Saturday January 19, 2013
Windows of wonder
By KEE HUA CHEE
Fairy-tale characters and Oriental elements brighten up the facade of department stores in London.
AT this time of the year, London is a wintry wonderland, and the city’s department stores feature wonderful windows.
The most magical windows of them all, in my opinion, are those belonging to Harrods and Harvey Nichols.
Both compete for the same shoppers – affluent owners of Hermes Birkins and purses filled with unbreakable platinum cards – though Harvey Nichols is said to pander to a younger crowd.
These two bastions of British establishments are no longer owned by Englishmen (or Scots, Welsh and Northern Irishmen). Harvey Nichols is owned by Hong Kong’s Dickson Poon (the ex-husband of Datuk Michelle Yeoh) while Harrods was (in)famously owned by Mohamed Al-Fayed who has sold it lock, stock, barrel and sequinned bras to the Qatari royal family.
In 1991, Poon bought Harvey Nichols and has since opened upscale stores in Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Dublin, Leeds and Manchester. Its overseas outlets are in Kuwait, Riyadh, Hong Kong, Dubai, Istanbul and Ankara.
Most know Harrods was owned by Egyptian Al-Fayed for over two decades. His son Dodi romanced Princess Diana until their tragic deaths in August 1997; both were killed in a Paris tunnel car crash.
Anyway, back to the windows. Harrods’ traffic-stopping display (on until next month, so there is still time to fly to London to gawk) flaunts famous fairy-tale characters from Disney’s animated movies from Snow White to Mulan. Each mannequin is dressed head to toe in designer couture with fabulous accessories.
Five minutes’ walk away is Harvey Nichols; its windows are supposed to portray vignettes from the exotic Orient. I was hard-pressed to see any Oriental elements as the windows all portray western couture and painfully un-eastern dioramas. On closer inspection, I spotted Chinese style fans, Japanese sakura, gigantic orange chrysanthemum, green umbrellas, Mughal peacocks, tanglung (Chinese lanterns) and larger-than-life bonsai trees.
As they say, a window is worth a thousand words!