NYC’S WHIMSICAL HOLIDAY WINDOWS: A VISUAL MERCHANDISING BONANZA

Saks Fifth Avenue unveiled its holiday windows. (Photo Credit: Gothamist)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..especially for stores as the holiday season is one of the most profitable times of year for retailers. In New York City, both department stores and boutiques alike get festive with creative windows that tourists and city residents line up to view. Last winter, due to the pandemic, most retailers opted for more minimalistic displays; but for the 2021 season, stores such as Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, and Bergdorf Goodman have pull out all the stops with their window displays. Their exceptionally positive holiday windows are sending good vibes out to the city streets.

Children gazing at the Macy’s Christmas window displays early 1900s. (Photo Credit: Bain Collection/ Library of Congress)

Macy’s is acknowledged as bringing holiday windows to New York City in 1874, with an extravagant display on 34th Street in Herald Square. Over the years, now-shuttered retailers along Fifth Avenue, namely Lord & Taylor, B. Altman and I Magnin,  competed to outshine each other with dazzlingly creative holiday window installations that drew crowds, inspired family traditions, and gave tourists another reason to visit New York City in December.

“Most of them did not feature merchandise,” said Sheryll Bellman, the author of Through the Shopping Glass: A Century of New York Christmas Windows“It was to delight the public. It was their gift to the city.”

This year, with retailers optimistic about the holiday shopping season, these creative and magical windows are drawing shoppers and fans of visual merchandising in droves to the city. They ogle and ogle and of course take selfies in front of the windows. Sometimes for good causes.

Michelle Obama unveiled the Saks windows and promoted her charity, Girls Opportunity Alliance. (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store in New York City, who has some of the most impressive holiday windows, drew former First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama was there to promote a partnership between Saks and the Obama Foundation’s Girls Opportunity Alliance. December is the month for giving, and the department store donated $1 million to the foundation. Some of Saks’ windows featured looks from a few of  Ms. Obama’s favorite designers, Jason Wu, Philip Lim and Oscar de la Renta, with 100 percent of the net proceeds this year going to the foundation. The collections not only included clothing, but also housewares, beauty, and accessories.

Saks Fifth Avenue unveiled its holiday windows. (Photo Credit: Gothamist)

According to Andrew Winton, senior vice president of creative at Saks, who oversees the holiday displays, the company asked NYC children to draw and describe their holiday dreams — of homes, beaches, and games —and then the Saks window artists brought those images to life. “The style is sort of candy-coated imagination,” said Winton in an interview with The New York Times.

Shoppers walking by a Macy’s window. (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

Visual Story-telling

This season, Macy’s holiday windows tell the story of Tiptoe, a spunky reindeer who goes on a magical journey as she dreams of flying, attending flight school, and ultimately joining Santa’s crew. “Macy’s Herald Square is the home for holiday magic and our iconic Broadway windows have for more than 100 years showcased animated wonders that inspire and delight,” said Manuel Urquizo, National Director of Visual Campaigns and Windows for Macy’s to The New York Times. “With Tiptoe, we have created a whimsical story highlighting the important power of belief and the joy and wonder of the season.”

Macy’s 2021 holiday window displays. (Photo Credit: Gothamist)

Holiday cheer also filled the streets in front of Bloomingdale’s as the store’s visual team stuffed the Lexington Avenue windows with items that delighted them as children. One window displayed a T. Rex covered in ornaments riding a skateboard. Another window a hot pink mannequin in glitter roller skates twirling around in a sequined clamshell.

The windows at Bloomingdale’s are stuffed with oversize toys. (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

“Every year, we look forward to our holiday unveiling event as a gift to our customers and the city of New York. And, this year, we are even more excited to come back together and celebrate,” said Frank Berman, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Bloomingdale’s in an interview with Gothamist.

Bloomingdale’s 2021 holiday window displays. (Photo Credit: Gothamist)

The luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman ran with the theme “The Present Moment,” illustrating joyful moments in which characters are in the moment.  “Life is turning around again,” said Linda Fargo, the Bergdorf Goodman fashion director, as the department store unveiled its holiday windows.

Bergdorf Goodman 2021 holiday window displays. (Photo Credit: Gothamist)

In one holiday display, there was a mermaid wearing a sequined magenta dress by C.D. Greene resting on a bedazzled motorcycle surrounded by pointy-nosed fish. In another window, a mannequin wearing an embroidered gold Schiaparelli dress and jacket is dancing on the moon.

Each installation celebrates a different mood: adventurous, harmonious and frisky. David Hoey, Bergdorf’s senior director of visual presentation, told The New York Times that the windows were inspired by a psychedelic sculpture of a green bird. “Last year was kind of minimalism,” Mr. Hoey said. “This year is maximalism which is our trademark.”

The windows at Bergdorf Goodman evoke a psychedelic jungle. (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

“These windows are extremely complicated to install, considering the layers of scenery and props,” Hoey told Yahoo. “Windows are usually tight spaces. It’s like sensory overload. We purposely overstuff these windows in a designed kind of a way, attempting to induce an aesthetic delirium. To us, they are extremely holiday and festive. A state of mind. While we don’t necessarily have Santa Claus, we do have a spirit of holiday.”

 NEW UOF VISUAL MERCHANDISING LESSON SERIES LAUNCHES

If you’re a fan of store windows and in-store displays like we are, check out our new 9-part series on the art of visual merchandising, taught by Parsons & UoF professor Marcie Cooperman. You’ll find them in our Fashion Business Discipline

 

JUST A REMINDER

Take advantage of our once-yearly subscription deals. Gift that fashionista in your life or heck…why not treat yourself?

Get $40 off a yearly subscription (was $189 now $149) https://www.universityoffashion.com/holiday-offer/ Promo Code: Deal21

Or get $5 off the first month of our Monthly subscription (was $19.95 now $14.95) https://www.universityoffashion.com/holiday-offer/ Promo Code: Promo21

Offers expire 1/1/22

 

SO TELL US, WHICH RETAILER DO YOU THINK HAS THE MOST CREATIVE HOLIDAY WINDOWS?

 

 

 

 

Sign-up for our newsletter

Join our newsletter to receive updates on future blog posts, special deals, and new lessons. Also visit the main webpage to check out all of our video lessons.

Antonia Sardone

Antonia Sardone

Antonia Sardone is a new contributor to the University of Fashion. She is also a freelance fashion consultant, stylist and writer. Antonia Sardone graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Advertising Communications, Marketing and Fashion Journalism. She is an industry veteran having worked for WWD for over fifteen years and has strong relationships with designers worldwide. Today, Antonia Sardone continues to write reviews for WWD as well as work with many contemporary designers on a variety of projects from helping to re-launch their websites to writing their brand books. She enjoys raising her children to be creative individuals, as well as styling, writing and traveling.