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TIS THE SEASON: THE MAGIC OF HOLIDAY WINDOWS

 Louis Vuitton NYC Window display (Courtesy Photo)

Louis Vuitton NYC Window display (Courtesy Photo)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..the holiday season is a magical time when joyful cheer is celebrated and generosity for others is spread throughout the world. No matter what your religious beliefs, there is no denying that this season is filled with hope for a better tomorrow.  The holidays are also an opportunity for retailers and brands to end the year with high profit margins, as consumers shop for the perfect gifts family and friends.

The holiday season seems to be getting earlier and earlier. This year many retailers even officially kicked off the season by staying open on Thanksgiving! “Black Friday,” which is a public holiday in more than 20 states, presumably got it’s name from one of two theories: that the wheels of vehicles in heavy shopping traffic on the day after Thanksgiving Day left many black markings on the road surface. The other theory is that the term Black Friday comes from an old way of recording business accounts. Losses were recorded in red ink and profits in black ink. Many businesses, particularly small businesses, started making profits before Christmas especially on the Friday after Thanksgiving. “Cyber Monday” on the other hand, was first used in 2005 by the National Retail Federation (NRF), which needed a name for the flurry of online sales the Monday after Thanksgiving, since online merchants wanted the money that  brick-and-mortar stores were making on Black Friday.

But with today’s retail market being so saturated, and online shopping being so competitive, how do traditional brick-and-mortar retailers compete? The answer is simple, major department stores and retailers around the world lure customers in with their brilliant, spare-no-expense race for an exuberant gasp… holiday display windows, that have become a destination tourist attraction and in many cases a family tradition around the world!

Each store has their own unique style when it comes to their holiday windows. Macy’s and Lord & Taylor are known for their classic displays that delight Christmas shoppers and their children. Barneys New York is known for innovative and provocative displays, while Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue are known for over-the top glitz. No matter what, these windows attract costumers, something that an eCommerce site can’t do.

The tradition of holiday window displays dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when in the late 1800s plate glass became readily available and allowed shop owners to build large, full length storefront windows to display merchandise. This was the birth of window shopping as we know it today.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but one of the first major holiday window displays was created by the Macy’s New York store in 1874, featuring a collection of porcelain dolls and scenes from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Children at the Macy’s toy window, ca. 1910 via The Library of Congress

Children at the Macy’s toy window, ca. 1910 via The Library of Congress

In the early 1900s major retailers across the U.S. began competing with each other. Store owners and managers used window displays to lure window shoppers into their stores, and holiday displays became more colorful and creative. By 1937, department store owner, specifically Lord & Taylor, decorated their windows with gilded bells that swung in sync with the sounds of recorded bells. This was a  turning point for retailers, as each began to transition their holiday windows into magical fantasy experiences, as opposed to just showcasing merchandise.

“Bell Windows” at Lord & Taylor, 1937 via MCNY

“Bell Windows” at Lord & Taylor, 1937 via MCNY

From that point on, year after year, competition among major brick-and-mortar retailers intensifies, as online shopping increases. But it’s this magical time of year that consumers are lured into stores to view these masterful works of art.  The grander and more innovative the display, the more attention it receives and let’s face it…the more likes on social media is always a good thing!

Here is a fantastical journey of holiday window displays from across the globe. Each retailer had a clear and strategic message to attract their customers.
Printemps Windows 2018 in Paris (Courtesy Photo)

Printemps Windows 2018 in Paris (Courtesy Photo)

At Printemps, in Paris,  Jules and Violette, the retailer’s recurring holiday mascots, are sent on a hunt for Santa Claus visiting the desert, Antarctica, the bottom of the sea, and mushroom-and flower-covered terrain with flapping butterflies.

Macy's Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

Macy’s Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

At Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, a tale of friendship, family, adventure and teamwork unfolds as Sunny the Snowpal works to save Christmas, befriending a fox along the way.

Bloomingdale's Holiday Windows 2018 in New York (Coutesy Photo)

Bloomingdale’s Holiday Windows 2018 in New York (Coutesy Photo)

Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship store in New York City was inspired by “The Grinch.”

Bergdorf Goodman's Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

Bergdorf Goodman’s Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

Bergdorf Goodman’s windows in NYC are a sugar-filled delight with everything from a gingerbread cuckoo clock, whose timekeeper is prone to wander from her enormous chalet, to a peppermint-hued dream featuring a candy cane wizard.

