While Visions of Phantoms Danced in Their Heads

Non-traditional themes sparked originality this holiday season
Posted February 15, 2005

Opera-haunting phantoms and vanity fair covers were just a couple of the non-traditional themes that graced New York retailers' windows for the 2004 holiday season.

Bloomingdale's New York windows were inspired by the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical, "The Phantom of the Opera," which was released in theaters last December.

Each window along Lexington Avenue featured one of six key scenes from the movie, including: "Masquerade," "Rooftop Lovers," "Hannibal Opera," "Within the Musical," "Christina's Dressing Room," "Gondola to Phantom's Lair" and "The Chandelier."

"The fact that 'Phantom of the Opera' is one of the longest-running Broadway shows with a large tourist following that also patronizes Bloomingdale's made it a wonderful choice for our theme," says window director Harry Medina. "We have established a large following for holiday window entertainment, so patrons expect something special every year they come in to shop."

The late pop artist (and former visual merchandiser) Andy Warhol created many colorful illustrations for Tiffany's holiday greeting cards in the 1950s and 60s, and the jeweler's windows reflected his artwork this season. Another pop artist, Robert Risko, was part of Barneys New York's always-noteworthy Christmas windows. The fashion retailer partnered with Vanity Fair magazine to feature Risko's famous pop-culture caricatures - such as Oprah Winfrey and George W. Bush - along with real Vanity Fair covers and frocks from some of the magazine's advertisers.

Store windows are generally designed to reflect the soul and the strength of the retailer. And what better time to present true originality than during the holidays?

"Holiday windows are important because it's the one time of year when you can really create magic above and beyond the norm," says Sal Lenzo vp, visual merchandising, Burberry USA (New York). "I would like to think that in some small way our windows have helped to take someone away from the day-to-day drudgery, even just for a second. It's about creating magic for everyone to enjoy."

The Art of Robert Risko

Barneys New York Madison Avenue, New York

Some familiar, famous faces filled the windows of Barneys New York, as the luxury retailer partnered with Vanity Fair magazine to feature contributing artist Robert Risko's well-known pop culture caricatures.

Each of the four Madison Avenue windows was trimmed in flashing lights and packed with more than 70 of Risko's portraits of the famous and infamous people, past and present, who have filled the magazine's pages. Posing among the portraits were mannequins decked out in red carpet fashion. Real Vanity Fair covers were also displayed on the floor.

The windows were divided into four themes: "Divas and Deities," which included Liz Taylor, Cher, Madonna and Audrey Hepburn; "Movers and Shakers," which featured Oprah, Barbara Walters, Hillary Clinton, Howard Stern and President Bush; "Vamps, Camps and Scamps," which showed Tammy Faye, Lucille Ball, Monica Lewinsky, Bette Midler, Halle Berry and Elton John; and "Hunks and Blokes," which included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman, Sting and Will Smith, among others.

Design: Barneys New York, New York
Simon Doonan, creative director
Dave New, executive vp
Matt Reed, vp
Mark Vitulano, production director

Artwork Reproduction: Color Edge Visual, New York

Photography: Courtesy of Barneys New York

Mad About Andy

Tiffany & Co. Fifth Avenue, New York

Tiffany's holiday windows were full of jewels and the colorful illustrations that pop artist Andy Warhol created for Tiffany holiday greeting cards in the 1950s and 60s. The drawings appear in design director John Loring's new book, "Greetings from Andy (Warhol): Christmas at Tiffany's."

The windows, designed by Robert Rufino, Tiffany's vp of creative services and visual merchandising, highlighted Warhol's riotous ways with toys, ornaments, trees, doves and Santa's sleigh, with unexpected appearances by watermelon-snacking reindeer, a high-heeled red ankle boot stuffed with holly, mermaids and cherubs on a violin.

The colorful displays also featured Warhol's diary entries, written at the bottom of the windows.

