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VM Choice: Halloween windows at Browns on London's South Molton Street

Halloween continues to grow in popularity in the UK as ‘trick or treating’ becomes more mainstream, so it totally deserves the wonderful Halloween windows that Browns has created.

Browns is an interesting VM challenge as the premium, small, independent department store on London’s South Molton Street now encompasses five store units, each with a different, classic, fascia.

From left to right, the open-backed window has a compelling display of disturbed bats, fluttering from the bat-covered Japanese parasol in the background, between two male mannequins, and towards the window. Created from carefully-folded black, grey, and silver card, the positioning of the bats is excellently observed, as though they have just taken flight. The window includes larger foil cut-out bats against the glass, cleverly playing with perspective to convey the illusion that this is a still from a movie. You can almost hear them squeak…

A close up reveals how nicely the bat wings have been folded, creating seemingly effortless complex curves to give a 3-D shape.

The adjacent window features a weather-boarded, gabled attic window, filled with the face of a giant black cat. The cat’s eyes are at customer eye level, and positioned above two handbags with a touch of orange and a pair of black ankle-high heels, perched on the window-sills. The cat is both guarding the merchandise and watching the customer.

This produces a compelling image with limited use of colour: to have made it darker and spookier would have reduced the visibility of the merchandise. Yet using mostly grey and white props the window still conveys the menace of a huge scary cat: it has real mood.

The window in the centre of the parade features a large ornate bird-cage graphic. Suspended from the ceiling are black and grey folded paper crows in the foreground, while seated on a gold-chain swing inside the store is a single mannequin, head thrown back, dressed in orange and black.

Nicely redolent of Hitchcock movie ‘The Birds,’ from outside the store the mannequin appears to be caged with the birds, which seem to be attacking her. This is a neat trompe l’oeil, creating the illusion of a mannequin in a cage, without actually creating the cage, which would have created its own difficulties in successfully suspending the mannequin.

The bird-cage motif is nicely echoed further along the parade where three stylized bird-cage graphics are positioned at the back of the glass shelves with black or red-orange handbags on each shelf. Halloween allows a reference to Brown’s original position as a boutique in the 1970s, when young women were called ‘birds,’ and birdcages were a fairly common graphics trope for boutiques.

At the side of the open-backed window further along the parade is a short quote, in a suitably-gothic, black-face font, from a witch in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ and also the title of a Ray Bradbury novel, embellished with a key, and a small, friendly, pumpkin. The quotation speaks directly to the customer nicely assuming their knowledge of the source.

In the main open-backed window to the far right is a stylised spider’s web composed of gold gilt chain embellished with crystals. The gilt chain is perfect for displaying accessories and a variety of shoes and bags are suspended on the chain. Three beautifully-made black, gold, and silver paper spiders decorate the web and the window, and a further silhouette spider graphic foil is added to the window. Again the spiders are beautifully observed, and have an air of being caught in motion.

Altogether a very interesting series of facades: it would have been boring to use the same items in each window, but they are linked by the medium of paper.

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