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.
Harari, named a top “40 Under 40” innovator inhis field by Design Retail Magazine,left the demands of finance to build an international company that believes inits people. WW doesn’t simply focus on products or brands; the site is filledwith videos, pictures of stores, and archives dating back to 1931, giving richhistory to the world of product presentations and how they came to life. Thedrive behind the company is, as the name would infer, the window itself – theartistic presence of a particular brand and its visual power. Harari and hisco-founders have successfully created a platform where people in differentcountries can have access to brand dynamics and feed off of each other’screativity. With the exponential increase of social media and technology, WW isensuring that retailers worldwide have access to never-ending content and theability to communicate information virtually.
“We want to make sure everyone is up tospeed…the amount of visual impressions is increasing…it’s endless,”according to Harari. “[ It is a way to ] communicate information in your ownhome.”
One of the more unique and salient factors of WWis that it is “the only source that exists of its kind.” Its central goal isfor retailers, not the heads or owners of companies. “We lead with content, notwith the leaders,” says Harari. “Our members are part of the internationalcommunity.”
This philosophy of community and affinity withinthe field is a sticking point for Harari and one in which he is trulypassionate and vehemently sincere. When speaking to him about the hows and whysof WW’s journey to fruition, his philanthropic view is paramount. He has a deepdesire to connect people in this industry with each other for their own growthand for the field on a larger scale. He doesn’t consider himself part of thefashion world, nor is WW a fashion company; he treats the sphere of retail inholistic manner and approaches his work in ways that celebrate the humanelement. “We want others to help us showcase what is going on,” he asserts. Inessence, WW relies on its members for durability.
If one were to scroll through the website, it’seasy to get drawn in to the archives and displays from various parts of theglobe; the sheer accessibility makes WW so enticing. Any company or individualin the world can upload their content, and there you have it: window shoppingFROM anywhere in the world TO anywhere in the world.
Members have the opportunity to garner ideas fromother 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 plethoraof hands and artistic ability that exists behind the scenes; without them, thevisual environment of a product could not endure. Moreover, these companiesbenefit greatly from their wide community. Manufacturers can research anddiscover who works with whom, as WW makes these resources readily available andfeatures “companies that sell products and services to retailers that help theretailers 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 becomingavailable for retailers and shoppers alike. A new website was launchedrecently, and anyone in the world can now join for free. Harari also speaks ofAugmented Reality with excitement and believes it will soon be the mostefficacious and smart means of capturing products in real-time. Being quite anastute technical talent, he envisions and supports a world where shoppers willbe able to scan their phones over a product in a store or even through awindow. All pictures on social media about that particular purse, skirt, orpair of shoes will be readily available in seconds on your browser: Instagramshots, 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 morecontent we need to capture,” Harari notes. “This [photo recognition] will giveretailers tons of new opportunities to engage with consumers. Products changeoften 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.
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)
Alice + Olivia (Best Use of Color)
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.