What is it with luxury retailers and their horror window displays? Oh yes, that's right, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Frockwriter recently showed you the spooky, Re-animator-style windows at Hermes’ Australian flagship in Sydney, which depicted the skeleton of a mad scientist attempting to resuscitate a series of dead critters. This followed a 'Murder at Midnight'-themed display in the same store, which showcased a pair of bloodied scissors and detailed the lengths to which a desperate luxury enthusiast might go to get their hands on a Birkin. Well now Barneys New York has gone one better at its New York flagship. Two Expressionistic window displays feature discombobulated store mannequins that appear to be the victims of some violent crime - complete with splatters of fake blood on the glass. UPDATE 23/07: The windows have now been removed by Barneys.
The windows are not located in prime position on Madison Avenue, which the store fronts, but instead a series of slightly more discreet vestibule displays.
But that has not stopped them coming to the attention of New York media blog Racked – and indeed some of the site’s readers, who don’t seem particularly impressed.
“You have got to be kidding. Violence against women is such a huge global and domestic problem - often culturally ingrained and acceptable - honor killings as just one well-known example. What is wrong with you? This is horrific and totally inhumane. Let's have a torture window as well - we could have waterboarding for displays of swimwear - would that excite you?”
While according to another Racked reader:
“How witty and clever! Elegantly dressed woman dying violent, bloody deaths.
How modern, how post-feminist, how curiously emblematic of the newly hip tolerance for making sport of women. What's next, a mannequin buried up to her limp neck, rocks strewn about, her chandelier earrings dangling "just so" from her lifeless frame?
This season, I will not be caught dead in...Barney's.”
The problem for Barneys – and of course many other retailers, notably at the luxury end of the market – is that shoppers won’t be caught dead inside their stores at the moment, irrespective of what they have in their window displays.
With luxury department store sales plunging, amid drastic price-slashing, the US retail shopfloor is increasingly looking like a bloodbath. So is it at all surprising that the retailers' creative departments are so keen to play out this horror scenario in their VM displays?
Although one of the last department stores to cut staff, in March, the Barneys New York department store chain has not had a ceo for the past year.
In April, the company received a US$25million cash injection from parent company Istithmar World, the Government of Dubai-owned, Dubai-based private equity company which acquired Barneys New York – and US$500million associated debt - in 2007 for US$942milllion.
Two Barneys stores are tipped to close, amidst speculation that Istithmar World may offload the retailer altogether.