Design: Tiffany & Co., New York
Robert Rufino, vp of creative services and visual merchandising

Photography: Veronica Szarejko, New York

Neiman Marcus More & Merrier

Neiman Marcus Main Street, Dallas

Neiman Marcus's large Palladian window in its downtown Dallas store has become a destination spot, as holiday shoppers have come to expect a unique tree each year.

This season, a custom 14-foot sugar tree composed of over one ton of sugar sparkled magically through the grand window. Like he does every year, visual vp Ignaz Gorischek came up with the tree concept and then worked with designer Lonnie Hanzon of Hanzon Studios (Denver) to implement the idea.

After much experimentation with sugar, the final product consisted of some 400 hard candy color disks, while 2000 delicate sugar ornaments floated through the center of the tree. Since the glowing tree of sweets looked good enough to eat, Hanzon also created candy treats so children could participate in the fun.

Glamour, luxury, holiday, whimsy and fantasy described the retailer's 10 additional windows in its downtown flagship location. Mannequins in each window were outfitted in couture fashion from past and current collections. Implementing the Neiman Marcus icon, butterfly wings were constructed from the butterfly garland seen hanging in the atrium of many of its stores.

Design: Neiman Marcus downtown visual team, Dallas
Ignaz Gorischek, vp, visual planning and presentation
Bob White, visual manager
Ray Saunders, visual stylist

Custom Sugar Tree: Hanzon Studios, Denver

Photography: Zachary Stefaniak, Dallas

SantaKid and Snowflakes

Saks Fifth Avenue New York

Saks divided its 34 show windows into two themes. The six center windows on Fifth Avenue were based on "SantaKid," the new children's book by James Patterson. Mechanical figurines and detailed scenes helped illustrate the Christmas tale about Santa's daughter Chrissy and her quest to save Christmas from big business. Falling snow, a flying sleigh and a moving car added to the realistic elements.

The 28 remaining windows on 49th and 50th streets showcased a more modern view of fashion, snowflakes and Christmas. Both abstract and realistic mannequins were integrated within the same window.

"Saks' windows are about reinvention and the magic of the snowflake," says window director Tim Wisgerhof. "The snowflake is a beautiful image that not only conjures up thoughts of the holidays, but also speaks to the nuances of grace and the sharp edges of a somewhat temporary existence. In integrating fashion and technology, we hoped to highlight that contrast."

This year, Saks expanded its holiday windows to include the entire front façade. Over 50 giant LED snowflakes fluttered down the building to help light up the holidays in New York.

Design: Saks Fifth Avenue, New York
Tim Wisgerhof, window director

Design, Custom Fabrication, Figures: Spaeth Design, New York

Photography: Michael Ross, New York

Snow White, the Fairest Tale of All

Marshall Field's State Street, Chicago

Marshall Field's treated shoppers and tourists this holiday season to a retelling of the popular children's story, "Snow White, the Fairest Tale of All."

Through a series of 11 window vignettes, the classic fairytale was told with a decidedly contemporary flair. Surrounded by a snow-kissed forest frame, the windows depicted Snow White from infancy to her friendship with the "seven little diamond miners" to her inevitable union with her handsome prince - and along the way, of course, her batlles with the very glamorous but evil queen determined to spoil her happiness.

"Charming details such as the queen's plasma screen 'magic mirror' and Snow White's Louis Vuitton-inspired bag delighted sharp-eyed viewers and gave the age-old story a more modern feel," says visual marketing manager Amy Meadows.

Design: Marshall Field's, Chicago
Jamie Becker, creative director
Amy Meadows, visual marketing manager

Animation and Window Sets: Spaeth Design, New York

Prosceniums: Kinc, Chicago

Photography: Susan Kezon, Chicago

The English Garden

Burberry 57th Street, New York

Burberry's two windows were designed as a fantasy transporting the passerby to an estate in the English countryside.

"Imagine that you pull off into the gravel drive of an old estate," says Sal Lenzo, vp, visual merchandising, "and see the most magnificently trimmed boxwood hedges. They look incredible against the beautiful blue sky as the stars twinkle and then winter moonlight reflects off the fresh coat of icy snow."

