Joy to the world: The holiday windows have come!
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended virtually every holiday tradition — sitting on Santa’s lap, caroling, gathering at Grandma’s. But it actually is beginning to look a lot like Christmas outside Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf’s, Saks and Macy’s.
“The holiday windows and light show are our annual gift to New York City,” Emily Essner, chief marketing officer at Saks, told The Post. Saks’ particularly sumptuous windows depict a variety of Yuletide celebrations, from the tride and true (a little girl getting an autograph after “The Nutcracker”) to the more timely (a socially distanced gathering at a food truck).
“This year, we felt it was more important than ever to uphold this long-standing tradition,” added Essner. And to “deliver fun and escapism this holiday season.”
Some stores tailored their themes in response to the pandemic. The windows at Macy’s pay tribute to NYC’s essential workers, with neon signs flashing “thank you” in 16 different languages.
Bergdorf Goodman, however, had started planning its designs back in January, with a focus on giving back. The resulting theme, “Bergdorf Goodness,” features dazzling stained-glass windows with words like joy, peace, equality and hope in big mirrored block letters. “Little did we realize just how important [that message] would become,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president of the fashion office and store presentation at Bergdorf’s.
Executing such lavish displays — while following social-distancing guidelines — also proved a challenge. “Most years we have beehives of artisans at work creating elaborate and collaborative handmade objects,” said Fargo.
Instead, planning and visualization meetings took place via Zoom, and factories and artisans delivered samples to individual homes to review. “This was definitely an adjustment for teams that are used to touching and feeling materials and in-person production visits,” said Saks’ Essner.
Bloomingdales’ John Klimkowski, meanwhile, said that the windows gave the store a chance to hire local artisans who had lost work to help build their whimsical scent-enhanced displays, from a Christmas tree made of green stuffed teddy bears (which has a pine scent piped outdoors) to a giant candy-cane-striped tongue (a peppermint scent) to a gigantic orange glitter dog. (That one, thankfully, doesn’t have a smell.)
“We looked to costume designers from Broadway who aren’t working right now, or local artists who [have been] displaced due to COVID,” said Klimkowski, VP of visual merchandising and windows. Plus, the surrealist, gleeful props helped lift the workers’ moods. “They bring a smile to everyone,” Klimkowski said.
And after a tough year, New Yorkers really do need to smile.
“We’re a national company, but our [59th Street] flagship really is a neighborhood store,” said Klimkowski. “When I was walking home last night, I turned around and the store just became a beacon on the avenue, with the cheerful color and the vibrant lights. It felt like there was hope.”
Macy’s theme this year — Give, Love, Believe — pays tribute to the first responders, essential workers and marchers who showed “grit, good humor and hopeful spirit during a tumultuous year.” Lights spell out “thank you” in multiple languages over an iconic New York skyline — complete with fireworks — and Macy’s elves drape words of gratitude over a cityscape featuring clapping hands.
Bergdorf Goodman celebrates “the goodness that is all around us” with each kaleidoscopic window featuring gigantic block letters spelling out different “values,” such as love, hope, harmony, joy, peace, equality, kindness and unity. The three-dimensional letters are plated in groovy polychromatic acrylic mirror, to literally and figuratively reflect each value back onto the viewer.
Bloomies urges passersby to “Give Happy,” with each window a tableau of infectious good cheer and “avant-garde whimsy.” Try not to smile as you walk by an evergreen-scented scene featuring a tree made of teddy bears with rhinestone eyes or a smiley-face disco ball, by local artist Allison Eden, spinning above shiny holiday baubles.
Saks’ displays celebrate the myriad ways New Yorkers honor the holiday season, from the traditional to the timely to the hyperlocal. Lush, detailed scenes include a couple on their way to deliver a mountain of gifts on the Roosevelt Island tram, neighbors competing for the most lavish light displays in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights, a young girl getting an autograph from a prima ballerina, and a holiday block party featuring masked revelers around a food truck.