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

Saks Fifth Avenue’s NYC window portrays a fashionable shopper’s visit to the theater, where instead of watching the show, she dreams of the retailer in a whimsical fantasy.

Barneys Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (courtesy Photo)

Barneys Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (courtesy Photo)

Barneys New York takes the penny to greater heights with its Making Change theme, presented by the Barneys New York Foundation. The campaign, in partnership with Save the Children, invites guests to create some currency during the holidays, including using the hashtag #centiments, which results in a $5 donation by the foundation to Save the Children for every post. Now that’s spreading holiday cheer!

Galeries Lafayette Windows 2018 in Paris (Courtesy Photo)

Galeries Lafayette Windows 2018 in Paris (Courtesy Photo)

Galeries Lafayette in Paris envisions a “reverie with La fabrique des Rêves,” or manufacturer of dreams, featuring delightful characters imagined by children: furry dinosaurs and silly monsters in a playful and whimsical window is packed with toys and presents, plus seasonal pieces from the shop’s shoe and clothing collection.

Harvey Nichols in London Holiday Window (Courtesy Photo)

Harvey Nichols in London Holiday Window (Courtesy Photo)

Harvey Nichols, London is celebrating the new Disney film Mary Poppins Returns by showcasing four costumes worn by the cast. In reference to the iconic character’s favorite mode of transport, gold and silver umbrellas also decorate the windows.

Harrods in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Harrods in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Harrods in London serves up sweet treats in a festive celebration with oversized, mouthwatering  desserts.

Liberty in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Liberty in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Liberty London’s animal etchings on pillars and panels are a well-known part of the decor. The creatures appear in windows as two-dimensional black-and-white cutouts.

Selfridges in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Selfridges in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Selfridges’ “Santa on Tour” in London has St. Nick hitting the road and rocking designer created looks.

Mitsukoshi Holiday Windows 2018 in Tokyo (Courtesy Photo)

Mitsukoshi Holiday Windows 2018 in Tokyo (Courtesy Photo)

Mitsukoshi, located in Tokyo, mark the last Christmas of Japan’s Heisei period; the current emperor plans to abdicate in April, which will mark the beginning of a new period. Isetan creates a retro vision of the future featuring a rocking horse and snow globes cavorting with reindeer aided in flight by jet packs and Santa in a motorized sleigh.

Takashimaya Holiday Windows 2018 in Tokyo (Courtesy Photo)

Takashimaya Holiday Windows 2018 in Tokyo (Courtesy Photo)

Takashimaya’s in Japan’s Nihonbashi district store appeals to kids with mini carousels, model train and Ferris Wheel surrounded by plush animals.

Harbour City Holiday Windows 2018 in Hong Kong (Courtesy Photo)

Harbour City Holiday Windows 2018 in Hong Kong (Courtesy Photo)

At Harbour City, Hong Kong, shoppers who donate to the Hong Kong Blood Cancer Foundation can take a selfie with a giant video kaleidoscope where LED screen walls are filled with snowflakes, stars and rainbows.

Joyce Holiday Windows 2018 in Hong Kong (Courtesy Photo)

Joyce Holiday Windows 2018 in Hong Kong (Courtesy Photo)

Joyce’s dramatic holiday décor in Asia is a cross between, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Stranger Things.” The outcome is an upside-down Emerald City topped by a right-side-up Indiana cabin. The cutting edge retailer also has a 50 foot Christmas tree suspended from its ceiling.

So tell us, which is your favorite Holiday window display?

 

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Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry (Courtesy Photo)

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry (Courtesy Photo)

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Sewing (Courtesy Photo)

Sewing (Courtesy Photo)

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Draping (Courtesy Photo)

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Pattern Making (Courtesy Photo)

Pattern Making (Courtesy Photo)

 

 

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The Americans have landed, or have they?

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For those of us New Yorkers who each day walk past the Lord & Taylor flagship on Fifth Avenue, we are already mourning the shuttering of this retail monument, scheduled for early 2019. While L & T may not have always been every fashionista’s ‘go-to’ destination for the most current fashion trends, this retailer has had a rich history of promoting American designers. Beginning in 1932, Dorothy Shaver (then L & T president), established a program known as the “American Look,” during a period in time when French fashion reigned supreme. This fashion visionary jumped at the chance to promote the work of American designers like Claire McCardell, Tina Lesser, Clare Potter, Vera Maxwell and Bonnie Cashin. It was a defining moment for American fashion designers and put American fashion on the world map. Oh, and by the way…Shaver was also one of the founders of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York!

