The spectacle that is Christmas is much more than just shopping for gifts it turns the high street into a retail theatre with big name department stores pulling out all the stops to create the most festive holiday windows. With only 17 shopping days left until Christmas, these creative displays are important in reinforcing the brand’s physical store, luring consumers off their computers and smartphones and into stores to buy their gifts.
The act of the storytelling windows is a major part of retailers Christmas campaigns, with many department stores planning their festive displays a year in advance to ensure that the brand’s holiday message is transferrable across all of its platforms, from the all-important television advert, to how the campaign sits online, in print, as well as creating social media buzz.
This season retailers including Selfridges, Harrods and Bergdorf Goodman all saw people queuing to see the unveiling of their displays as they mark the start of the Christmas shopping season. Themes this year include fairy tales, magical mischief, fanatical storytelling, the Nutcracker, love, peace and joy, as well as believing in Santa.
Take a peek at the top ten Christmas window displays from London, New York and Paris.
Selfridges became the first department store in the world to launch its full Christmas season in-store and windows displays in October. Its theme this year is ‘Shine On’ and covers 20 windows, with 12 of them featuring Santa in custom-made, hand-stitched sequin Santa suits, as they offer a stylish, nostalgic look at the festive season, which sees “Santa getting up to all sorts of magical mischief”. You can see Santa and his private jet, dashing around in his golden snowmobile, meeting a polar bear, as well as attending his office party, there’s even a window showing him in a jacuzzi, and throwing shapes under the disco ball.
The displays took more than 40,000 to produce from planning to production, with a team of over 100 people working on them continuously for 24 hours a day over 8 days to get them ready for the public.
Harrods has teamed up with Burberry for this year’s campaign, titled ‘A Very British Fairy Tale’, which tells the story of two children on an adventure set in an English country house. The display takes over the store’s 29 windows with flying cars, floating bathtubs and secret passageway. The windows also uses technology to allow visitors to interact with the sensory displays using motion sensor, where they can experiment with the lighting and music.
Harrods, director of creative marketing, Deborah Bee, said: “Innovation is very important for our customers. We wanted the windows to be visually stimulating and adding a digital element allows visitors to engage with the installation in a more meaningful way.”
The display, which fits in with its in-store and online campaign, took nine months to plan and was installed across a 10-night period by a team of 12.
3. Saks Fifth Avenue
New York’s Saks Fifth Avenue always draws in the crowds and this year’s theme is the “Land of 1000 Delights,” which includes magical landscapes of colourful candy and festive fashion to create a visual feast. There are six animated windows on Fifth Avenue “The Nutcracker Sweet,” where you’ll find Clara and the Mouse King, while the windows on 49th and 50th Streets feature bespoke pieces from Erdem, Carolina Herrera, Marchesa and Jason Wu, as well as candy-inspired spring 2017, looks from Rosie Assoulin, Naeem Khan, Alexander McQueen, and Jonathan Simkhai.
“Land of 1000 Delights is truly a candy-coloured wonderland—one of the most fantastical holiday displays that I have ever seen,” said Mark Briggs, executive vice president, creative, HBC. “My team and I had so much fun creating this delectable concept, and we cannot wait for customers and visitors alike to enjoy Saks’ sweet holiday sensation.”
Liberty has produced one of the most traditional Christmas displays inspired by The Nutcracker, with ballerinas and toy soldiers standing proudly to portray the well-known ballet. The windows are in partnership with The Royal Ballet and each window has been decorated around a different scene of the ballet from Drosselmeyer the magician’s magical kingdom to the Nutcracker’s battle with the Mouse King.
For the first time ever, Liberty’s Christmas windows will feature no merchandise, instead the department store is using its display to “captivate and beguile in the best possible way” and to focus on the spirit of traditional Christmas decoration.
Liz Silvester, head of visual identity at Liberty said: “This year it was decided that music, dance and drama would be used to bring out the spirit and charm of an exciting and emotive Christmas time: The Nutcracker was the perfect choice!”
5. Galeries Lafayette
The iconic Parisian luxury department store is celebrating an ‘Arctic Christmas’ this year, which follows the epic travels of a polar bear family, who are leaving the north pole, looking for a new icy home. On the journey, through the windows you see the bear cubs playing, dancing, having fun and stirring at every floor of the department store, before getting back to the north pole. The windows are in part fun, as well as bringing awareness to the disappearing Arctic polar ice caps.
