It’s that time of year again when we take a look at some of the best Christmas window displays and this year we’ve decided to take a look at Christmas windows in two of the world’s greatest shopping capitals – London and New York. Although these displays are seasonal, their influence can be felt throughout the year as they showcase the latest in lighting effects, retail technology and breath-taking creativity that continue to influence other retailer’s visual merchandising and window displays throughout the year (albeit with less baubles and artificial snow).
We’ve decided to include 5 of the best from New York and London in this year’s round up – so you can compare how the UK is keeping up with our friends across the pond. The Americans used to lead the way when it comes to Christmas shop window displays but as you can see form our list, it seems now that London has picked up the mantle and is running with it, with some of the most innovative, exciting – and Christmassy – retail displays we have seen in the capital.
1. Fortnum and Mason
If you follow us on Instagram you may have already seen some of our pictures of the Fortnum’s Christmas retail display this year. Renowned for their amazing Christmas hampers the self-styled ‘Masters of Merry since 1707’, Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly is a historic department store selling gifts, food and home ware. Their store Christmas display is really stunning and offers a great example of a brand using what they have to create a unique spectacle that people will want to come and see.
Above the vintage Christmas window displays at street level, the brand has made use of the windows on the upper floors of the building to create something really magical. The multi-windowed red brick façade has been transformed into a giant advent calendar, with decorative foliage, lights and numbers at 24 of the windows. Meanwhile the eight large windows at street level have been transformed to give an insight into the inner-workings of the brand, showcasing their festive theme ‘Packed Full of Christmas’ with mechanically animated displays featuring well-dressed animatronic cats engaged in a range of activities including filling bottles of port, corking champagne, assembling mince pies, and wrapping presents.
The artist Edward Bawden created a series of cat assistants for the Fortnum’s Christmas campaign back in 1958 and these displays – created in house – are a nod to the brand’s rich heritage.
From traditional British cats we now head to New York where a large magical dog features in this year’s Macy’s Christmas window display at their flagship store in Herald Square. Where they have chosen the theme ‘Believe in Wonder’ for their festive feature.
The first of the large NYC department stores to unveil their Christmas store display this year, Macy’s six large windows tell the story of a character named ‘Santa Girl’ who is on a special mission to inspire everyone to be more giving – just like Santa. On the way she meets Santa and a huge golden retriever named Willow.
The windows are fitted with interactive elements that enable visitors to engage with the displays and play games, take a selfie and interact with the characters. The display uses thousands of LED lights with neon ropes and unique visual touches including video clips and kaleidoscopic candy canes. If you don’t have the time to nip over to NYC to see Macys Christmas window displays for yourself, ActionKid has kindly posted this great 14 minute video (above) of the displays on YouTube. He also goes for a wander round in store too.
3. Selfridges, Oxford Street
Back to London now where another iconic department store has raised the bar with their retail Christmas window displays on Oxford Street. It is fair to say that Selfridges are very excited about Christmas as it came very early this year. They opened their Christmas shop in July and were the first store in the world to unveil their Christmas windows, back in October. Before Halloween! Is that too soon?
Like Macys and Fortnums, Selfridges are also using a theme, ‘Future Fantasy: A Christmas for Modern Times,’ which they have rolled out to all of their stores this year. The design took a multi-specialist team more than 500 hours to produce with 100 people involved in the window-dressing across all stores, working non-stop rotated shifts for 10 days.
The window display at the Oxford Street store takes some of the iconic elements and symbolism of fairy tales including Goldilocks, Cinderella and Rapunzel and gives them a modern twist. The windows have an ethereal, holographic quality which makes them really stand out fro some of the more traditional heritage displays along the street and they have some dazzling decorations inside the store too, including a giant 40ft mirrored Christmas tree, enhanced with an impressive light show.
Bloomingdales flagship in NYC commemorates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this year with ‘An Out of This World Holiday’ theme. A vintage Christmas store display, expressing a playful take on interplanetary exploration. The windows were unveiled a couple of weeks ago with a special performance from John Legend, tinkling the ivories and singing some festive hits.
The storefront windows feature some retro-looking spaceships, moonscapes and futuristic figures in silver costumes, cavorting with aliens and bearing gifts. In one window a spaceman plants a Bloomingdales flag onto the surface of the moon, whilst in another, robotic arms hang shiny baubles on a golden Christmas tree.
One of the more traditional windows in our list this year, this display lacks the interactive elements or high-styling of some of the other brands and the golden mannequins give it a distinctly retro feel. It still looks wonderful though.
This year Harrods have an animal themed ‘Kingdom of Christmas’ window display, where each creature featured represents a different luxury brand. There’s a festive zebra carrying Carolina Herrera perfume and a snow leopard bearing Elie Saab gifts. The latter appears to be channelling Lord Asriel’s daemon from the BBC drama ‘His Dark Materials’ – something that Creative Director Alex Wells-Greco freely admits was inspiration for the display. He wanted to evoke the fantasy worlds dreamt up by children’s writers like HDM creator Philip Pullman – with the use of animals as figures of magic and escapism.
