Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows

“I Take the Fifth”

Yesterday may have been Cyber Monday, but since I literally spend my life online, I decided to get some retail therapy in person and get into the festive mood of the season (which is admittedly hard to do when the weather is more like Easter than Christmas – or Hanukkah). I was hoping that checking out some high profile store windows would do the trick, and let’s just say, it certainly helped. I headed straight to Barneys New York, or should I say, Gaga Land, since it’s been transformed into Lady Gaga’s twisted universe thanks to an inspired collaboration between the iconic mega star and the hip Madison Avenue emporium (the result of the combined efforts of Nicola Formichetti, artists Eli Sudbrack and Christophe Hamaide Pierson, and Barneys Creative Director, Dennis Freedman).

Barneys Holiday Windows

The side of the store on 60th Street, has been temporarily made over with a traffic stopping pop art facade (at one point, the driver of a car pulled down his windows to ask the doorman what he was looking at), and all the windows on Madison Avenue, have been transformed into Lady Gaga’s World (there’s even a boudoir scene made entirely of human hair), complete with a mood inticing loud soundtrack of her more famous tunes. Inside the store, one complete floor has been turned over to represent Lady Gaga’s Workshop.

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows
‘Carnival of Animals’ Display
(Photos by Ricky Zehavi)

I then headed over to what still has to be the most captivating and magical piece of real estate in New York (drumroll please!); 5th Avenue between 57th and 58th streets. First and foremost, there are Bergdorf Goodman’s fantastical, sumptuous, and highly visual windows, which, this year, have the overall theme, ‘Carnival of the Animals’.

 Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows
‘Aquarium ‘display, with fish made by artist Brett Windham that are
encrusted with mosaic tile, and rhinestones, gems, and sequins

Standouts include: ‘The Brass Menagerie’: the floor is completely covered with pennies, and the centerpiece is a Naeem Khan gown, available by special order, (as are all the other fashion items on display) which is accessorized with a New York Vintage headdress and Stephen Dweck jewels; ‘Teachers Pet’: a vision in graphic black and white, down to the Marchesa gown and J. Mendel fur

Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows
‘North Pole Garden Party’

There’s also a ‘North Pole Garden Party’ with upholstered animals, a very sweet polar bear, and a monkey about to pop open the champagne. And ‘Breaking the Ice’: a glorious vision in extravagant winter white, including the J. Mendel dress and fur cape; and ‘Testing the Waters’, highlighted by an extraordinary Alexander McQueen vision. See more images here.

Van Cleef & Apel Holiday Windows

And proving that “good things come in small packages” are  Van Cleef & Arpels’ holiday windows, designed by Douglas Little, just a few steps away, at the corner of 57th and 5th (when I say small, I am only referring to the comparatively small windows in the tiny jewel of the store). I attended a press preview to unveil the windows a few weeks ago and while the weather that evening was uncooperative in that it was wet and damp, nothing could detract from the dazzling and glorious bijoux on display, each one a marvel of the iconic jeweler’s unique and exquisite craft technology

Van Cleef & Arpel Holiday Windows

Certainly, everything looked a lot better yesterday in the warm sunshine. This year, Van Cleef & Arpels has chosen to renew the very French and very Parisian tradition of the Ball, and their holiday collection and themed windows, called, Bals de Légende, present five sets of jewels, each inspired by five extraordinary 20th century balls. Each tells the story of an unforgettable evening, guided by a sparkling feminine dancer. There is Le Bal Du Palais D’Hiver, Saint-Petersbourg, February 11, 1903 (the centerpiece is The Diamond Dancer Clip, aglow in diamonds) ; Le Bal Du Siecle, Venice, September 3, 1951 (The Coloured Sapphire Dancer decor clip in diamonds and multi colored sapphires); Le Bal Proust, Ferrieres, December 2, 1971 (The Rosemond Clip made of sapphires, mother of pearl, lapis lazuli, multicolored natural pearls, diamonds); Le Bal Oriental, Paris, December 5, 1964 (The Danseuse Orientele decor clip in yellow and white diamonds); and perhaps my favorite (because I love anything in black and white), Le Bal Black & White, New York, November 28, 1966 (The Diamond and Onyx Dancer Decor Clip). Just how pricey are these, and the other amazing pieces on display both in the windows and inside the shop? Let’s just say, “If you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it!”

As always, the windows directly on 5th Avenue, between 57th and 58th Streets draw quite a crowd, and I was hardly the only one taking pictures. Adding a bit of New York ‘charm’ (hhmmm), or should I say, New York grit, AND a high dose of reality, was a handicapped man in a wheelchair crying out for help (‘Help Me, Help Me, he screamed), and a scruffy, shabbily garbed young couple (they actually didn’t look THAT scruffy) who literally set up camp (with all their possessions it seemed) directly in front of the McQueen tableau. At first I thought they were recent evacuees from Zuccotti Park and Occupy Wall Street, until I read the two hastily done handwritten signs in front of them. One read, ‘Wish List’ (it did not mention any of the ultra extravagant goodies in the windows behind them LOL, but did include ‘tickets to Berkeley, California’- where else???- and ‘toiletries’; the other announced: ‘Traveling, homeless, gypsies. Please, anything helps!’

The absurdity and incongruity of this scene (talk about the dicotomy between the haves and the have nots) had me thinking immediately of Cindy Adams’ famous line, “Only in New York kids. Only in New York”.

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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