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VM choice: Hilditch & Key

Jermyn Street shirt specialist Hilditch & Key has skillfully used a classic theme, more usually employed to promote printed womenswear, in its current windows. Entitled ‘Artist masterpiece: the shirt,’ the VM display celebrates Hilditch & Key’s main specialism.

Offering bespoke and off-the-peg shirts and accessories, Hilditch & Key believes that its merchandise should whisper, not shout, which must make creating impactful windows a complex challenge.

Whilst framing the merchandise as in the ties at the back of the window is a classic VM trope, the window above is a nice example of the imaginative use of merchandise as props, employing the Turk’s head elastic/silk knot cufflinks to represent paint on an artist’s palette. A palette of red ties as art, and dressing the mannequin in a red tie with a red pocket-handkerchief and pink shirt, warms up the neutral-toned display.

The casual collection is not forgotten with a mannequin holding a brush about to paint the real shirt and braces on the wooden easel. Braces, or suspenders in US-English, were originally considered a rather upper-class undergarment and not for public display. In the 1980s they had a fashion-moment when worn by Gordon Gekko in the movie ‘Wall Street,’ becoming synonymous with unrestrained greed.

Again, the red of the braces is nicely picked up in the mannequin’s tie; those on the easel; and the tie and knotted sweater at the back of the window. Equally, the tan jacket and shoes are nicely echoed in wood of the easel.

The idea that braces - and particularly red ones, which add a flash of colour to classic men’s formal dress - should be a subject for a painting is intriguing, living as we do in an era that demands increasing transparency from all areas of public life. Whilst sometimes VM decisions might be due to happenstance sometimes, like all art, they reflect society’s mores.

Still employing a red palette, the Jermyn Street window is a montage of picture frames, this time showcasing ties: a reversed, stretched canvas, stacked with red/pink shirts with paintbrushes deftly inserted between them, red bowties and artfully arranged tubes of paint. The arrangement makes a pleasing VM display as the customer’s eye is led from the shirts to the ties on the frame, and down to the paint tubes in the foreground. Very nicely arranged.

The long side window showcases the casual collection with a blue/yellow colour palette. With an easel displaying a shirt and tie, the seated mannequin holding the paintbrush appears to be creating a look, or in this case, a work of art. Again, stacks of folded shirts create a foil for a well-chosen tie. The tub of pencils in the foreground is a nice additional touch.

Again, using the collection as props, a silk handkerchief represents paint on the palette.

The side window’s sunny colour palette heralds spring and sunshine. Combining a stack of blue shirts on an artist’s palette with brushes and yellow and blue tubes of paint, the black briefcase in the background suggests a hobby or pastime. The paisley-patterned yellow cravat filling the neckline of the shirt is a nice idiosyncratic touch. Redolent of more classic casual wear, the cravat was synonymous with smooth-talking raffish types, but since the popularity of Alexander McQueen’s skull scarf, and adoption by English comedian and actor, Russell Brand (b. 1975), it has developed a younger market.

Hilditch & Key has succeeded in developing a theme that resonates with its high quality product. By focusing on the casual wear side of its business, it has created a series of engaging windows, with the addition of well chosen props. The theme recognises Hilditch and Key’s artistry in creating shirts, and also recognises that many of the formally dressed businessmen shopping in Jermyn Street have other interests, creating a notable addition to Jermyn Street windows.

Images: Francesca Zagari and Dr. Valerie Wilson Trower

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