fb-pixel Skip to main content

Creative displays are a lot more than just window dressing

wendy maeda/globe staff/Globe Freelance

The creative window display is back.

The modern version bears little resemblance to the stylishly dressed mannequins of decades past that unveiled a retailer’s merchandising plan. The displays share the same message: Come inside for something beautiful. But today’s displays, which highlight few if any clothes, strike a dramatically different tone.

“It’s really an installation,” said Kristin Lauer, an adjunct visual display instructor at MassArt. Lauer was speaking about Primark’s new window at the corner of Washington and Summer streets that MassArt students created for the retailer’s US debut last month. But she might as well have been speaking about the industry as a whole, one that sees collaboration in the return of the window display.


“They are making the stores very exciting, a destination to visit,” said Jon Harari, founder of CEO of WindowsWear Pro, an online subscription service that offers designers, retailers, and universities access to the world’s largest window-display database. “And e-commerce has raised the bar. Everyone is on their toes.”

In May, Bergdorf Goodman featured Instagrammer Donald Robertson, who used everyday objects such as pizza boxes and detergent bottles to create a pop-colored theatrical display. That same month Barneys New York honored New York City artist Alex Katz with black and white murals, inspired by the portraitist, in all four Madison Avenue windows.

Pop artist Nina Chanel Abney collaborated with Macy’s in July for an environmentally minded installation called “The Earth.” In a provocative display referred to gender and race, the mannequins stood on dirt.

Closer to home, Primark’s MassArt window is meant to turn heads. Lauer teamed up with fashion department chair Sondra Grace to instruct a team of students to create the prominent display for Primark. The 9-foot-by-10-foot-by-9-foot triangular space (the size of a dreamy walk-in closet) features stacked white boxes of all sizes, and the sides of the boxes are covered in white textures (fur basketweave, tile, printed graphics) inspired by the chain’s fashion trends.


For Primark, the Irish fast-fashion retailer which operates without an e-commerce component, the window is the first impression many on US soil will have about the retail giant.

“The attention we pay and the quality we deliver — the window displays have to really show the customer what we have to offer,” said Peter Franks, director of brand and store development for Primark. “Because we are a brick and mortar business, the visual display is an important communication channel.”

Jill Radsken can be reached at jill.radsken@globe.com.