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VM choice: Kaufhaus De Westens, Berlin

The Kaufhaus De Westens (KDW, pronounced ‘car-day-vay’) store in Berlin, is a classic Edwardian monolithic icon of luxury and special service. The ‘Department store of the West,’ as its name translates, located near Berlin’s West Gate, sprawls over six floors and offers main and diffusion ranges of premium brands and mid-market merchandise in all categories.

KDW is an institution in Berlin, a kind of showcase of western goods and values from the cold war days.

The abstract concept of  ‘Happy Go Lucky’ as its Spring/Summer 2015 display theme, created on a fairly tight budget, is interesting as it relies on both bright colour and white neon tubes for its successful effect.

The saturated - part lemony-yellow, part bright-pink - backdrop perfectly sets off the turquoise surfboard, adding colour to the neutrally dressed silver mannequins. Research on human response demonstrates that bright colour stimulates. Schools have dropped bright-coloured walls and are calming students with neutral walls instead. For successful VM, designed to attract attention, bright colour is perfect.

With two neon tubes creating a shelf for a casually-placed stack of beer cans against the back wall, the mannequins make a tight group with the surfboard. Imaginary happy graphic characters in foamboard, obviously enjoying their leisure time, and a few empty cans bring the display to life. Note the list of prices, required by German law, in the foreground.

Duff beer, seen stacked here, is retailed with the slogan ‘Can’t get enough of that Wonderful Duff,’ and captioned: ‘The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.’ Originally the fictional beverage of The Simpsons it is now sold in a number of countries.

Continuing the colour theme a part-yellow, part-grey window forms the backdrop to a bright-pink bicycle and a tight group of mannequins in fun floral dresses. The winged ankle cuff and hat, both reminiscent of the Roman god Mercury, worn by the mannequins suggest the speeds that might be achieved on the bike. Add a giant, foamboard potted-cactus and a few bottles of soda, and this creates an upbeat window.

Two light-boxes underline the ‘Happy Go Lucky’ theme. The text translates as ‘discover the colourful and impressive trends and looks of the up to date spring collection in the atrium of Ka De We!’ This one suggests a boy meets girl theme.

And this one suggests kicking a football around.

Moving on, happiness is suggested in a mens’ and womenswear window with a handbag on the neon tubes, and a stack of happy graphics. This time the pink disk in the background contrasts with the bright green backdrop.

A further womenswear window, perhaps not quite successfully, combines a part-grey, part-green backdrop with a square of neon and brightly-dressed mannequins. The contrast of the bright colour backdrop works very well with neutral coloured merchandising in the other windows, but bright-plus-bright, as here, is perhaps a touch too much.

In a final womenswear window a pink triangle and floor, and icy-blue backdrop, with neon tubes and a giant donut suggests that food might be a female customer’s preferred partner.

Using opposites red and green for the floor and triangle, and the backdrop, creates a classic window. Lit with vertical white neon, which commands attention, the green/white/black dress on the mannequin echoes the donut foamboard character. Is the mannequin pushing away the tempting donut?

Photographs: Darren Neave

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