Lord & Taylor                                                                                                                                                          (Courtesy University of Fashion)
Lord & Taylor (Courtesy University of Fashion)

Well, thankfully, another retailer has finally stepped up to the plate. As of this week and leading up to New York Fashion Week (Sept 6-14), Saks Fifth Avenue is showcasing the work of various American brands. Each of the American-based brands below were invited to create a window (and pay for their installation) that best represents that brand’s identity.

Although not all of the designers at these brands are American-born (Carolina Herrera, Philip Lim, Oscar de la Renta, Alexander Wang, Derek Lam, Jason Wu, Diane von Furstenberg, Naeem Khan and Tanya Taylor), the spotlight is on American-based fashion labels.

Other designers included are: Rosie Assoulin, Alice & Olivia, Coach, Eileen Fisher, Lafayette 148, Leila Rose, Milly, Rag & Bone, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Brandon Maxwell, Gabriela Hearst, Jonathan Simkhai, Monse and Proenza Schouler). While the windows are intended to celebrate American style, some brands chose to focus on things such as their heritage, or social justice and sustainability. Here’s a sampling:

Carolina Herrera window for Saks Fifth Avenue                                       (Courtesy WWD August 17, 2018)
Carolina Herrera window for Saks Fifth Avenue (Courtesy WWD August 17, 2018)

Carolina Herrera’s window is a take on her iconic eveningwear (white shirt and ball skirt). Whether intentional or not, Herrera’s choice of rainbow-colored mannequins against a rainbow background could easily be interpreted as a nod to the LGBTQ community.

Coach window for Saks Fifth Avenue                                                                                         (Courtesy WWD August 17, 2018)
Coach window for Saks Fifth Avenue (Courtesy WWD August 17, 2018)

Coach’s window paid homage to their company roots. Inspired by the suppleness of an old baseball glove, Miles Cahn founded Coach in 1941, in a New York City loft. Artisans hired by the Cahn family handcrafted soft leather into handbags and in 1962, hired American designer Bonnie Cashin, who pioneered the use of brass toggles on handbags and clothing. Coach’s window included ubiquitous New York phone booths and a shout-out to Dreamers, with a decal of an 8-Ball (as in disadvantage) with the words, “Calling All Dreamers.”

Eileen Fisher window at Saks Fifth Ave   (Courtesy University of Fashion)
Eileen Fisher window at Saks Fifth Ave (Courtesy University of Fashion)

Eileen Fisher is known as a pioneer of cotton grown without pesticides and a promoter of California’s Central Valley organic cotton growers since the late 1990s. This brand’s window was less about ‘selling product’ and more about an education in recycling. In 2009, Fisher initiated GREEN EILEEN, a “buy-back policy” whereby customers turn in their gently used Eileen Fisher products, in return for a store gift card. The brand either resells that item or, through their “third lifecycle initiative,” artists get the chance to upcycle these clothes into new designs. Her Saks window featured a recycled garment, a video showing the upcycling process and cages filled with clothes ready for recycling. Thanks Eileen, for thinking responsibility about a circular fashion cycle and less about sell, sell, sell.

Tanya Taylor window for Saks Fifth Avenue                                                                                         (Courtesy WWD August 17, 2018)
Tanya Taylor window for Saks Fifth Avenue (Courtesy WWD August 17, 2018)

The newest (and youngest designer) brand to get a Saks window is Canadian-born designer Tanya Taylor. After having studied finance at McGill University, taken a course at Central Saint Martins and then attended Parsons School of Design, Taylor launched her brand in 2012. In 2014, she became a finalist in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition. Her quirky fashion is a bit H & M-ish (without the low price tag).

The inclusion of Tanya Taylor, just begs the question…why are aren’t stores like Saks and other major retailers getting behind and supporting more American start-up designers?

Hundreds of American fashion designer entrepreneurs who graduate from fashion schools, or those who learn online at University of Fashion, could greatly benefit from the support that these high-profile windows provide. So…Saks (and other retailers)… if you are listening… and you really want to take on the role of promoting American design talent that Lord & Taylor started in 1932, then do your homework and start showcasing home grown talent who need it the most!

Let us know what you think. Should American retailers start a movement to promote more American fashion design start-ups?