all across the universe
Would you like to react to this message? Create an account in a few clicks or log in to continue.

Window dressing

Go down

Window dressing Empty Window dressing

Post  eddie Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:05 pm

This article took me back to my brief (Summer-job) career in the late 1970's as a window dressing in Whiteley's venerable department store on Queensway, west London- so venerable that Brian Jones was once sacked from the same emporium for dipping his fingers into the till to fund rehearsals and buy equipment for his fledgling blues band, The Rolling Stones.

I also knew Willesden High Street pretty well around the same time because I was living in a squat in nearby Brondesbury Park.

Yes, there's nothing more street than a window dresser.

Window dressers join the fight on all shop fronts

Mary Portas has told us what we already know – that high streets are in decline. But could designers help Willesden High Road's retailers by revamping their fading shop windows?

Justin McGuirk, Tuesday 20 December 2011 16.09 GMT

Window dressing Open-Eye-Opticians-007
Eye-catching design? ... Open Eye Opticians on Willesden High Road with its 'giant, floating pair of spectacles'. Photograph: Mike Massaro

The Real Charcoal kebab house on Willesden High Road, in northwest London, has had a makeover. A graphic history of the kebab, depicting Persian soldiers cooking meat on their swords, now occupies the windows. Further down the street, the Hairways barber, run by Tony Antoniou for more than 20 years, has a smart new sign and a playful graphic treatment in the windows depicting 12 comedy hairstyles for the 12 days of Christmas. The black-and-white headshots of the Bros and Vanilla Ice lookalikes – standard barber fare across the land – are still there, but otherwise the place is unrecognisable.

It was fitting, in the week that Mary Portas delivered her government report on the state of the nation's high streets, that I should spend a morning scrutinising the design of shop fronts. I was one of the judges of a competition funded by the Mayor of London to revive Willesden High Road. High streets, as Portas concludes and as most of us are aware, are in decline. Nearly one in six shops in the UK are vacant, as small businesses succumb to pressure from online retailers and out-of-town malls. Willesden High Road was no exception. The number of vacancies was not as high as the national average but a parade of faded and tatty frontages testified to a high street of diminishing vibrancy.

Under an investment scheme led by Design for London, the mayor's urban advisory group, and the Architecture Foundation, a number of young design practices teamed up with two dozen shops to give their street frontages a lift. Depending on how much scope the shop owners gave them, some designers merely smartened up the window displays, others gave the facades a total overhaul. The Monsoon bakery has been transformed from an in-and-out joint into an inviting cafe. The Open Eye optician has a new installation that turns a sequence of hanging lenses into a giant, floating pair of spectacles. Both stores have locals stopping to take them in.

The design of shop fronts in the UK generally falls into two categories: the over familiar and the barely noticed. The visual culture of the average high street is dominated by the branding of chain stores, whose logotypes have trained us into Pavlovian responses: we don't look for a pharmacy, we look for a Boots. However, there is another kind of shop front, particularly on smaller, less central high streets. This vernacular style is a necessary corrective to the tyranny of corporate branding. It is by turns home-brewed, witty, garish, dated, kitsch or bombastic. But we barely pay it much attention – it is the stuff of our peripheral vision.

Take my local kebab shop, which is archetypical. It's called FCKF, which might be an acronym related to fried chicken or just a profanity with the vowels removed. The letters are white on red with a black drop shadow. Other than that, the facade is a dizzying montage of every conceivable combination of meat with chips (42 by my count). That's not design, some will say. But it is, and ruthlessly effective. Turning the facade into a pictorial menu is a useful communication device when serving those too drunk to use actual words. This system is so standardised, and so reduced to its functional relationship with the customer that the cultural dimension – mostly Turkish or Greek – has often been stripped away.

On Willesden High Road, designers Studio Weave have explicitly tried to reinstate some of that culture, with rows of Turkish tea glasses in the windows, and that graphic history in the shape of a conical doner spit. Meanwhile, Tailorwear, one of those clothing shops that sells mothballed stock to natty men of a certain age, has been completely reinvented. The designers, Patternity, brought in local young men to model the clothes for a window advertising campaign that wouldn't be out of place in any style magazine. The owner is now hoping to cater to a more diverse clientele. By revamping these 25 shop fronts, the designers have given each business a stronger, more appealing identity, but more importantly they've brought a renewed dynamism to the street.

Traditionally, regeneration policies tend to focus on major infrastructural or building projects. More modest, "window-dressing" schemes such as the one in Willesden and others across London, which bring a feel-good factor and increase community pride, are taken less seriously. That's unfortunate, because there are 500 high streets in London alone, and outside of the city centre they account for about half of the jobs. But the incentives are not just economic. A diverse, vibrant commercial life is one expression of the culture and confidence of a community, and small improvements can make a genuine difference.
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 68
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum