Window Dressing | Pedderzine


Fashion has long embraced the joys of cake. So much so that in 2013 LVMH acquired the quaint Milanese coffee shop Cova, which first opened its doors in 1871 and still packs in the city’s style cognoscenti with its pasticcera and panettone. Not to be outdone, last year Prada bought nearby pastry shop Marchesi. Established in 1824, it’s famed for its biscotti and bon bons that nestle temptingly in its antiquated, gilt-edged shop windows.  

When not nibbling on confectionary, fashionistas are wearing it. From Piers Atkinson’s strawberries and cream hats to Sophia Webster’s watermelon high heels, and from Ashley Williams’ ice cream dresses to Anya Hindmarch’s Frosties bags, the inspiration is often literal and always lots of fun. 

But this season it’s more about an undercurrent of sweetness when it comes to accessories. Fendi is the go-to for whimsical bags and for AW15 its bushy-browed Bag Bugs and sultry Peekaboos come in an edible palette of candy pink and lemon yellow. Meanwhile Mansur Gavriel’s bags have become so desirable it’s a wonder someone hasn’t tried to consume one yet. Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel launched the brand in 2013 and it instantly became the It girl’s It-bag of choice with collections selling out within hours. Why? The range of deceptively simple styles, such as the signature Bucket and the new Lady, are crafted in Italy from Tuscan vegetable tanned leather and have delectable contrast colour interiors. Camello with yellow? Brandy with blu?  Flamma and rosa? Don’t mind if I do. 

Parisian glove makers Maison Fabre have added cartoonish eyes and hungry lip motifs to its heritage designs this season. We advice taking them off before tucking into an éclair. “Street couture” trainer brand Joshua Sanders embellishes its women’s slip-ons with oversize felt bows for Bow Bomb and smug teddy bears who answers by the name of Peluche. Stella McCartney covers its lace-up Britt platforms in silver and stars. And MSGM, famed for its indie kid exuberance, serves up furry yeti boots. In need of a palette cleanser? Then we would humbly recommend a simple black satchel from Saint Laurent. 

Today’s window dressing has become its own ephemeral art form and a complex exercise in shopping seduction. But the art direction – or lack thereof - of traditional food shop windows still retains its own elusive allure for the creative world. There’s something about the purity of form of tasty baked goods lined up in neat rows, trapped inside display cases or perched haphazardly on cake stands that have inspired artists for decades.

Realist painter Edward Hopper is renowned for his nostalgic yet melancholic renderings of downtown New York. The rows of closed store fronts in ‘Early Sunday Morning’ (1930) yearns for the Greenwich Village shopkeeper. ‘Nighthawks’ (1942) peers through the window of a modest diner, and ‘Chop Suey’ (1929) goes inside a restaurant where two women in cloche hats take tea. His glorying in everyday eateries has gone on to inspire many a movie mise-en-scène – as well as Pop Art pioneers.

Pioneers like Wayne Thiebaud, who worked in a Long Island café selling ice creams and hot dogs as a young man and whose early works were studies of window food displays. He went on to be best known for his patisserie paintings with self-explanatory titles such as ‘Pies, Pies, Pies’ (1961), ‘Bakery Counter’ (1962) and ‘Display Cake’ (1963). Each one is blessed with strokes of oil paint as thick as the tantalising icing they depict.

Thiebaud’s contemporary Claes Oldenburg was inspired by the shabby retail around his Lower East Side studio for his food sculptures. For ‘The Store’ (1961-64), the artist crammed a window with his inedible treats made from plaster and paint. Likewise ‘Pastry Case, 1’ (1961-2) huddled pies, sundaes and cake into a display case - his kitsch commentary on urban abundance.

In this same moment, Andy Warhol was designing windows for department stores Lord & Taylor and Bonwit Teller (Salvador Dali, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine and Jasper Johns have all shared this honour too) and busy doing prints of soup cans, ketchup bottles and bananas. In 1964 he turned a gallery into a supermarket, compete with grocery boxes and a check out counter. And in 1968 he made a TV commercial for Schrafft restaurant chain featuring an orgasmic chocolate sundae. 

Chloe Wise has updated this food fantasy with her Bread Bags series. For this young artist bread is “a symbol for wealth and dough and bread-winning” and she has taken it to tongue-in-cheek extremes by styling up urethane loaves as designer handbags. ‘Bagel No. 5’ (2014) resembled a Chanel purse, complete with cream cheese, gold chain and double C logo, and caused a social media frenzy when her actress friend India Menuez wore it to an exclusive Chanel No. 5 dinner party last year. Brand fans thought it was a missed gem from Chanel’s AW14 supermarket show when in fact it was an act of interventionist art. Lol.

One can only assume that Jean-Paul Gaultier was expressing a similar sense of humour when he curated Pain Couture at the Fondation Cartier in 2004. The exhibition consisted of sculptures made from boulangerie favourites reminiscent of his greatest hits including the kilt, corset and matelot top. “We can live without clothes but not without bread,” he said, somewhat insincerely, at the opening. Bon appetite.

Publication: Pedderzine

Helen Jennings