Friday, December 4, 2015

Saks Fifth Avenue's Enchanting Holiday Windows

So much of my Christmas shopping is done sitting at my computer and clicking away. What's the point in going to the store and fighting the crowds? As I strolled down New York City's Fifth Avenue during last year's holiday season, I was struck by how the store windows enchanted me, calling me to pause and take a look. Accustomed to suburban mall shops like The Gap displaying the standard photo of ridiculously photogenic people wearing the brand, these New York department stores seemed like an entirely different league to me. Clever tableaux, striking visuals and 3D projections extending up the entire height of the building transformed the windows into an artform, not just an advertisement for the store.

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Display
Snow White drawn to the apple carts and bright lights of Broadway.

Last year, Saks Fifth Avenue went back to its roots and paid homage to the Roaring Twenties, the decade the store got its start, and to the city where it all began. Fairy tales were given an Art Deco in the Big Apple twist. I'm not sure if anything in the windows were actually sold inside the store, but the images were enough to keep me from walking blithely past without a glance. That must certainly be the first step in attracting customers.



Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Display
Red Riding Hood visits "grandma" at The Plaza.

I wasn't alone on the sidewalk. Even though it was past 10PM, crowds of people stood in front of each display to examine the scene. I hear that there are walking tours of the window displays. That's how big of a draw they are.


Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Display
Rumpelstiltskin spins gold out of straw at the City Hall subway station.

With the holidays being the biggest shopping season of the year, the stores along Fifth Avenue seem to be in an unofficial competition with each other over who can pull off the most lavish display. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, the holiday season kicks off with the big unveiling. Last year's was accompanied by the Rockettes in a traffic-stopping performance.


Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Display
Cinderella heads to Saks to find the perfect glass slipper.

While the windows are what I notice up close, it's the 3D light projection show, flashing LEDs and music that catches my attention from afar. The entire building is a canvas for the show that runs periodically throughout the night.

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Display
Images of the Empire State Building flash across the front of Saks

As the music starts, people flow out of Rockefeller Center to stand across the street from Saks and cast their gaze upwards. You would have thought they spotted King Kong.


Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Display
Silhouettes of people standing against windows are projected on the upper stories of the building.

Everyone seemed to me having a merry time — both the imaginary ones concocted as part of the scene and the real ones taking it all in.

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Display
Fireworks cap off the show.

The whole show culminates in a burst of projected fireworks. Then, the upper stories fall dark except for a lone clock that ticks down the minutes until the show begins again.


For the 2015 season, Saks Fifth Avenue features a Winter Palace theme. Famous landmarks across the world are transformed into spectacularly frosty scenes. Dive into an freezing Great Brrrrier Reef, chill out with a Sub-zero Sphinx, visit the Ice Cold Colosseum, and imagine yourself walking along China's Great Wintery Wall.

My friends, that is the difference between shopping online versus doing a little window shopping in the luxe environs of New York City.

Have you seen a memorable store window display?



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25 comments:

  1. When I was a child we would always go into town at Christmas to see the beautiful displays in the department store windows. The shops in Sydney still decorate their windows and mothers still take their children to see them - it's a lovely tradition.

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  2. I love the NYC windows, even after 44 years I get excited every year. I'm a traditionalist though and my favorite is always Lord & Taylor. Macy's does a good job, too. Saks and Barney's and Bloomingdales, you never know what to expect!

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  3. Hi Michele, I walk pass Saks's window on my way to work. I looked at the decorations a little more closely yesterday but I'm not sure I get or even like the Winter Palace theme this year - a little too 'frosty' for me. Don't get me wrong, they're quite attractive but.... Anyway, I promised myself that I'd go back, camera in hand, really look and take some photos.
    I always love to see what the stores, especially Macy's comes up with each year, and the Rockefellar Center Christmas tree decorations.

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  4. Ooh! I can't wait to see the Saks windows myself! We'll be there in two weeks and will do the pilgrimage to the tree at Rockefeller Center across the street and American Girl also across the street.

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  5. contented travellerDecember 4, 2015 at 5:25 PM

    We saw this and loved it. All of the windows were beautiful

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  6. These window displays are really theatrical and I love them. I hope to be in NYC at the right time of year to experience this in the future. Truly amazing Michele.

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  7. Wow NYC really know how to put on a Christmas display! It's all a little boring here in Australia, but still try to get into the Christmas spirit for having fake snow, Christmas lights and tinsel everywhere!

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  8. Whilst I'm not so keen on the idea of a cold Christmas (being an Aussie it needs to be hot enough for the beach) I would love to see all those magnificent decorations in New York, we just don't get that kind of extravagance here.

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  9. New York is famous for all kind of decorations. The window displays are great. On top of that, there are many more decorated places to see. I think that is why people defy the cold and go out (even at night) to have the experience of walking New York during the holiday season. You feel like you are part of a big party.

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  10. Wow, those windows are beautiful. I would probably have never thought about viewing them. Very cool.

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  11. Fantastic collection of displays! It's always fun to see what NYC has. Right now I'm in Chicago, and I'm enjoying finding all of the window displays, especially the Peanuts one at Macy's!
    http://passportcouture.com

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  12. Great story! I especially enjoyed reading it because Dan and I have been talking about making a special trip up to New York to see the decorations. I grew up in the NYC suburbs and seeing the 5th Avenue windows was always a highlight of the season. Especially the animated ones. :)


    Planning these window dressings is a huge deal. Those department stores spare no expense, even to the point that they have full-time teams who do nothing but design and create spectacular displays every year, hoping to outdo the others.


    Thanks for linking up to #TheWeeklyPostcard

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  13. I can definitely believe that it takes a full-time team to pull off that artistry.

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  14. We saw the Peanuts one in Washington DC's Penn Quarter. My kids loved it.

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  15. I really didn't quite get the scope of dressed up windows until I saw them in New York. Good thing I happened to walk by.

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  16. When we lived in Malaysia, I thought it being hot in December was weird, but all my Aussie friends found it completely normal.

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  17. I didn't know Aussies did the fake snow, too. That whole Winter Wonderland at Christmas idea really has carried worldwide.

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  18. Theatrical is the perfect word to describe them.

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  19. I agree! Wish I had more time to look at the other stores at my leisure.

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  20. We were actually leaving American Girl when it closed at 10PM and came across Saks.

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  21. Please share your Winter Palace photos if you snap some.

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  22. You're so lucky to have this be a longtime part of your life.

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  23. The ones near where I live aren't that great. I'd love to see the ones in Sydney.

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  24. Those displays look magical! I'd love to see something this fancy in New Zealand.

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