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Fantasy in Design: Retail Display and Holiday Windows

December 12, 2013

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Holiday-Windows-b

Last night the New York School of Interior Design hosted a panel discussion entitled Fantasy in Design: Retail Display and Holiday Windows featuring Tom Beebe, Vice President, Creative services at W Diamond Group, Harry Cunningham, Senior Vice President, Store Planning, Design and Visual Merchandising at Saks Fifth Avenue, and Paul Olszewski, Visual Director, Windows and Interior Flagship Marketing at Macy’s.  The event was expertly moderated by Eric Feigenbaum, Contributing Editor of Visual Merchandising & Store Design magazine and Chair of Visual Merchandising at LIM College,  who gave the audience some background on the Visual Merchandising field, the history of New York window display and posed to each panelists questions on their motivation, methodology and passion behind New York Christmas Windows 2013.

Macy's Christmas Windows, 1884 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

Macy’s Christmas Windows, 1884 Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

A line to see the unveiling of a Macy's Window in 1939.
A line to see the unveiling of a Macy’s Window in 1939.

Feigenbaum shared the roots of the art of Window Display, beginning with Macy’s in the early 1860s.  Macy’s was the first to pioneer Window Display as “street theater”, artfully arranging items rather than having simple stacked shelves.  Macy’s was also the first store to have an in-store Santa which has been immortalized in the movie Miracle on 34th Street.

L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, Feigenbaum told the crowd, was the first Visual Merchandiser.  Baum started the magazine The Show Window which now is the modern day Visual Merchandising & Store Design magazine.

Lord & Taylor game changing window in 1938.

Lord & Taylor game changing window in 1938.

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A Tiffany window by Gene Moore [1910-1998].

Technology help propel Visual Merchandising forward using plate glass, cast iron, allowing for large spans of glass, and electricity for windows to be viewed at night.  But, the game changing windows, came from Lord & Taylor, who in 1938, decided to show purely decorative windows without the need to sell merchandise.  This trend continued and was refined by modern day designers like Tiffany’s Gene Moore [1910-1998], who stripped out non-essential elements and created refine visual messages, and his competitor designer Raymond Mastrobuoni [worked for Cartier 1967-1994].

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After some background history from Feigenbaum, the attention switched to Paul Olszewski, Visual Director, Windows and Interior Flagship Marketing at Macy’s.  Some insights from Olszewski included the approximate number of people who walk by his windows hourly (7,000/hour), his design timeline: Dec/Jan design holiday windows, Feb/Mar design storyboards for holiday windows, May/Jun begin building holiday windows, Dec install holiday windows, and an explanation of this year’s windows. For a complete rundown of Macy’s Christmas Windows 2013 Part I and Macy’s Christmas Windows 2013 Part II check out our coverage.

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Next Harry Cunningham, Senior Vice President, Store Planning, Design and Visual Merchandising at Saks Fifth Avenue shared with the crowd that he uses a similar timeline to Paul and he then took us through his Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas Windows 2013.  Check out our complete coverage.

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Finally the talk ended with Tom Beebe, Vice President, Creative services at W Diamond Group sharing some insight into what drives him.  One key takeaway was his need to “reward the viewer”.

Enjoy other recent events open to the public (usually for a small fee) from the New York School of Interior Design located at 170 East 70th Street in Manhattan.

Check out Design Life Networks further coverage of the New York Christmas Windows 2013 including: Tiffany’s Christmas Windows 2013, Macy’s Christmas Windows 2013 Part I, Macy’s Christmas Windows 2013 Part II, Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas Windows 2013, Bloomingdales Christmas Windows 2013, Bergdorf Goodman’s Christmas Windows 2013, and Lord & Taylor Christmas Windows 2013.

Special thanks to Jade Dressler, Communications Specialist, New York School of Interior Design and her colleague, Chris Spinelli, for supporting materials for this article.


About the author: Bill Indursky

Bill Indursky is an architect, trend expert, and digital entrepreneur. He is the former founder of V&M (Vintage & Modern (2006-2013)) and the current founder of Design Life Network (DLN). DLN is a MAGAZINE + DESIGN AGENCY + MARKETPLACE + TV CHANNEL promoting inspiring design of all eras online and on TV.



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