PARIS — Naomi Campbell and Isabelle Huppert brought a bit of holiday spirit to the city of lights as they unveiled the Christmas windows at Paris department store Printemps. The duo appeared alongside Loewe designer Jonathan Anderson, LVMH Fashion Group chair and chief executive officer Sidney Toledano and Printemps CEO Jean-Marc Bellaiche for the official curtain raiser.
Dancing marionettes brought an old-fashioned air to the displays. In the Loewe window, miniature trapeze artists swooped from the ceiling among gold stars and Santa, while other windows celebrated a circus theme with swinging dolls and animated animals.
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After snipping the ribbon with flair, Campbell gamely posed for selfies with fans and wished onlookers a happy holiday season, before decamping to an exclusive cocktail where she chatted with Toledano and talked up the African fashion scene.
Huppert said she had just wrapped two films back to back, “My Crime” in Paris and “Sidonie in Japan,” in Tokyo. She said while she loves Christmas, she doesn’t go in for turkey and all the trimmings.
“I like to betray the traditional food program,” she said, and prefers to change up the menu every year. “I’m a bit more random. I have nothing planned in advance, so you have to try to be creative at the last moment.” Snowy mountains are a must for her holidays she added, but likes to try a new locations and keeps the decision making to the last minute as well.
This season will be spent performing an updated version of The Glass Menagerie at Paris’ Odeon. The play was originally set for September 2021, but went through a series of fits and starts due to pandemic-related shutdowns. That it will finally get a full run is “a really happy moment,” Huppert said. The play runs Nov. 26 to Dec. 22.
She hoped the Christmas season and display would bring a bit of light to people this year. “I hope Christmas will be a little bit comforting because the world’s not going so well. In moments like this, you can’t go on without having a thought of others. Hopefully this celebration will bring some joy to people,” she reflected.
Huppert and Anderson bonded over their shared love of American artist Robert Wilson. “We have a great connection and you can tell that he’s very, very much attracted by other representations of creativity, like art, painting and theater,” she said. “It’s always nice to meet someone who is not exclusively focused on what they do, but also on different sources of inspiration. What he does is like no one else — so creative and so powerful.”
Anderson chose to celebrate craft for the holiday installation, zeroing in on a new collection of iconic bags rendered in the same colors as Chinese monochrome ceramics. They informed the look of the atrium installation, and some of the leather goods were camouflaged by shelves of the same color.
The clean shapes and distinct colors of the Chinese ceramics, which date as far back as the 15th century, have long captivated Anderson, who has often gazed at them at The British Museum. “They look like they were made yesterday,” he marveled.
To shine more light on these rare objects, the designer commissioned British art historian Dr. James Fox to make a mini documentary that debuted Wednesday on Loewe’s Instagram account.
Loewe also plans to sponsor a ceramics education program at the Jingdezhen Ceramics University in the Chinese city of the same name, prized as a porcelain capital for a millennium.
“What I love about craft or the making of things is that there’s always something you didn’t know. And there’s always something to learn,” he said. “It’s very personal to me. It’s like an ambition that one day that I will buy a yellow bowl from that period.”
While admitting it’s unlikely he’ll find any museum-quality Chinese ceramics under his Christmas tree, Anderson said he cherishes the holiday period: a time to unplug, overeat, “reset” and spend quality time with his family and high-school friends in Northern Ireland.
Among the designer’s treasured childhood holiday memories are visiting London with his father and strolling by the Christmas windows at Harrods, Selfridges and Bond Street, each with its own story to tell.
One of Anderson’s first jobs in fashion was doing the windows at Prada, so he’s sensitive to their purpose, blending products with a fantasy aspect. For Loewe boutiques, “we’ve done these amazing trees that light up and then we’ve got a snail that crawls over the top of them, which is like very glittery and fun,” he related. “For me, windows are the dust jacket of the book somehow.”
The holiday season is looking positive for Printemps, said Bellaiche, who was “a little bit emotional” as he celebrated his first window unveiling since taking the CEO spot during the pandemic.
He acknowledged the multiple macro problems of the energy crisis, inflation and geopolitical tension as we head into the holiday season. Summer sales were up significantly with the return of tourists, while October was down because of the fuel shortages impacting transportation in smaller cities across France. “We’ve been a bit penalized by that,” he said. “But overall we are optimistic because we see that what we have done with our new branding and new spaces, and making the stores much more experiential and omnichannel, are paying off.”
He also cited the strong dollar going into the holiday season as bringing Americans to the store.
In a nod to the country’s “energy sobriety” efforts to reduce electricity use, this year the lights will be turned off at 11 p.m. He said the shorter hours will be a 20 percent saving from last year’s energy use.
“We still want kids to come and see the animated windows,” he said. “It’s kind of a signal that the COVID[-19] crisis is over. To welcome big brands and big celebrities has been a tradition. Now to be able to do it again — we wanted to bring the magic.”