The Genteel
March 1, 2021


Harrod's 2013 Christmas window display. Source:

For store window displays, it seems that the festive season is always the most elaborate. The windows of Hudson's Bay on Queen Street in Toronto create entire North Pole scenes with Santa and his elves getting ready for Christmas. Just one dress in the holiday windows at Harrod's London during the winter of 2013 was worth GBP £80,000. The rest of the window was taken over by a classic British steam train, capturing the attention and imagination of many.

But for the people who create these window displays, there is no peak season. There are always shoppers passing by, just waiting for their attention to be grabbed by a clever design that goes beyond a few mannequins with hands placed on hips. The first impression of the latest collection on offer or the discounts available in enticing sales can be made before shoppers even enter the store.

Mercé Soler’s winning window design, Moiré.

"Much like the fashion calendars, in spring we are planning fall and in fall we [are] planning spring," says Tracey Peters, the Senior Manager of National Visual at Holt Renfrew, when speaking to The Genteel. "We develop the ideas around what we are seeing on the runways, what the fashion trends are and our overall marketing theme for the season."

Peters calls her job a perfect marriage of art and graphic design with fashion and retail. The windows at Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street proudly display the fruits of Peters' labour, and demonstrate that much of her job is predicated upon raw talent.

International fashion trade show Premium, which takes place twice a year in Berlin, recognises the talent that it takes to create an effective window display. They believe that shop windows are an invaluable platform for retailers to communicate with customers, leading them to create their Window Dresser Award back in 2010.

For the 2013 Window Dresser Award, 2,500 votes were cast in a bid to choose from this year's 50 applicants; Mercé Soler was announced as the winner. In the lead-up to this reveal, her design, along with the two other shortlisted finalists, was displayed at F95 The Fashion Store in Berlin and votes were taken both at the presentation and on Premium's website.

Soler's design was named Moiré, the Spanish word for "shimmering", and was created, as she explained to The Genteel, to set the perfect stage for the object of desire. And that she did, winning the chance alongside her award to decorate the windows of Galeries Lafayette - a Berlin department store - early next month during Berlin Fashion Week.

I am thinking about the collector that organises his findings and observes them with a magnifying glass, discovers their textures, colours, geometries - their details.

Soler was born in Barcelona, but has called Berlin home since 2006. She defines herself as a collagist, but there is so much more to her talent than just layering textures.

"This a great opportunity, and I love to begin 2014 like this!" she says to The Genteel, full of enthusiasm. "I love to work in a space determined by people, objects and in this case, fashion."

Fashion, of course, will be the focus of Soler's design for Galeries Lafayette. More specifically, the designs of Tothem, Franziska Michael, and VK Lillie - the winners of Premium's Young Designers Award for Spring/Summer 2014 - will be showcased within her display.

Tothem is a design house founded and based in Milan that specialises in digital printing techniques on textiles. Franziska Michael is from Berlin and designs sleek and monochromatic womenswear. VK Lillie is a mother-daughter team of accessory designers based in Colorado.

"I really like the three winners, and they have been very inspiring, making the project easier," says Soler. "I think all three encompass elegance in their daily nature, and they have inspired me in the elegance of people that practiced sports in the beginning of the 20th century."

Soler believes that Tothem, Franziska Michael and VK Lillie create stylish, sportswear designs, and she is going to use this aesthetic to stimulate her own designs. It will take her a week to pull together each of the displays, but it is clear that she has spent the past month and a half since her win carefully forming her plans.

Galeries Lafayette in Berlin.

"For Franziska Michael, I have found inspiration in the geometry of tennis courts and nets," explains Soler. "In the case of Tothem and VK, I am thinking about the collector that organises his findings and observes them with a magnifying glass, discovers their textures, colours, geometries - their details."

She will use just one colour palette: neon. White will be the backdrop for all the window displays, and Soler will play with the lines that create the game area in a court in one window, and with the geometry of nature in the other window.

Franziska Michael can't wait to see what Soler makes of her designs, and to be a part of Berlin Fashion Week. "Maybe tennis balls?" she says to The Genteel, when asked what she is expecting for her eponymous label's window. "I haven't any visions. I'll let myself be surprised."

Looking through Soler's body of work, which includes impressive creations for clients like Nike and Diesel, it seems likely that Michael will be pleasantly surprised, and that the windows at the Galeries Lafayette will be a beautiful sight come their reveal on January 14.

Related Article: Top Hatter

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