’ holiday windows, one of London’s major tourist attractions. Before the film was released, movie clips played on numerous flat screens and real film sets and props were displayed, including Bond’s Aston Martin DBS.

Four windows alone were dedicated to the film’s costume designer, Roberto Cavalli, with all the glamour of a world-class casino.

Return to Fantasyland

Many well-known European departments stores, like Galeries Lafayette (France), Galeria Kaufhof (Germany) and DeBijenkorf (Netherlands), portrayed classic Christmas tales with enormous installations and countless mechanized fairy tale characters. Princesses, bears, bees, piglets, bunnies and dolls tinkered at a chocolate building site, hurtled through space and played in a grand orchestra.

Rejoice and Recycle

In Great Britain, Harvey Nichols’ Christmas windows carried a timely and important global message: our planet, its squandered resources and the urgent need to care for Mother Earth, particularly at Christmastime when a lot of waste is generated.

In spite of this cautionary message, the windows were spectacular in showing how glamorous junk can be. Waste sourced from junkyards and thrift shops, like old greeting cards, parts of old dolls, broken plates and twisted candelabras, were repurposed to create beautiful Christmas trees and other festive decorations.

Gold Rush

The return to glamour this holiday meant gold was the key color throughout Europe, with accents of silver and pure white adding a glittery feeling. But the season’s opulent palette left room for a riot of fluorescent color, including pea green, Schiaparelli pink, bright orange, acid yellow and midnight black.

LEDs and energy-saving lamps in spectacular arrangements illuminated these colorful displays. Galeries Lafayette used multi-colored light projections to light up the store’s façade, resulting in a magnificent kaleidoscope of moving images. In a more subdued but equally enchanting show, Harvey Nichols used stark spotlighting to enhance each individual tree with a flame effect that emulated the look of falling snow.

So many ideas, big efforts and perfect mise en scène all transformed Europe’s shop windows into delightful Christmas worlds, building the joy of the season.


Angelika Frank, a freelance editor and photographer based in Munich, Germany, will be a regular contributor to VM+SD. She specializes in visual merchandising, shop design and fashion topics, traveling to Europe’s capitals to keep up-to-date. She has been published in Style Guide, Inspiration, Stores+Shops, Trend Magazin and TextilWirtschaft.

Photography: Angelika Frank, Munich, Germany