First Post by Windowless Consultant
Window design, I've always said, is so simple that everybody should be able to do it, and so mysterious that in reality almost no one can. It's been, I realise, part of a sales pitch I never knew I was making because I was the first to be taken in: it was a philosophy, and it was mine. It's not that it's not true of window design that it has this simple mystery, but that it's so equally true of so many other things that it pretends to obscure behind it.
Take the prop. It all began in Soho. I'm often around there during the day on jobs, and not infrequently nearby at night for the theatres. I see, or have always seen, performances as research for my consultancy work, since a successful window display has much of the drama about it, summing up a world with a tableau in a frame. As in a theatre, so in retail, or that niche of the retail environment which is mine, one of the greatest mysteries is the prop. You take an object, even the most ordinary - above all, in preference, the most ordinary - place it in a window, and all of a sudden, you don't have an object, strictly speaking, at all, but a prop.
I say any object. It's not as simple as that, and there, in large part, lies the mystery. You'll see a shopkeeper stick an ashtray in the window, believing it's as easy as that to create a little still life, say on a table with a newspaper by it next to a couple of mannequins in eveningwear, and it just looks stale, not a prop at all, conveying nothing but itself. And then next door for a sports range someone dumps a rugby ball on the floor and it takes off - a veritable prop. You could natter retail theory till the windows mist over looking for an answer, but in the end it just comes down to touch - some have it, others don't. So goes the spiel.
The spiel for me unravelled opposite the Coach and Horses.
Nothing there, you'd say, but something someone's dumped unwanted, and you'd be right. That something bore the trace in paint of a window on it, and I wondered why, in preoccupation looked around for a shop in a refit, this a backdrop gone or to be, but there were none: the boozer opposite, a hairdresser, a bar.
Behind me then, this:
Again, you'd say, nothing, and again you'd be right. Nothing but a set of old props from the Palace Theatre draped in cloth. And a pneumatic device for shifting them. And a bike chianed to a post, some cobbles, a drain, bollards, a passer by, signage, yellow lines, light - day and spot. Had there been something, I would not have seen it. Instead, since there was not, I did, and for the first time turned my camera on it.
I came from the event I don't know if 'reeling' is the right word - certainly excited. My aim was to see how far the effect would extend, discover if there were limits. Certainly the Coach and Horses was included, and the barber's, the other pub on Cambridge Circus.
But then, turning the corner, walking up Charing Cross Road, it didn't become diluted or weaken in any way.
A man through the door of Foyle's had it,
going up, a light upstairs through a window,
the street outside, the steps of Centre Point.
Everything, I realised, looking around, had it, and it would be the purpose of a blog to track it down.