Beverly Hills Holiday Windows With Visual Director Martin Pack
December 18, 2013
75 yards of silk brocade
1 hand-painted Chinoiserie bed from the 1930s
2 Chinese dressers inlaid with jade.
And that’s just the background of one of the NM Beverly Hills holiday windows!
For over 20 years, Los Angeles-based visual director Martin Pack has been at the helm of the Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills’ holiday windows. This year, the iconic windows pay tribute to iconic fashion editors both past and present — Diana Vreeland, Polly Mellen, Anna Piaggi and Grace Coddington. Pack, otherwise known as “the window guy,” still enjoys “the ability to surprise people.” I sat down with Pack to discuss the workings of his annual six-month project.
NM: What made you decide to make fashion editors the focus of the store holiday windows?
MP: Every year in June I gather my staff to talk about window ideas. This year, the conversation started with Diana Vreeland — she was the topic of the moment. We loved the idea of the fashion editor — creative, quirky and iconic. In a way our jobs are similar since we make fashion choices daily and “editorialize” the fashion we present in the store.
The idea just grew from there. Grace [Coddington], of course, is so beloved for her elaborate photo shoots. Polly [Mellon] is a personal favorite of mine. I love her in the Isaac Mizrahi film declaring it’s “major!” and Anna Piaggi was one-of-a-kind and so important in a historical perspective to the world of fashion.
Describe the design and production processes.
MP: We start with research — tons of books as well as videos and magazine articles. I sketched out some ideas and had them scaled into computer renderings of our massive windows. We talked about recreating environments that were reminiscent of the editors, but more fantasy than reality.
The Diana Vreeland window is our version of the “Red Room.” Anna Piaggi is surrounded by recreations of some of her most famous hats. Polly Mellon’s window is a throw back to the Sixties “flower power,” and Grace Coddington is shooting an image from her famous “Alice in Wonderland” spread. We worked with Rootstein mannequins to get one-of-a-kind girls brought in for these windows. They sent us two Twiggy mannequins from their archives and created a seated Natalia Vodianova for our Alice in Wonderland photo shoot.
Getting the right fashion for the windows is a huge part, so we ask for samples from many designers we’ve worked with in the past. We also source some vintage pieces loaned to us from Lily et Cie. Anna Piaggi is wearing an amazing Comme des Garcons outfit and for our Twiggy mannequins we will feature Pierre Cardin and Rudi Gernreich.
NM: What is your design motto?
MP: I always design in layers. You need to approach a window the way you would approach a painting or an etching. It has to work on three levels – the first is from 50 feet away, the big picture has to grab you to want to get a closer look, then at street level you need to be surprised at the detail of a gorgeous gown or piece of furniture, and then at last you want to discover the tiniest detail, a ribbon in her hair or a book title on the shelf.
NM: Describe your most memorable holiday windows.
MP: One year we recreated the “12 Days of Christmas” from the “French Hen” dressed as Marie Antoinette in a chicken coop to the final window with a giant gold pear tree surrounded by 12 mannequins all dressed in one-of-a-kind paper dresses made from custom printed sheet music. It was the one and only time we didn’t use any product in the window. It was just about fantasy and love of the season.
NM: What will you do when the project is complete?
MP: Clean up and thank everyone who played a part in the installation.