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Monday, January 08, 2007

Engaging The Consumer... Via Store Windows!

Bergdorf Goodman Christmas Displays 2006 originally uploaded by James @ mannequindisplay.com.
I've always been an admirer of beautiful store windows -- probably comes from absorbing Parisian store fronts as a child as well as my NYC Bloomingdale days -- and I found it a real treat to listen to Linda Fargo, SVP, Fashion Director and Store Store Presentation, Bergdorf Goodman on 12/6/2006.

Linda is also the author of Dreams Through the Glass: Windows from Bergdorf Goodman. No surprise, her presentation was titled "Dreams Through The Glass" and TREX described it as follows: A store window offers a glimpse into the personality of the store itself. The message it communicates can, at best, evolve the store brand or, at worst, ruin the excitement of shoppers' first-impression expectations.

Dreams, romance, and lasting impressions can be possible through window displays. Join legendary visual designer Linda Fargo, who has achieved brand-evolving reality through fantasy merchandising, as she shows you how. Let her take you to the heart of a store through the eyes of its windows. This session will inspire and motivate you as you plan your own window displays.

Linda Fargo started her presentation by quoting Tom Bebe, former visual director for Paul Stuart: "Work like you don't need money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like no one's watching." What a neat way to capture the essence of passion and delight in what one does! Linda's background: she has been a part of the visual display world for 20 years via the Gap, I. Magnin, and -- for the last 10 years -- Bergdorf Goodman. In that time, she has created approximately 3000 windows [and numerous in-store displays and renovations]. Bergdorf represents 5 streets of windows, that are changed every 2 to 3 weeks. [Remember Paco Underhill's comments about windows? 'Tis the Season to Cite Paco: "A store window needs to communicate beyond the people immediately in front of it. Windows should have one message, not 15. They need to change no less than every two weeks to get people coming back. People should look forward to window displays as a place to have fun."]

Early on, Fargo challenged assumptions around windows - that only 1 designer should be featured at a time; that they be sedate and pretty. She wanted to play with the fantastic closet available to her and mix designers.

She likes to think through a multitude of little details to illustrate who the person in the window is, what her life is about, including -for example- a 1 way bus ticket. Or, in a hurricane window with Halston by Randolph Duke, she included newspaper articles about 'fair weather' ahead.

Her themes are about fairytale and fiction. Innovation and contradiction. Fashion, nature, unpredictable patterns. They are always tasteful, but may include trompe l'oeuil or contradictory effects. For example, a mannequin whose hand reaches through the glass [other part of hand is attached outside of the window!]. Beautiful, elegant, but not too serious. The windows are layered with many levels of meaning; many of the details operate at several levels, engaging the viewer's curiosity. The example she referred to here was the 'millennium' window that captured a sense of time travel and featured 1000 years of cultural clutter.

Fargo draws inspiration from many art sources Jackson Pollock, Fragonard, Antoine Watteau, Flemish Painters, Frida Kahlo and the startling quality of Surrealism. One example featured a woman with handbags all draped along an impossibly loooooong arm. Another used 1000s of pieces of toast....

But, these windows are also about show biz, street level theatre, striving to become evocative; definitely inventive windows and mixing the familiar with the strange to create a dreamlike effect. They are absolutely about emotion! And - as such - affect the customer experience! These are absolutely part of the store and brand experience and must be coordinated with adjacencies, changing rooms, and product selection! They create energy and embody vitality. [Remember what Lisa Contreras from Mancini-Duffy described in Bloomingdales Bathroom Makeover about customer experience and brand identity?]

The windows of a store capture the spirit and image of the store. They create an identity and present that identity to the consumer in such a way as to benefit the brand, and engage the consumer with the brand.

This 1997 interview with Linda Fargo from http://www.lookonline.com by Laurie Schechter captures a lot of Fargo's magic and includes some nice pictures. Do check out the images in this 1998 Holiday Windows presentation. It includes many of Fargo's Bergdorf Goodman windows as well as those from a few other New York City stores. [Also check out the additional Flickr images by James @ mannequindisplay.com.]

If there's a lesson from Linda Fargo's "Dreams Through the Glass", it is to take your store windows very seriously! Not in the sense that they should be formal and proper and boring, or totally obscured with promotional sales signs, but rather that they should celebrate all of the passion that you have for your store - especially your flooring and carpet store - and all of the passion you have for your consumer. Go ahead and engage her via your store windows!

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Anonymous said...

I love the way your posts are universally true - some art galleries don't have windows (sad but true) but that doesn't mean they can't think about the space as a window. Great information and lots of food for thought.

And it occures to me that one can take "window" into cyperspace....your blog is the window to your soul!

Robyn McMaster, PhD said...

C.B. I love the art of a great store window. They're magic to consumers and your story captured this. I enjoyed learning more about Linda Fargo -- especially what drives her creativity. Great blog. Thanks for sharing!

Have you ever had the opportunity to create a "new world" in a store window, C.B.

Valeria Maltoni said...

Visual story telling that is as much about the person imagining the story as the person telling the story.

As you say, a staged gesture, a draped object can become any number of things to the observer.

The other thought I had is the roles. In a way, a great staged experience can be both observed and lived; just like life.

CB Whittemore said...

Robyn, I dabbled as a high schooler when I worked in a perfume store during the holidays, but lacked the world experience, talent and vision to create anything close to what Linda Fargo creates. Otherwise, I build new worlds in my mind, through photography, when I paint and when I write.

Valeria, you definitely have the soul of an artist! Roles is a great build - being able as viewer to project yourself onto the stage... while observing. Yes! just like life. Thanks, both, for your rich comments!

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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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