Burberry x Printemps,
BURBERRY X PRINTEMPS
Tales of a window / Histoires d’une vitrine 橱窗背后的故事
For department stores like Printemps Haussmann, Christmas is a time to create magic windows. But who is behind these always-new animations that some ten million people visit each year?
Wearing a trench coat, a plaid scarf, and a pair of rain boots, and carrying an umbrella, a little boy, runs through the English countryside with his teddy bear, crosses the sea, takes a train and arrives in Paris at night, under a shower of stars. This story isn’t exactly real, but will come alive in this year’s Christmas windows at Printemps Haussmann, who have teamed up with Burberry to bring together the traditions of London and Paris for the first time.
One hundred and eighty-five Christmas trees, 10 kilometers of garlands, 300 of ribbons, 120 of wrapping paper, 153 illuminated stars and snowflakes, 1.6 million stickers, an entire year of work, and three days of installation. Behind the Christmas magic lurk behind-the-scenes figures that reflect an enormous organizational effort. The fate of these windows is sealed almost a year in advance, the time necessary to prepare everything for a few weeks of dreams. “Every year, we keep in mind that Christmas is in a unique bracket of exchange and conviviality, created by the end of year celebrations,” says Franck Banchet, Printemps’s artistic director and author of this year’s epic. “In these grim times, we focused on a more traditional interpretation of Christmas, hence the idea of the journey between the two capitals, where the festive season is lavishly celebrated.” This little boy’s trip – “in reality” from the Burberry flagship at 121 Regent Street, London to Printemps in Paris – immerses the spectator in a dream world where the front and the back, the very large and the very small, the real and the virtual, the traditional and the innovative coexist.
A WELL-OILED PUPPETEER
To bring the characters of these 11 scenes to life, the department store has again turned to Jean-Claude Dehix, one of the last masters of his art in Europe. In his workshop, hidden away in Montfermeil, 40 kilometers from Boulevard Haussmann, he determines, with the aid of hundreds of machines, all the gestures and the pathways of the characters in the famous windows. On a shelf in his office stand a few puppets from earlier animations. Memories for him, but also testimony to other collaborations, including with Prada, Dior, Chanel, and Lanvin, in the form of an Alber Elbaz puppet (created by the designer himself). Indeed, for six years, the department stores have worked with fashion houses to dress their characters. “I can almost say that I work in fashion,” laughs Jean-Claude Dehix. Te need to work with designer outfts has given him a difcult time, in the pursuit of an elegance that is normal in the feld, since it is found by poking needles in clothing made from extremely luxurious materials. “For Burberry, the characters are wearing fabulous gabardines, I had trouble animating without too much damage,” he admits.
Before animating the most prestigious Parisian store windows, Jean-Claude Dehix presented shows with his father, who taught him everything, then with his wife, skimming all the music halls of Paris at the time when he opened for Georges Brassens, Juliette Gréco, and even Gilbert Bécaud. Industrial design school and a world tour later, Printemps contacted him to “wake up” its windows, with Robin Hood as the first project. Its success led to Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, and Samaritaine. “They first tried working with technicians, but moving the strings is an art. So they all ended up calling me!” he recalls with a smile. What a puppeteer wants doesn’t just happen. Today he works with his daughter and son, transmitting the ropes. Rule number one, never reveal what is happening next in the windows of a competitor. Rule number two, strictly adhere to the customer’s requirements. And with his nearly forty-year career, Jean-Claude Dehix knows what he’s talking about.
ADAPT AND INNOVATE
Te Christmas animations are a long process: they are hardly removed in January before the work on the plans for the next year begins. Te store chooses the theme in February, consulting as to its technical feasibility with the puppeteer. Once the green light is given, the puppeteer acquires new material, guaranteeing quality, calculating each puppets weight, then the height of the strings, and programming the motors that have replaced hands. He is also involved in designing the sets, created by a special team. Although everything is regulated like clockwork, no one is ever immune to engine failure. Tat is why Jean-Claude Dehix makes daily rounds frst thing each morning during the event. A way of enjoying the show, too, and seeing the reactions of passersby: “Each person looks at the windows in their own way,” he says. “A child and his mother rarely stand up to look at the mechanisms, while the father will do so more willingly,” he adds. Rule number three? Surprise. Innovate with an unexpected
It took all the skill of puppeteer Claude Dehix and almost a year of work for Burberry’s little hero, wearing the famous trench coat, to “travel” from London to Paris, and for the magical world of Burberry to light up the windows of Printemps Haussmann.
gesture, a grandiose setting, as was the case for the swimming pool window where Barbie dolls dived in: a feat twenty years ago. Tis year, when everything is digital, visitors will be able to control certain elements via a smartphone application. “Burberry is an extremely innovative house and a pioneer in using technology,” Franck Banchet notes. “Tis collaboration has allowed us to go places we’d never tried before: bringing the public inside our windows.” In addition to the chance to be photographed through a system of hidden cameras, viewers will be able to control some of the set’s elements, tilting umbrellas, changing wind speed, or even creating a storm. All completely new!
Burberry goes beyond the window frame, moving inside the store with an exclusive capsule collection for Printemps. Made up of ready-to-wear (trench coats, pants, T-shirts, etc.), accessories (handbags, wallets, scarves, shoes, etc.), and collectibles (including candles, watches, and teddy bears) it echoes the sumptuous windows, which once held just simple toys. Because although mainly to fre dreams, they also need to entice passersby to enter the store, to buy ready-to-wear and accessories for Christmas. “Listed as one of the word’s top luxury shopping destinations, Paris is a very important market for us,” says Andrew Maag, Burberry’s CEO of Europe, the Middle East, India, and the Americas. “Printemps’s Christmas windows are famous all over the world, which makes celebrating the festive season on Boulevard Haussmann even more exciting.” It is a party that ends once the curtain is drawn in mid-January, fnishing the street theatre dream … until the next year.
When London arrives in Paris: Thursday October 6, the “Magic Voyage” of the English brand lit up the windows of Printemps Haussmann, accompanied by glam rock ambassadors Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss, pictured here with Printemps CEO, Paolo De Cesare.