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VM inspiration: Christmas windows at Harrods

Harrods is famed for its wonderful windows, which makes it hard for the store to exceed Christmas expectations every year. But I am totally charmed by this year’s theme: The Land of Make Believe.

It features a very cute mouse, Peter Pumpernickel, dressed in a waistcoat, a green 18th Century jacket and a fez, who is too small to help the other mice assist Santa. Santa notices and gives Peter a special job tweaking one of the white exterior lights on Harrods’ exterior as it begins to snow on Christmas night. See a video here.

Each window features named-designers’ party merchandise, set in scenes featuring traditional toys, and linked by the mouse, with backdrops of birch trees, ice-blue skies, and snowdrifts. Including a teddy bear, a merry-go-round, a jack-in-the box, toy soldiers, a rotating ballerina, and Santa with galloping reindeer, the windows contain lots to examine, and yet clearly showcase the merchandise. Each window features a mouse, as here on a clock with perfume bottles neatly ringing the numerals, the mouse hanging from the minute hand.

The mouse is dressed in Harrods-green trimmed with gold, and an entire mouse microcosm fills the small Tiffany windows, but more of those another time. Let’s just focus on the large windows for a moment.

Harrods is rightly famous for its Harrods embroidered-paw teddy bear and this giant version is comfortably seated on a pile of evergreens and surrounded by toys. Note the ‘made in England’ logo on his paw: this bear is proud to be English. Here the mouse stands in the snow conversing with a fox and a rabbit in a Kenneth Grahame-style wild wood.

The mouse and his equally diminutive lady friend admire the twirling ballerina in a jewellery box reminiscent of a child’s music box, festooned with pearl necklaces. Note how the mirror-backed jewellery box reflects the figure, doubling the visual interest. With a limited colour palette under ice-blue lighting, the textures of the icicles, the feathered dress, and the shiny pearls hold our attention.

Stella McCartney’s cream evening dress appears on a graceful marionette, whose arms gently move. Seen amidst a birch forest in deep snow, rather like Hansel and Gretel or the perhaps the Sleeping Beauty the mouse, occupied in knitting, sits on a moving rocking chair at the side of the window.

I was particularly charmed that the mouse is animated too.

Tom Brown’s toy soldiers are also animated, and very cleverly so. Each of the 4 figures turns, but independently, stopping and starting somewhat unexpectedly.

Carrying parcels, the toy soldiers wear Tom Brown’s signature cropped-leg suits, each topped with a slightly over-sized bowler hat adorned with stags’ antlers.

This shallow, closed-back window is perhaps excessively blue, and conveys the atmosphere of a cool, trendy, night-club: the likely location in which the suits will be worn.

A lovely full-sized rocking horse covered in patchwork fabric completely fills the adjacent window. The horse, by multi-fabric patchwork furniture and accessories retailer Squint, is a delight and available made to order. A Squint mirror and a multi-colour chandelier are neatly lodged in the birch trees.

A close-up of the rocking horse’s beautifully plaited mane.

A giant merry-go round, its lower part slowly turning for the benefit of the mice perched on the edge, fills an open-backed window. Replacing horses, three white unicorns carry a range of small leather goods.

A beautifully inlaid, wooden veneer, Linley jack-in-the-box, the jacket and the mask of the ‘jack’ by Matthew Williamson features in the final window. Harrod’s Christmas display masterfully treads that narrow line between creating a spectacle and selling merchandise, and selling merchandise is what VM does. A very professional, perfectly executed end result.

Very lastly, a suspended, floating Santa in his sleigh drawn by pairs of animated galloping reindeer fills an entire window without any merchandise on the corner nearest the tube exit. It is well worth a visit to see this for yourself.