If Holly Golightly had gazed into the Tiffany window at silver dangling from taxidermy or coiled around cigarette butts, the jewelry giant would perhaps breath a very different image as would the film title. The display in that scene, paired with its onlooker in Givenchy trapsing along Fifth Avenue, is iconic of glamour. It has stenciled out a standard for glamour in society. Riding on the coat tails of that unforgotton visual dsiplay, glamour has been morphed and transformed as new ideas of luxury walk a fine line in the obtuseness of visual quality and fashion marketing today. Plucking heads out of phones and handheld devices to notice a window, let alone a building, has been a challenge for window- dressers today.
A bow to Gene Moore for nuturing classic glamour and making it memorable thereafter Ms. Hepburn. In the populated world of screens and windows, stands, displays, marquees, more screens, along curbsides, in your face, in your palm, above your head, below your feet and in your pocket, lies more competition to convince a passerbyer of the quality, the story, the style and the functionality of a product.
“I wanted to see how much attention people paid to it… It’s the difference between looking and seeing” – Gene Moore
Once just a piece of glass that served as the storefront for local goods, the world of window-dressing quickly entered into the realm of art and fashion. The opportunity to fuse business with art began raising questions about what defines art, fashion, and business anymore in the crowded sector of overlapping retailers and cross-marketing. When asked if a window display could be considered a piece of installation art, Rachel K. Ward, internationally acclaimed art critic and journalist (www.fashionvsart.com) responds:
“If we look to the past, art was a window to creative expression in the same way that advertising, store windows and fashion shows function today. Media, in its all encompassing scope, serves as the authority over values, and separating fashion from art is just one way that it demonstrates its authority. Yet creative individuals normally do not see this delineation in their own lives. ”
– Rachel K. Ward
Today, to be eye-catching requires a lot more thought in a world caving in on the human attention span and adopting digital instincts. As online retail expands and digital advertising trumps the physical arena, businesses are rethinking their shop windows as much as the window-dresser is being set free of a glass frame to evoke more storytelling, using space as a stage, permitting more props and less aversion to pushing limits. What stops a consumer today may be something that would frighten or deter one fifty years ago and visa versa. Professor and journalist, Robin Fritz, Indiana University, responds to the history of window-dressing:
“Before the widespread use of plate glass in the 1890s, window dressing was fairly utilitarian, if not non-existent, as merchants instead used such tried and true standbys as painted billboards, wooden signs and posters to advertise their wares. >>(She continues with the arrival of the window itself, at the dawn of the industrial revolution)<< The emergence of plate glass, however, enabled store owners to display actual merchandise to passing customers behind ever larger windows.”
Scenes depicting real life scenarios, exaggerated incidients, conceptually innovative and causing confusing, forcing the viewer to confront what they see, what they need and want, and challenging what stares back at them are thoughts all at the forefront of visual displays today. Though the window display dates back to the late 1890s, its capacity to provoke, consume, even taint its viewers is rooted in the years and minds of dadaism and pop culture. And they are increasingly fewer as glamour is more reserved today for 5th Avenue, via Montenapoleone, Champs Elysee, Bond Street, or Toyko’s Aoutoyo district.
Over the years the role of a window-dresser has become more lucrative, elevated, and a select few have made themselves memorable for their work. Naturally creative, many dressers stem from or cross between other careers: Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, even Carol Lombard were a few among many said to have dabbled in the dressing of windows. In 2005, Shonquis Moreno published Forefront, a collection of concepts and stories of displays from leading window-dressers around the world including more legendary names as Simon Doonan (Barneys), David Hoey (Bergdorf Goodman), JoAnne Tan (Moshcino), Gene Moore (Tiffany). From furniture to suits, shoes, phones and cars, the business of product display extends beyond reachless heights.
One particular creative has taken his passion for design, dancing, and the history of his country, to resurrect messages that raise debate, human emotion and confusion while breathing a freshness into the idea of glamour behind glass. His work is saturated in provocation and he has taken the art of dressing a window to a level of interaction and participation while adhering to the simple principles of introducing Vinçon products. Vinçon, a Spanish design agency specializing in home decor and artchitecture with a legendary story itself, dating back to 1934, has not only served as an iconic representative for Barcelona but also an art hall (the building of Passeig de Gracia in the heart of Barcelona’s creative scene, remains part of the architectural heritage of the city of Barcelona).
