Bergdorf Goodman Pulls Out All the Stops for Their 2019 Holiday Windows

by Charles Manning

Department stores in New York love to go all out with their window displays at the holidays, but no one does it quite like Bergdorf Goodman. The Daily spoke with the man behind the magnificence, senior director of visual presentation, David Hoey, ahead of the big reveal.

David Hoey (Mike Vitelli)

How did you come up with this year’s theme?
We are in the surprise businesses and we have to find a theme that can support at least five windows. This year, we have seven plus a lot of little windows that don’t go into the final count, so I needed a theme that sounded simple, but that we could do a lot with. We don’t create a narrative from one window to the next. That’s not how we show our story. We have more fun when every window is completely different, like pages in a magazine.

This year’s theme is “Bergdorf GoodTimes.” I had the idea when I was standing on the street looking at last year’s holiday windows. I thought, “Let’s do fun and games this holiday.” It’s games, amusements, different kinds of parties, revelry, even board games, things like that.

And this year, every window is done in what’s known as a birds-eye view — you install everything on the wall, including the mannequins, as if you were looking down on the scene from up above. I’ve been here for many years and we do this sort of thing every once in a while, but usually just in a single windo, so this year the surprise is that they are all like that! It just gets more and more dizzying from one window to the next.

Your windows aren’t that deep, though, are they?
No, but they don’t have to be if all the mannequins are sitting down or reclining. Our windows are 52 inches deep — not tall enough for a standing mannequin — but that doesn’t matter; we found ways to do it. But since the theme is revelry we had to have s couple dozen special mannequins made that were all laughing and joking and smiling and having a good time.

How long did that take?
Well, it’s all part of the same process, which takes 10 months plus. We give ourselves one month off in January and then we start again on February first. We’re workign on these windows all year while also working on our regular windows.

What would you say was the most time-consuming aspect of this season’s windows?
With us, the craftsmanship is so important. We go way overboard on craftsmanship. We have a window that’s completely covered in sequins. I haven’t calculated exactly, but there must be millions of sequins in there and they’re all hand-applied. Sometimes the materials themselves are modest, but the way we use them — the time that we take in doing all these encrusted surfaces — takes months and months.

We have one window this year that’s musical chairs — perfect for an overhead view. That’s actually kind of how I got the idea for this whole thing. We have seven mannequins fighting over six chairs and just the way the mannequins are posed suggests a lot of action. There is a lot of action in the windows this year, for a change.

Do you have a favorite window this year?
I’m not sure which one is my favorite. We don’t get a chance to view them before they are unveiled to the public. It’s not like they are assembled somewhere else and then taken apart and put back together inside the windows. They only come together when we install them, which is a two and a half week process, layer by layer.

We have some great windows this year, though. We have a 1960s-ish slumber party made completely out of soft sculpture  with a 10-foot soft-sculpture guitar. By the time we open these windows, about 100 people have worked on them in some way. We had a team of soft sculpture artist this year turning out some hilarious props. In one window, the mannequins are having a party, but they are making their own fun — their own props and things. We have a chess game. We have a board game based on a day at Bergdorf Goodman — all lavender — and a scavenger hunt.

You often have custom outfits created just for these windows to fit the themes. Is there any custom-made fashion in this year’s windows?
Not this year, but we do have a lot of spring. This year’s windows are an incredible spring 2020 preview. Having amazing fashion in the windows is always important to us and we tend to choose the most over-the-top kind of fashion, since it has to be able to hold its own with all the props and set pieces.

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