The hedges functioned as merchandising vehicles for various Burberry gift offerings. In addition to the hedges, one window featured a British couple with their dogs, while the other had the queen's guards marching behind the hedge.

Design: Burberry USA, New York
Sal Lenzo, vp, visual merchandising
Anthony Etienne, senior manager, visual, New York store
Glen Navarro, manager, visual, New York store
Cassey Cheeseman, manager, visual, New York store

Background/Blue Mirror: Architectural Systems Inc., New York

Mannequins: Adel Rootstein Mannequins, New York
Hedges, Outdoor Hedge Garland on Exterior
American Christmas Decorations Inc., Bronx, N.Y.

Wooden Guards, Dogs: Ronas Brothers, Lynbrook, N.Y.

Photography: Zehavi and Cordes Photography, Brooklyn, N.Y.

All That Makes You Sparkle

Shreve, Crump & Low Boylston Street, Boston

This Boston jeweler believes that holiday windows, more than any other time of the year, need to be about magic and defy the square box shape of the conventional jewelry window. So Shreve, Crump & Low worked with the idea of an operating kaleidoscope to allow people of all ages to enjoy the dazzle and amusement amidst the holiday shopping bustle.

Two of the six jewelry display windows were an ode to 1930s movie musical director Busby Berkeley and art deco glamour, with rotating white baby grand pianos filled with crystals. Sapphire and diamond rings were placed in the center of the piano bench.

"The spirit of the display changes color from red to blue to green and yellow," says visual display director Lucy-Ann Bouwman. "Two other jewelry windows had a traditional kaleidoscope with moving parts and constant rotation. The latter two were more contemporary, using a back wall of programmed LEDs and turning pillars for an ever-changing sparkle of reflection."

Client: Shreve, Crump & Low, Boston
Lucy-Ann Bouwman, visual display director
Jonathan Ro-Schofield, Esther Ro-Schofield, Christina Zwart, Jeremy Chu, Elizabeth Kneifer, John Dowd,

Design: Sightgeist Design, New York

Pianos and Kaleidoscopes: Jonathan Ro-Schofield, New York

Metal Leaves: Frank Morrow Co., Providence, R.I.

Lighting: Color Kinetics, Boston

Vinyl Text on Windows: Ardon Vinyl, Boston

Photography: Chris Akelian, Boston


Holt Renfrew Bloor Street, Toronto

Holt Renfrew, the Toronto fashion retailer, chose "Fairytales" as its window theme, to reflect the magical aspect of the holidays and to celebrate the various stories' heroines.

Six windows represented the tales of Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella and the Princess and the Pea.

Designers used special-effect painting, abstract trees and realistic forest bedding to create detail and layering.

Each heroine's gown was provided by the retailer's designer vendors, a key component in marrying the fairytale to the merchandise.

"Our holiday windows are truly theatrical installations that only occur once a year," says Janis Bell, national visual director. "There is excitement and anticipation for the opening that our clients look forward to all year."

Design: Holt Renfrew, Toronto
Janis Bell, national visual director
Susanne Shaw, window manager

Outside Design Consultant: Alison Koturbash, Toronto (set designer)

Set Building and Scenic Painting: LittleFeet, Toronto

Mannequins: Adel Rootstein Mannequins, New York

Florist: Forget-Me-Not Floral Design, Toronto

Photography: Jay Robinson, Saw Photography, Castleton, Ont.

Deliver the Joy

Lord & Taylor Fifth Avenue, New York

Lord & Taylor's display windows celebrated the U.S. Postal Service's decades of commitment to delivering mail through snow, rain, heat and the gloom of night. Six animated windows were snapshots of the ways that the Postal Service has enabled people to stay connected over the years and how it brings joy to people's lives.

Each window chronicled a milestone in the history and development of the Postal Service by depicting modes of delivering mail - by horse, steamboat, stagecoach, steam locomotive, plane and truck.

