Alternative Art Space: Fashion is Theatre

Red alert! The curtains are drawn! The shopping windows at the department store NK are always worth stopping for. Created by the department store’s long time creative director Joann Tan, they are elegant, sophisticated and witty and always with a underlaying story. Right now the story is ¨Fashion is Theatre¨, might as well be the theme of the whole city when Fashion Week hit town earlier this week.


No possibility for photoshopping here. Since it’s live and 3D there can be no regrets and the creations has to work from all angles. JoAnn has a team of about a dozen people working with her. Scenographers, visual merchandisers, art directors, craftsmen and women make sure that every detail is perfect.


Salvador Dali made his first window display for the famous department store Bonwitt Teller in 1943. The theme was Day and Nigh and featured a surrealistic scene where a green-feathered mannequin entered a black lambskin lined bath tub filled with water. It wasn’t very popular with the conservative shoppers at that time so the store quickly replaced it with regular mannequins in suits. Dali got bonkers and entered the display, turned over the bath which crashed and smashed the window, with Dali following.

Image via Art21

Andy Warhol got his big break in 1961 in New York. The same year Bonwitt Teller hired him to do their displays. He hang five works, based on comic strips and news paper ads, behind the mannequins in the window.

The end of the department store Bonwitt Teller came in 1973 when Donald Trump bought the building and replaced it with his less elegant more more-is-more golden tower.


Other famous clients of JoAnn Tan are Hermès, the exclusive department store Excelsior in Milan and Fendi.

Cannot wait what Christmas brings to a Theatre close to me.

You’ll find tips and tricks by Brigitte Beeler, head of visual merchandising at the Centre d’Enseignement Professionel in Vevey,  for how to make the most of your displays  here. Lots of emphasis on bringing emotion into the creation and keeping it, the same works for photography as well.

Joann Tan Studios // The Art Story Blog