At the centre of the store’s Christmas campaign is a paper Christmas tree created by artist Lorenzo Papace, which stands up in the middle of the dome, situated next to animated cable cars and big wheel.
Macy’s in Herald Square, New York is celebrating its nine-year ‘Believe’ letter writing campaign that raises money for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Each of the six windows inspires visitors to have faith in the magic of the festive season. Designed by Roya Sullivan the windows includes a ‘Believe’ scene featuring Santa’s “Communication Station” where he receives his letters, a Christmas-themed pinball machine, a majestic gold leaf reindeer, and the magic of the Santa’s final preparations on the night before Christmas.
The installation for the windows took a team of 250 ‘Santa’s helpers’ including display artists, graphic artists, sculptural artists, animators, carpenters, electricians and music and sound experts, 21 days and nights to complete.
Commenting on the windows, Sullivan said: “In creating this year’s windows we wanted to focus on the idea of what Christmas meant to us as children. In thinking back to those feelings we kept returning to the idea of six key qualities that truly exemplify the spirit and magic of the season.
“To build upon that, through the years we have noticed how much kids of all ages enjoy interacting with the windows so we have again incorporated interactive elements with the goal of continuing to creating experiences that allow our audience to play and be part of the action.”
7. Bergdorf Goodman
Bergdorf Goodman’s holiday windows aim to transport onlookers to a ‘Destination Extraordinary’ with dreamlike scene of lush, unexpected landscapes and verdant gardens, inspired by paintings of Henri Rousseau and trips to the American Museum of Natural History.
Each of the windows features high fashion creations in the centre of green displays with hand-painted backdrops and animals embellished with leaves, beads, and dried flowers to reflect the theme of the unique imagined destination, including The Winter Garden, The Hitch Hiker and Bird’s Eye View.
Senior director of visual presentation, David Hoey explains: “The windows are like magical realist versions of natural history museum dioramas.”
8. Harvey Nichols
Luxury department chain Harvey Nichols has been inspired by the Italian Renaissance with its theatrical ‘Britalia’ windows displays that changes between day and night. By day, the windows showcase a predominately white scheme, featuring transparent baubles, snow white foam balls and marble-effect columns on the exterior of the store. While a night the windows dramatical change using special lighting effects displaying red, white, blue and green, in a nod to the Italian flag and the Union Jack.
Harvey Nichols head of visual display, Janet Wardley, said: “It has been on exciting challenge to transform the store’s facade with marbled panels inspired by the Italian renascence architecture to bring Italy to our UK and Ireland sites this year.
“The use of lighting effects to create two different night and day displays highlights our iconic, playful and daring brand identity, as well as reflecting the key colour combinations of our global winter campaign.”
The display, which took 1,500 hours to install, also features 4,000 metres of knitted wool, 100,000 balls used to build chandeliers, clouds and candelabras, as well as the department stores first Father Christmas in the windows.
For its 2016 holiday windows, Bloomingdale’s has partnered with a group of visual artists to create chandeliers that embody their campaign theme ‘light’. There are eight windows in total, designed by Inma Barrero, Erika deVries and Jonah Meyer, Abby Modell, Sean Augustine March, Susanne Bartsch, Allison Eden, Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos and George Kroenert. These one-of-a-kind designs will then be auctioned off for the store’s holiday charity partner the Child Mind Institute, with opening bids starting at 2,000 dollars.
10. Barneys New York
Barneys has opted not for Santa, reindeer’s and winter wonderlands, instead, the luxury retailer has launched the ‘Love, Peace and Joy’ project featuring creative installations from Nick Cave, Rob Pruitt, Studio Job, Ebony G. Patterson, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone of TV show South Park. As well as creating a visual display, the retailer’s newly launched foundation is asking visitors to take pictures of themselves forming a heart with their thumbs and forefingers to represent Love, making a Peace sign, or jumping for Joy in front of the windows using the hashtag #LovePeaceJoyProject and the charity will donate 5 dollars per photo to causes such as Stylefund, a fashion initiative to help women be more confident in how they dress.
“I think it is extremely thoughtful when a retail entity doesn’t just engage customers in a commercial way, but they’re also interested in challenging their customers,” commented Ebony G. Patterson. “It becomes a generous offering because it’s not just for the person who comes in the store; it’s also for the person who walks past the store.”
By Danielle Wightman-Stone from Fashion United.