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Designing the Windows to Fashion’s Soul: The 2019 WindowsWear Awards

Simon Doonan, Creative Ambassador at Large for Barneys New York and judge on NBC's MAKING IT, hosts the 2019 WindowsWear Awards. All photos courtesy of WindowsWear.

By Suzanne Dressler

On a cold night in January, NYC’s designer elite gathered for the annual black-tie optional WindowsWear Awards show at the Marquee in Chelsea, one of Manhattan’s hottest clubs. WindowsWear (WW), the brainchild of Jon Harari, Mike Niemtzow, and Raul Tovar, was founded in 2012 to establish and create a comprehensive visual archive and community for the world of retail. The awards ceremony has become an internationally renowned event that showcases the myriad activities and enterprises that produce brilliant window displays in New York and around the world. This year British fashion icon/mastermind Simon Doonan, Creative Ambassador at Large for Barneys New York and a judge on NBC’s Making It, co-hosted the event with Harari. Doonan wasn’t able to join in person, as he had to film at the last minute, but he spoke virtually and animatedly during the awards section (previously recorded), presented in video format on a huge screen behind the main stage. (He will, however, be in attendance next year.)  

When guests first entered the main space, they were met with an immediate and warm welcome by Harari, followed by personal mini champagne bottles. It was impossible not to take quick notice of the most compelling aspect in the Marquee; there were “windows” filling the walls and ceilings-rows upon rows of evenly spaced rectangles lining the club and “WindowsWear” screening across each one. This clever structure and composition gave guests the impression that they were embarking on a journey inside a window and its contents, which is precisely the genesis behind WindowsWear.

WW is a sophisticated, yet accessible, resource around the globe for the trillion-dollar lifestyle industry and successfully seeks to build bridges in a viable setting for the many individuals and companies in this extensive field. Due to the creative nature and the sheer volume of brands and individuals associated with WW, Harari and his co-founders felt passionate that they should build an annual awards show in NYC to celebrate the genius that occurs behind window displays throughout the globe. They quickly realized that there are awards given in almost every creative and artistic industry, but none existed for retailers, so they decided that those behind the windows deserve recognition. After all, ultimately, it’s the window that propels a shopper to step inside a store or click on a link.

Left to right: WindowsWear founders Jon Harari, Mike Niemtzow, and Raul Tovar welcome guests to the awards ceremony at Marquee.

Harari, named a top “40 Under 40” innovator in his field by Design Retail Magazine, left the demands of finance to build an international company that believes in its people. WW doesn’t simply focus on products or brands; the site is filled with videos, pictures of stores, and archives dating back to 1931, giving rich history to the world of product presentations and how they came to life. The drive behind the company is, as the name would infer, the window itself – the artistic presence of a particular brand and its visual power. Harari and his co-founders have successfully created a platform where people in different countries can have access to brand dynamics and feed off of each other’s creativity. With the exponential increase of social media and technology, WW is ensuring that retailers worldwide have access to never-ending content and the ability to communicate information virtually.

“We want to make sure everyone is up to speed…the amount of visual impressions is increasing…it’s endless,” according to Harari. “[ It is a way to ] communicate information in your own home.”

One of the more unique and salient factors of WW is that it is “the only source that exists of its kind.” Its central goal is for retailers, not the heads or owners of companies. “We lead with content, not with the leaders,” says Harari. “Our members are part of the international community.”

This philosophy of community and affinity within the field is a sticking point for Harari and one in which he is truly passionate and vehemently sincere. When speaking to him about the hows and whys of WW’s journey to fruition, his philanthropic view is paramount. He has a deep desire to connect people in this industry with each other for their own growth and for the field on a larger scale. He doesn’t consider himself part of the fashion world, nor is WW a fashion company; he treats the sphere of retail in holistic manner and approaches his work in ways that celebrate the human element. “We want others to help us showcase what is going on,” he asserts. In essence, WW relies on its members for durability.