Apart from their hyptnotic, entrancing windows, Vinçon houses various art collections from graphic design to indsustrial design encouraging local and visiting artists to display work at Vinçon La Sala. It is Vinçon that serves as the playground between products, poetry and pigments of performance in the space of a window where creative director Antonio Iglesias goes to work. A stroll down the shopping strip today is likely one of greater mental strain. Intellectually and emotionally, the material scenes are layered beyond fabrics and plastic, metals and golds. Scenes that rest behind a glass window, profoundly. This is the work of Signor Iglesias and his production team. Work that has upheld his legend of window-dressing in a fashion unfashionably standard. Highlighting and deconstruction both the fashion of furniture and the foes of galmour, Antonio Iglesias continues to stain glass with a depth and drama in a new era of strorefronts. Vinçon sums it all up:
“it’s not about looping the loop, but about seeing things from a different perspective. At least in this case, practice shows that when a little poetry is used in the commercial field, it gives that added value.” – Vinçon
Meet the man behind the window.
AG. For a company of renowned multi-faceted contemporary design grounded in home decor, what key characteristics set Vinçon apart from today’s home decor giants? Where do all of the products come from?
AI: The understanding of its products. The company’s long history. Our creative skills as well as creating irony behind each product. Our exhibition hall – la sala Vinçon. We think people should feel at home and feel as though they’re in the own world in their own private collection.
AG: In your opinion, what is the foundation that ties together design for products with design for space?
AI: Every position evokes a sensation and every location has its own space. Vinçon has a reputation for their window displays. Each product has a language of its own. We try to make each product have its own script. Through the window displays we attempt to give each object a personalized choreography so that they transmit an imaginative vision. This produces a good sense of humour and this awakens the customer’s interest in that “cathedral” that lies beneath by coming into the shop to ask.
AG: In your opinion, how big of a role do visual displays/presentations play in the marketing world today considering the attention span of a digital era?
AI: It’s retained in the memory although all language symbology elapses with great speed. But there’s always time to observe any act which is full of abstraction so I say “viva” to everyone’s imagination.
AG: Has the advancement of digital communication and technology impacted the way you approach dressing a window?
AI: Yes, any political, social, cultural event, etc but not necessarily in the way we do things which always connotes poetic irony.
AG: Where do you see window displays in the future with the expansion of online retail?
AI: Today is the future, everything revolves around technology according to the function of each product.
AG: Your work has been compared to that of Bergdorf Goodman (David Hoey) and Moschino (JoAnn Tan), regarded as having some of the most innovative and high-profile windows. How might you compare/contrast your work with two similarly large thinkers?
AI: Wow what a complement to be compared with such people. My work consists of creating small objects, it can be anything from a spoon to an enormous wardrobe. However, I think that people around me describe me as a poet of objects, a person who recycles and finds dualisms between past and present.
AG: How do you feel about the role of photography in window displays?
AI: It’s a bombarding feeling. One of the greatest impacts is the stillness of a space which is packed with expression, torment, etc like that of the Hiroshima bombing. I’m completely lost for words when I see it. It’s capable of making us reflect upon all good and bad of a person in a static way and spits back at you touching your heart.
AG: Apart from Vinçon, Antonio Iglesias, what is your story: how did you get into this business, and did you imagine yourself doing something else? Did I read somewhere that you were a dancer?
AI: No. Not at any point did I know what I was going to do tomorrow. This is my vice/conflict and my virtue. Yes, I’m still a dancer at the age of 50 years with a bit of a bulge and make choreographies for complaisant objects.
AG: Growing up, did you have creative influences or role models that helped mold your character? Who/what are some of your creative inspirations today?
