VM review christmas windows 2017: 'playful naivety' vs 'abstract minimalism'. And th
*Jown Lewis, Oxford Street.
Like every year at Christmas time, as a good and dutiful VM (for those who don't know what the acronym stands for: Visual Merchandiser), I can't miss my 'big fat' stroll around the centre of London; in particular, Bond St-Oxford St and Knightsbridge-Brompton Rd areas. In fact, this kind of professional tasks remain in your DNA and if you work on the creative side of retail, it becomes imperative to collect ideas and develop a critical spirit towards competitors.
In all honesty, I have seen some fairly good works but, overall, nothing really breaks the grounds of basic and maybe too conventional creativity. I guess recent world political and economical uncertainty is generating in the market a strong need for safety and a clinging onto old values.
In this stream of naive, traditional-ish windows we find Selfridges. Red velvety surfaces, sparkly details, mistletoe window frames: all work as the setting for an army of smiling old-fashioned Santas and a flashy parade of party outfits like shouting: "more is more"! Within this creative approach we can place also Harrods, although the elaboration and the attention to detail is taken to a higher level thank to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana who took over with their windows the whole Brompton Rd side of the department store. Caricatures of the two designers and stylish reinventions of traditional children's tales are wisely waived into southern Italian iconic messages (for example, rich Christmas buffets decorated with traditional embroidered table cloths). Translated into a different cultural vocabulary but very close to these creativities is 'Ralph Lauren', which is able to tone down the usual theatrical drama using teddy bear heads on its mannequins (although nothing unseen before).
More daring and less literal are 'Hermès', 'Fendi', 'Moncler', 'Dior', 'Etro', 'Gucci', 'Miu Miu', 'Prada', 'LV', 'Tod's' and jewellery brand 'Patek Philippe' which, still playing with children's imagery and playfulness, step away from the obvious. My favourite is, without any doubt, 'Hermès': able to make subtle and elegant an UFO flying saucer 'collecting luxurious samples from planet earth'. As usual, since Alessandro Michele's direction in 'Gucci', the striking use of colours and graphic details derived from current collection stand for the perfect example of brand coherence, regardless the season.
Opposed to this imagery we find other brands like 'Bally', 'Mulberry', 'Chanel', 'Burberry' and high street market leader 'Zara'. Window elements and props play a less dominant part and product lay-out results cleaner. Used and, maybe, 'abused', is the adoption of light boxes in the semblance of Christmas packages. Fundamental becomes the attention to detail and the use of rich materials and textures. Winning choice seems to me 'Bally's': gold framed circles, faux marble cubes and warm subtle colour tones express an idea of timelessness and demure.
Finally, I have to mention a third creative approach: the one which never seems to die but doesn't offer much in terms of originality. I am talking about the party-glam '80s inspire imagery. 'Tom Ford' and 'Versace', for example, just to name the biggest, direct the focus on mannequins' outfits at the cost of props and creativity.
I can't wait to see what next holiday season will have to offer in terms of VM for our curious and more and more demanding eyes. In the mean time, enjoy the slideshow of images I picked for you from this season.
*"Hermès" New Bond Street, 'space fairy tale'.
*"Bally" New Bond Street, minimal moon landscape.