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Love is in the window

Every year you can guarantee that as you walk down any high street in February, your eyes will be barraged by heart motifs, pinks and reds, the occasional Cupid's arrow and probably a box of chocolates or two. Valentine's Day seems to be consistently portrayed with the same visuals year in year out, but how about the shops and businesses that go a step beyond a big red love-heart vinyl window transfer? We've plunged into the archives to dig out creative, original and alluring visual merchandising displays that celebrate Valentine's for a little inspiration beyond the obvious. (Note: It's virtually impossible to avoid the heart motifs, but some uses are more inventive than the usual!)

Tiffany & Co. NYC, 2015

Looking like it's been plucked straight out of an animation, this Tiffany&Co. window from 2015 takes 'puppy love' and well, gives you exactly that! The scene of two dogs enjoying an amorous meal together is one that's familiar (we all remember Lady and The Tramp) and speaks straight to the romantic in all of us. Here they've swapped out a strand of spaghetti for a Tiffany box and ring - quite the upgrade. Still a heartfelt scene, this display is a welcome departure from a collection of love-hearts, roses and arrows. It has a narrative that gives something more to the audience, creating a story to follow. The illustrative aesthetic is a pleasure to look at and is packed full of whimsy - a gentle reminder that these holidays are really just a bit of fun.

Moschino Milan, 2012

Some of the best designs are the simplest, and when it comes to Moschino's 2012 St. Valentine's display in Milan you can see exactly why. The minimalist scene involves very little props but makes use of colour contrasting in a way that gives us a fresh take on the big love-heart. A strong colour contrast is undeniably alluring, drawing the eyes in on pure visual alone - but here, the reversal of having the scene in a hot pink and the heart glowing in yellow adds a layer of intrigue. Arguably the creativity of the design doesn't go much further than playing with palettes, but who has a problem with designs that are genuinely scrumptious to look at? In a world of pink hearts, sometimes all you need to stand out is to be a yellow one.

Modefabriek Amsterdam, 2015

Admittedly this is not a shop window, in fact Modefabriek is an Amsterdam fashion trade event housing hundreds of displays - an opportunity to make a statement. That's exactly what fashion consultant and aficionado Carlo Wijnands did in 2015. Again an incredibly simplistic design, Wijnands used stills from some of the most romantic moments in Hollywood to enhance basic mannequins. The shots sit atop the torsos of the models, transforming them into protagonists of their own love stories whilst still celebrating the clothing on show- in this case a set of skirts. Matching the gaits of the mannequins to their respective photos is a detail that ties the entire scene together, marrying the worlds of cinema and reality. The glamour of Old Hollywood screams traditional romance and bubbles up feelings of nostalgia, these films set the expectations of 'romantic love' for decades to follow and strike a chord with anyone - whether familiar with the films or not. It's refreshing to see a design that celebrates the concept of 'love' without the use of any hearts, looking instead to how we see it portrayed through media and appealing to the cinephiles in all of us.

Bergdorf Goodman NYC, 2013

Simplistic? Minimalist? You won't find any of those terms in Bergdorf Goodman's vocabulary. The luxury department store in New York City encapsulates opulence in their extravagant window displays, which they've gained quite the reputation for. This 2013 Valentine's display is a real testament to that. You couldn't quite possibly begin to imagine how many trinkets have been crammed into this display; cakes, jewellery, handbags, shoes, flowers, crockery and even a chandelier - and that's barely scratching the surface. There's an incredible talent in bringing together such a numerous collection of different items and not overwhelming the senses - in this there's an air of rococo or baroque inspiration, both art forms that epitomise decadence. Conceptually, the window invokes the indulgence of Valentine's - hordes of gifts and treats, a model adorned in fur and sparkles - there's an element of ridiculousness to the design that manages to translate in a beautifully elegant way rather than appearing novel and comedic. Again this display isn't overtly romance based and to find a heart motif you'd have to really hunt around, instead using colour palette and concept to convey the story and emotions of St. Valentine's Day.

It's clear that the symbol of a love-heart and Valentine's Day are fairly synonymous, yet that doesn't mean design can't be innovative and intelligent when using it - these above interpretations showcase exactly how easy it can be to evoke the same emotions but in a much more exciting and less typical fashion. Whether you're bringing in familiar narratives (Tiffany&Co and Modefabriek) or creating your own (Bergdorf) we're happy...

...happy with anything really, as long as you don't slap a great big arrow-struck heart vinyl on your window.

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