AI: When we were little my family had great creative skills because we had to create our own entertainment. I remember going to a big scrap yard, collecting all the pans and other objects I could find and later using it to invite my siblings to a great feast. I’d fill the plates with stones, earth and snails. I later discovered a neverending list of magnificent creators. But I think that one of my greatest inspirations for having a poetic vision is the great choreographer Pina Bauhs.
AG: On a global scale, do you see different cultural responses to unconventional displays? What other cities have you found to be most reactive to conceptual work of your magnitude?
AI: It depends on the culture but also on each person’s sense of humour. The Japonese for example have a great sense of humour and they interpret my work very well.
AG: Tell me about the artificial seagull. How did that begin and what does it represent today?
AI: Prestige is a fact which affected the north of Spain and all its fauna. The window display with the seagulls which is given the name – Prestige was left with nothing else to say. The display is composed by a pair of wellington boots, buckets and the seagulls gave a pure white touch symbolizing the beginning of any disaster.
AG: What is one of your most rewarding creative projects and why? AI: The ones I carried out after the death of a friend which is called “La danza de los calcetines” (the dance of the socks) where the whole wall is filled with what looks like tongues or used condoms.
AG: When you are not conjuring up creative projects or plotting the next window to dress, what might we find you watching or listening to, or reading?
AI: When I’m sad, I listen to Gustav Mahler (composer) “ He sido abandonado por el mundo”. If it’s not that, I’m hyperactive and I’m always in second hand shops, at museums, etc.
AG: Vinçon is in a prime location, Passeig de Gracia. What are some of the challenges and advantages about being Barcelona now?
AI: Barcelona is like any other major European cities, filled with corners – which I probably might not have seen yet. It has a splendid climate and the sea. “El mar siempre el mar”. (The sea always the sea)
AG: At what point does a project become “successful” to you?
AI: When mind, realization and message are combined. But my criteria is sometimes wrong because I might not have liked something and the response I’ve had is sometime a smile. In other words, we’re sometimes very critical with ourselves and improvisation is also a form of art.
AG: How much of an influence do trends have on developing concepts?
AI: I don’t follow trends, I’m more seasonal and follow the different product stock that comes in. I don’t mark special dates or St valentines.
AG: As a creative, how do you incorporate the worlds beyond art and design into your work?
AI: I think that in many companies work is done alongside a marketing team to channel ways of gaining greater profits but it’s not the case for me. I have a lot of creative freedom with some guidelines focused on sales. However, I think it’s always necessary to work as a team and to respect everyone’s field of work. It is not hard for me because art is design and design is art.
AG: Was there ever a point in your career when you wanted to quit as a creative? For you, is being creative a learned trait or something innate?
AI: I’ve thought about working in something more tranquil and monotonous as my head sometimes tires me out. I think that every person has an obligation to express what they need to express. At this point in my career it would be suicidal to think of being something else. It’s both nature and nurture and other skills are also invented along the way.
AG: What inspired “minimalanimal” and were there unexpected outcomes?
AI: I can’t remember what window display it is. I change them frequently and I sometimes forget. I’ll tell you about to window displays I do remember about though with humour and which have not been photographed as they were my very first shop window displays. We had stock of 2000 mats which symbolized that men don’t have to wee standing but sat down. They were black and yellow and stood out a lot but they were left on a shop shelf for a year without having sold even one. I decided to set a scene depicting its use which I displayed in Paseo de Gracia on a public toilet equipped with toilet paper, a mat, toilet lid, mirror. The only barrier was the window glass so that it wasn’t used. In one month and a half all the mats were sold and a couple of newlyweds had a photo taken inside the display.
People would often take photos with a smile on their face. I gave my farewell to this successful window display by remaining seated on the toilet during 10 minutes like The Thinker by Rodin.
The other window display was the staging of a very elegant hotel style bed upholstered with a exquisite fabric which had a naked mannequin lying on top covered up to the waist with a very fine sheet. The floor bedroom was covered with bottles without any brand lettering on them completely transparent which represented this person having a hangover. It was fun to see how passer-bys would walk past a meter and walked back asking what that naked man was doing in that bed, in that space and in that situation.
We ask ourselves whether art is provocative, in that case long live provocation.