Inside the store the fun continues with an AR (augmented reality) Christmas trail, a fabulous Tiffany Christmas tree and a giant mistletoe sculpture in the atrium. Harrods have also opened a pop-up Christmas store in Burlington Arcade this year if you fancy experiencing the magic on a slightly smaller scale.
6. Saks Fifth Avenue
On November 25th Saks Fifth Avenue unveiled their Frozen 2 themed Christmas display with a light show, music and dancing in the street outside the store, 3 days after the film opened in cinemas in the US. This isn’t the first time the store has partnered with Disney for their Christmas window display, who had this to say about the collaboration:
“The powerful imagery and themes from ‘Frozen 2’ lend themselves perfectly to Saks’s iconic, theatrical-like window displays and holiday lightshow. This collaboration with Saks Fifth Avenue will once again bring the magic of the holiday season to life for fans and families, allowing them to feel as though they are a part of Anna and Elsa’s enchanted world like never before.” (Ken Potrock, president of Consumer Products, Disney).
The windows themselves feature characters from the movie, with the centre six windows showing Elsa’s journey to power via the spirits of nature: wind, fire, water, and earth. The façade of the store is lit spectacularly with tiny LEDs, whilst inside a frozen forest experience beckons, encouraging shoppers to come in and look around, rather than staying outside with their noses pressed against the glass, getting…well…frozen.
7. Harvey Nichols
You can always count on Harvey Nichols to host a spectacular festive display and this year’s event is no exception. The exterior walls of the store’s extensive frontage in Knightsbridge are lit with undulating hues of purple and green inspired by the Northern lights (perhaps another bit of Pullman inspiration?). Streetside, the windows continue the Scandinavian theme with cedar slat panels and festive garlands accentuating the new season’s fashions in a classy and chic yet joyful display.
The displays present a series of contrasts: light and shadow, cold and warmth and nostalgia and modernity. Inside the store there is a ‘Secret Forest’ with a faux Aurora Borealis – where customers can watch festive films, enjoy Nordic snacks and ice cream cocktails and attend Saturday schools. The space is also available for private parties.
Like Selfridges, the Scandi theme has been rolled out across all Harvey Nichols stores in the UK and Ireland until January 5th.
8. Louis Vuitton, Fifth Avenue
Louis Vuitton unveiled their 5th Ave Christmas window displays NYC on November 21, celebrating this festive season with a towering installation that scales the entire corner facade of their Fifth Avenue store. This is not the first time the store has been decorated the corner. The Art Deco building has been transformed with glass cladding that is – according to architect Jun Aoki – “a playfully sleek meditation on crystalline transparency and clouded translucency” and the glass regularly features artwork from different designers. The new design is bursting with bright fluorescent motifs including the brand’s iconic monogram logo, 3D spheres and hearts. Pop art animations are woven from the exterior of the building through the store window displays, creating a three-dimensional effect as they showcase Christmas gift ideas alongside the high fashion designs.
The ‘pop of colour’ pattern carries a similar design to the collaborative 3D installation by Carmel Said, Ansel Thompson and Faye McLeod outside the new flagship store on New Bond Street in London, but on a much larger scale.
9. Liberty London
Another one of our favourites, Liberty London are known for their quirky and eclectic collection and their Christmas display this year is totally on brand. Inspired by the store’s 2019 fabric print ‘Jeweltopia.’ The window displays feature a matching palette of blues and pinks and plush materials trimmed with opulent crystals and jewels.
Inside the store, the centrepiece is a giant sculptural tree. Inspired by Gabrielle Djanogly poem the display tells the story of an all-seeing owl and his vision of a magical tree. But this is no ordinary Christmas tree, it is a giant bonsai, crafted from velvet and real reindeer moss in hues of magenta and teal. The branches festooned with baubles and giant jewelled fruits are home to exotic stylised animals including peacocks and chameleons created by sculptor Billie Achilleos (who has also worked with Louis Vuitton). Known as the ‘Tree of Liberty,’ it has already got 15,000 likes on Instagram (and counting!).
According to Liberty, the Christmas displays took the four-person in-house creative team more than a year to plan and 8 days to install. Keep watching the vid above to see the window displays and a good look around the store.
10. Bergdorf Goodman
Back to New York for our final display and luxury brand Bergdorf Goodman’s windows are literally a work of art. Channelling the spirit of the holiday “fete” with a twist, each window evokes a different scene of revelry and celebration, expressed in mixed media with neon lights, mosaic tiles, needlecraft, soft sculpture and custom painted finishes.
Within the over-arcing theme, each window has it’s own individual premise: Winner Takes All, Wild Card, Jackpot!, Game Night, Queen’s Gambit, Up The Down Escalator, and Scavenger Hunt. The window designs were all developed by longstanding Bergdorf window dresser and Senior Director of Visual Presentation, David Hoey.
The tableau scenes in these windows really are a work of art and when you see such creativity it really is no surprise that people are booking trips to NYC just to see the 5th Avenue Christmas window displays – although as we have shown, London is giving the big apple a run for it’s money this year and not all of the best Christmas window displays are in NYC.
Seen any great window displays that we should have included? Or maybe we’ve inspired you with some great Christmas window display ideas for your own store next year. Let us know in the comments section below, we’re always pleased to hear your views.