Festive Window Shopping

The magic on show in the most extravagant windows in the country

02a169wg’Tis the season to be jolly… and to shop… and to stare blankly into the windows of massive department stores wondering what on earth you’re going to get Auntie Jean and why all you can think about is your desperate need for the nice sparkly purse in the display.

At this time of year, more so than any other, retail window displays ascend to heights of grandeur, magic and imagination.The big London department stores are famous for their festive window displays, and indeed a trip to the big smoke to gaze at these visions is a family Christmas excursion all on its own…

Selfridges – Oxford Street

Unveiled in October, Selfridges windows depict a traditional Father Christmas in a variety of party scenes, including a train carriage, cable car and amongst a crowd of penguins. Towers of presents and luxury products are never far away. St Nic himself is even glammed up with a sparkly suit!

Harrods – Brompton Road 

A Very British Fairy Tale is the theme for the Knightsbridge tourist destination, reflecting its partnership this year with Burberry. The store’s twenty nine windows illustrate the fantastical adventure of a family who enter a magical world via their flying car. Clearly focussed towards a family audience, the storytelling of this design promises to capture the attention of passers by for some time.

Harvey Nichols – Knightsbridge

The high opulence and drama of the Italian opera is the muse of these windows which employ 100,000 glittering ice-white balls to build chandeliers, clouds and candelabras. Typically the store’s luxury gift ideas are on display in a focus that lends itself to the aspirational rather than fantastical.

Liberty – Regent Street

This year, Liberty unveiled a spectacular Nutcracker theme to its window display.  Unusually, the store is not displaying any merchandise as part of this display, but instead has agreed an exclusive partnership with the Royal Ballet as part of the message that is being conveyed by its windows this year. That message is extolling the magic and spirit of traditional Christmas decoration.

Fortnum & Mason – Piccadilly

The windows depict eight stories in which pairs of characters usually divided by geography, time or mutual aversion are brought together for Christmas. “Together We’re Merrier”, the windows tell us. The displays feature intricate hand-crafted models showing us The Bull and The China, The Butcher and The Turkey, and The Chef and The Lobster amongst others. The direction of the campaign is to suggest unusual and unconventional food pairings, as well as to promote social harmony at Christmas time!

img_5466-webIt’s not just about the display itself – it’s about the framing. You will find that in most storefronts, the window displays are enhanced with vinyl graphics, lighting or other techniques to contextualise, direct and maintain their audience’s attention. It’s a classic sales technique, and one that is employed to magnificent effect by the big London department stores.img_0390-web

Harrods underline their partnership with Burberry through translucent window stickers displaying the fashion brand on every window. They add London, England to highlight the British focus of the window campaign. Harvey Nics have added depth to their display through UV lighting which transforms the displays as the sun sets, framing the scenes and products on display with a different focus. Fortnum & Mason’s window graphics explain the scene in the window using fantastical poetry; “And from the usually rambunctious bull, We heard barely a shout, As he whispered Merry Christmas, And shook hands with his spout”.  With such surreal creations, some explanation was surely needed, and text on the window pane is the perfect medium.
This Christmas, a visit to London to explore the visual delights in the windows of the city’s famous high-end stores is planned by many a family. It is, however, worth looking not just at the creativity in the window, but at the subtle techniques and ideas that sit on, in and around the window itself. Sometimes this is where the real secret lies.