So this is my first ever blog, not just design blog, blog in general!
I’ve been thinking about blogging for about 6 months now so this is me biting the bullet. The first post is going to be about an aspect of design I feel relatively comfortable with- window displays. Before starting my current job, I was a designer and project manager for Prop Studios who have designed and manufactured window displays for over 35 years, so I know what it’s like being on the supplier side of designing and realising a window scheme.
The designers of the window displays in this post however aren’t the core set of bespoke design and build companies who normally produce the majority of high street windows- they are instead 6 different architecture practices who have taken part in the RIBA Regent Street Windows Project. Quite a different brief from their normal projects I suspect!
I went down on Sunday with my architect friend, Burghy, to check them out. Here are a few pics and our opinions….
TOPSHOP with Neon
More often than not, the supporting structure behind window displays is hidden behind its decorative façade so, in my opinion, the thought and engineering behind window schemes is often underrated. I really like how this window is the complete opposite of this, and the strong, sturdy structure IS the window prop. There is no getting away from this hefty piece of kit as its supporting angled legs span the whole window, emphasised further with the bright acid yellow finish.
If I was to change one thing about the window, it would be to speed up the rotation of the mannequin wheel. Topshop has such a high turnover of fashion, I think a faster movement would echo this, and more people would see it to appreciate the function of the structure. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the wheel rotate during the time I was there.
On a side note, I think the Topshop visual merchandising team have done a great job creating the gradient colour palette across the mannequins using the Spring collection.
This, alongside Espirit’s display, was Burghy’s fave- her architectural projects are often linear and works in grids, so she liked the organic forms.
I do like the way they have sculpted the polyamide mesh fabric- they’ve taken a fabric which personally I wouldn’t normally associate with Karen Millen clothing, and created a sculptural piece which does suit my perception of the Karen Millen brand. The display runs from the front window, creates an archway as you come in the door, then runs along the long side windows so from either way you approach the store, your eye naturally follows the sculpture, taking in the SS13 dressed mannequins en route.
Ferrari Store with Gensler
Gensler have taken a completely different approach to the other architecture studios, focusing on the emotions people feel about Ferrari rather than creating a space to showcase a physical aspect/product of the brand. My favourite part of this design was the sound of the beating heart. The digital animations behind the heart and brain did catch your eye, but both Burghy and I thought the finish of the heart and brain models let the display down for such a high spec store. Overall, I was a little underwhelmed by it- maybe it would have more impact at night time.
Technically not a window display, but an atrium sculpture. I had seen the Dezeen film about the RIBA Regent Street Window Project, and didn’t like the look of it from the film, but I actually really liked it in person. The use of chestnut paling fencing to create the waves enhances the beach references, and the wave forms really draw your attention up into the double height space making you aware of the merchandise upstairs. It did randomly make me think of queuing for the rollercoaster ride Nemesis (!)- probably because of the huge scale and form…and maybe the horizontal palings. I hope Espirit keep this in-store for a while- it’s a really nice feature entering the store.
Jack Spade (on Brewer Street) with Carl Turner Architects
Instant likeability points for this scheme for the Gordon Matta Clarke references- love his work! Out of all of them, this approach is the most architectural rather than retail, and as a result, rather than creating a seasonal window, they have actually created a scheme which wouldn’t look out of place if it was permanent feature in the Jack Spade store, especially the blackboard New York landscapes inside the store. I love how they have displayed all their inspiration on an entry table- you can see the design processes of taking New York references and translating them into the Brewer Street store. I also loved how the store staff were so enthusiastic and excited about the project. As someone who used to design window schemes, it was always nice to receive positive feedback from the store staff because you knew that you were contributing to their working environment in a positive way. Big thumbs up for Carl Turner Architects!
Unlike the Espirit project, I was looking forward to seeing this display after watching the Dezeen video, but in reality I wasn’t that taken with it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very logical, simple, sensible approach to a window display, but I just felt it was lacking something. It felt like this window was part of a big SS13 window rollout to all Moss Bros stores, and not a one-off exciting project. The black and yellow light edge acrylic connectors worked well as accent details, but maybe if the edges of the ply had an accent colour, it might make the scheme pop a little more?
Overall I think all the projects suited each store’s clientele and ethos. I really enjoyed the whole tour- it’s a great way of breaking up your shopping trip, exploring Regent Street, and makes you want to look more closely at other window schemes. The windows will be in until at least 6th May so I’d recommend getting down there and checking them out. You might even see a Regent Street roller disco train to finish off your day….bonus!