500+ guests fill Marquee for the WindowsWear Awards.
Josi Blue (center), Window Director for Ralph Lauren, celebrates her Heritage win.
Models Brittnee Blair and Chloe Marshall enjoy the awards show.

If one were to scroll through the website, it’s easy to get drawn in to the archives and displays from various parts of the globe; the sheer accessibility makes WW so enticing. Any company or individual in the world can upload their content, and there you have it: window shopping FROM anywhere in the world TO anywhere in the world.

Members have the opportunity to garner ideas from other like-minded creatives, all while combining business savvy and process. Mannequin distributors, pop-up stores, lighting fixtures, architects, et al. regularly contribute to the finished product of a display. There is a plethora of hands and artistic ability that exists behind the scenes; without them, the visual environment of a product could not endure. Moreover, these companies benefit greatly from their wide community. Manufacturers can research and discover who works with whom, as WW makes these resources readily available and features “companies that sell products and services to retailers that help the retailers create the environment.”

As Harari explains, “We recognize these people.” He is not exaggerating. Each award is extremely specific and highlights the work that goes unnoticed by the general public. For example, one of the categories is Best Mannequin (given to H&M this year). Another is Sustainability (Timberland), and there is even a category for Best Prop (Coach). How many of us ever even ponder the props or lighting when looking at a display? (Keep reading below for the full list of categories and their respective winners.)

So, what is next for WindowsWear in 2019? A lot. WW is excited for the cutting-edge technology on social media that is becoming available for retailers and shoppers alike. A new website was launched recently, and anyone in the world can now join for free. Harari also speaks of Augmented Reality with excitement and believes it will soon be the most efficacious and smart means of capturing products in real-time. Being quite an astute technical talent, he envisions and supports a world where shoppers will be able to scan their phones over a product in a store or even through a window. All pictures on social media about that particular purse, skirt, or pair of shoes will be readily available in seconds on your browser: Instagram shots, fashion shows that feature your scanned piece of clothing, shoes, jewelry, or even a designer explaining how the product was crafted.

“For WindowsWear, it means there is much more content we need to capture,” Harari notes. “This [photo recognition] will give retailers tons of new opportunities to engage with consumers. Products change often and quickly.” 

Perhaps the most accurate way to sum up the thesis, expansion, and goals of the company would be Harari’s respect for engagement with the international members and body politic: “Ultimately, this is all a business, meant to provide people in the industry more tools and ideas and examples. When you give creative people more ideas, they can become more creative. They can’t be in a box.” However, as witnessed at the awards show and through their site, creativity can thrive in a window.

The Coach design team celebrates their win for Best Prop.
In Moschino, Jeffrey Allen Lewis celebrates H&M’s win for Best Mannequin.

WINDOWSWEAR AWARDS 2019 WINNERS

Dolce and Gabbanna (Best Interior)

Loro Piana (Best Pop-Up)

Tiffany & Co. (Best Installation)

Diane von Furstenberg (Best AR / VR Experience)

Chloé (Best Packaging)

Etro (Best Window)

Tory Burch (Best Holiday Window)

Michael Kors (Best Icon Window)

Coach (Best Prop)

H&M (Best Mannequin)

Fendi x Fila (Best Collaboration)

Alice + Olivia (Best Use of Color)

Timberland (Sustainability)

Louis Vuitton (Best Use of Technology)

Macy’s (Best Interactive Experience)

Dior (Best Use of Light)

Ralph Lauren (Heritage)

Lord & Taylor (Legacy)

Bergdorf Goodman (Most Liked on Social Media & Simon Doonan Award)

For more about WindowsWear or to schedule a window tour, visit windowswear.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about Jon Harari, visit jonharari.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Suzanne Dressler is a professional actress, singer, and freelance writer based in NYC. She runs her own tutoring agency, Skyscraper Tutoring, LLC, speaks fluent Spanish, and is obsessed with the thesaurus. She is a graduate of Barnard College/Columbia University and lives on the Upper West Side with her two kittens, Hamlet and Cressida. Follow her on Instagram at @suzannerachel13.

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