"Lord & Taylor's holiday windows are important because they continue to maintain the tradition started in 1938 of devoting prime retail space to the celebration of the season rather than the merchandise," says Manoel Renha, creative director, visual merchandising/fashion/special events.

Design: Lord & Taylor, New York
Manoel Renha, creative director, visual merchandising/fashion/special events
Corey DiStasio, project manager;
Barbara Smyth-Fitzgerald, fashion manager

Special Occasion Dresses: Tim and Linda Platt, New York

Jewelry: Ciner Fashion Jewelers, New York

Fabrication, Props, Animation, Scenic painting: Spaeth Design, New York

Graphics: MMF Inc., New York

Antique Furniture: Maison Gerard, New York
Venfield NYC, New York

Area Rugs: Momeni, New York
Hokanson, New York
Stark Carpet Corp., New York

Mannequins: Adel Rootstein Mannequins, New York
Research, Artwork, Props
U.S. Postal Service, Washington, D.C.

Furs: Ben Kahn, New York

Props/Decorations: Roman Inc., Roselle, Ill.
Autograph Foliages, Cleveland
Salzburg Creations, Bronx, N.Y.
Superior Studios, Commerce, Calif.
Aldik, Moorpark, Calif.
Dept. 56, New York

Wallpaper: Lee Jofa, Bethpage, New York

Graphics/Lightboxes: Expotrans Inc., Lake Forest, Calif.

Lighting Components: Barbizon, New York

Photography: Richard Cadan, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Quips, Quotes and Proverbs

Bergdorf Goodman Fifth Avenue, New York

Bergdorf Goodman composed each of its windows around a famous phrase chosen to evoke emotions and sentiments associated with the season. Quotations were taken from such sources as William Shakespeare, Salvador Dali, Plato, Italo Calvino and Lewis Caroll.

Each quote - appearing framed in the window - acted as a doorway to an elaborate fantasy, with layers of meanings and allusions. And, in keeping with Bergdorf's customary approach, each window was completely different.

One window, celebrating overindulgence, had figurines covered in chocolate surrounded by cakes and all manner of chocolate edibles, while another had a giant white peacock and women dressed in white furs decked in jewelry and surrounded by crystals hanging from branches overhead.

The quote by Calvino that inspired the window (right) is: "Writing always means hiding something in such a way that it is then discovered." The window, incorporating over 3000 antique letters acquired in bundles from flea markets and antique dealers, was devoted to the idea of holiday correspondence.

Design: Bergdorf Goodman, New York
Linda Fargo, vp, visual merchandising
David Hoey, window director
Bergdorf Goodman display staff

Photography: Zehavi and Cordes Photography, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Zachary Stefaniak, Dallas

American Girl Place

East Chicago Avenue, Chicago

Since one of its historical dolls was the star of a WB movie last year, "Samantha, An American Girl Holiday," the retailer decided to play off the "Century of Change" angle. One window was of 1904 Central Park in New York, where Samantha lived. The other was a contemporary window of the city of Chicago. Both windows had lightboxes that reflected events of today and yesterday.

Design: American Girl Place, Chicago
Shane R. McCall, senior manager, visual merchandising and concept designer
Marjorie McCaw, lead visual merchandising and project manager
George Case, visual merchandising associate and concept illustrator
Jenny Golata, visual merchandising associate
Jaime Bravo-MacFarland, visual merchandising associate
Gar Crispell, general manager American Girl Place Chicago
Barbara Smith, senior manager, creative
Theresa Benson, art director retail
Kara Pletcher, graphic designer
Nicholas Bensi, graphic artist

Animation, Dolls, Curtains, Turntables: Lifeformations, Bowling Green, Ohio

Vinyl Snowflakes, Lightbox Graphic, Backdrops: Andrés Imaging, Chicago

Trees, Ornaments, Christmas Lights, Cotton Batting: Superior Specialties, Chicago

Photography: James Prinz Photography, Chicago