Street Theatre: a masterclass in window design with LVMH

28 May 2020

What is the role today of the store window? How can we use these spaces to inspire communities and tell a story? For the first in our online masterclass series, we met with LVMH’s Visual Image Director, Faye McLeod and Art Director, Ansel Thompson to hear what makes a memorable window – and get their advice for how to make the most of yours.

Here’s what we learned:

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Use your storefront to introduce your brand

Your window is your customer’s first interaction with your store, so make sure it has something to say. Both Faye and Ansel stressed the importance of identifying your window’s message before going to the drawing board. “Look at the storytelling of your business,” suggested Faye, “do you want to show your product or tell your story? Perhaps use your humour or politics?” Ansel built on this: “It’s always really important to have a story that threads through the design, otherwise things feel untethered.” Faye pointed out that a window can also be a savvy marketing tool in this way. “For me, the windows are the billboards of the brand,” she said, “If you consider it costs $75,000 for a page in the New Yorker, you can really punch above your weight if you think about your storefront cleverly.”

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Get hands-on

The pair have worked for some renowned fashion institutions, but getting thrifty to meet tight budgets is a skill they’ve developed throughout their career. For their first collaboration at Liberty, the duo used antique sleighs, Epsom salt and beer to create a wintery window scene. “It’s absolutely possible to do amazing things with very limited budgets,” said Ansel, “Take the Louis Vuitton launch at Place Vendôme. The sun we fixed onto the building looked quite blingy, but it was essentially scaffolding wrapped in gold vinyl.” Faye praised Notting Hill Fish Shop as a small business who are currently doing this well: “It’s just a guy with a pen writing on their windows. This is a great example of using your windows as storytelling on a budget.”

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Collaborate with local talent

Counting the likes of Yayoi Kusama, The Chapman Brothers and Frank Gehry as past partnerships, the duo also finds inspiration in finding and working with young, local talent. “We look for a curious mindset and rebellious spirit,” said Faye, noting one of her first window displays at Liberty as a great example of this. She worked with local graffiti artist Foz Foster who used acrylic paints to create a cool punk-inspired sentence around all of the windows. “Liberty is was quite a local store in a way,” Ansel remarked, “very London-centric.” It was this reason it made sense for Faye to reach out to Foz. “This window turned out to be amazing,” she recounted, “it really starts to highlight collaborating with local talent and how powerful that can be.”

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Trust your creativity

Creating something unexpected and unique is the key to creating a memorable window display. “If it’s on social media the next morning,” said Faye, “then we’ve succeeded.” Customers want to be amazed when they walk down the streets, so give them something inspiring to look at. Faye stressed the importance of following your creative gut, giving her first window at LVMH as an example of this. “I wanted a cabinet of curiosities and I was so worried whether we’d pull it off. To add to it, I had to present it to Marc Jacobs who was the director at the time, and he said: ‘Honey, I’ve been here for a long time and I’ve never seen anyone do a window like that.’ We proved that we could do it and we’ve not looked back since.”

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