David Hoey, senior director of visual presentation for Bergdorf Goodman, is the creative mastermind behind the store’s world-famous holiday windows. Each year Hoey and his team of designers, prop artists, installers and carpenters transform those Fifth Avenue windows into holiday fantasies and fairy tales. (The current edition, with the theme “Bergdorf GoodTimes,” is on view until early January 2020.) This celebration of fashion and art—even science—has become a cornerstone of the City’s street culture.
Hoey has helped create Bergdorf’s windows for more than 20 years. We caught up with him to discuss his work, his process and the history of the windows themselves.
When does the process start for each year’s holiday windows?
David Hoey: It’s still freezing outside when we begin conceptualizing holiday windows. We begin our process in February. We always pick an umbrella theme that will lend itself to variations and surprising interpretations—each window is always completely different from the others. We invite people to pick a favorite.
Once you have a theme, how long does it take for you to design that theme out?
DH: We spend 10 months on design and production. Installation takes 17 days. Our holiday windows are so important to us that they constitute at least 60 percent of our yearly workload.
How many people are involved in the process of creating the windows, from start to finish?
DH: About 100 people—everyone from electricians to wig stylists—will have worked on the finished windows.
Are there any Easter eggs or hidden meanings you slip into the displays?
DH: Our windows are purposely overloaded with props and decor—almost too much to see in one viewing. We design for different scales: from across the street, from a cab, from the point of view of a pedestrian. But it’s only up close that tiny details and in-jokes jump out. The windows are meant to entertain and dazzle. We like to be a destination.
What are some of the most iconic displays throughout history? Do you have any personal favorites from Bergdorf or other stores?
DH: Certain periods of window display in New York are fascinating. Windows in the 1930s were often surrealist in style. In the 1950s, windows were soigné and elegant. The 1970s windows were famous for their startling “street theater” displays. We try to evoke all those periods and more. We hope that this eclecticism keeps us current and contemporary. We are maximalists, inspired by high culture, low culture, arts, science, nature—everything.
The Bergdorf Goodman holiday window displays will be on view until early January 2020. See them at 754 Fifth Ave., between 57th and 58th Sts.