Cgcnt Street

It was nearly the end of the winter sales when we arrived In London. According to our observations, the degree of dramatisation Increases as the seasonal sales approach the end. The Initial enthusiasm about cheaper shopping has taken wing, but the stores try to mobilise bargain hunters once again by Indicating further reductions:

<• This modern storefront has a huge show window. In the back Is a wall painted magenta, fhe word "SÄLE" covers almost the whole surface of the backdrop. Two clothes racks hang from the celling In front of the wall. Presented on each of these racks are five different men's shirts on hangers. Seyond the rack are four pairs of shoes. To Its left and Its right are male mannequins dressed In formal suits. Additionally, on each side Is one mannequin wearing a winter coat. Written In white letters on the show window are the words: "fDSTHEfi fi£©DCTIOIS". a price tag Is attached to each of the fashion pieces. These price tags that are magenta and white are larger than the ones normally used. On the white part are two lines Indicating the currency. The normal price Is written In black and then crossed out In red. The new reduced price Is written In red. Written on the magenta part Is "SÄLE".

The aim of the window to communicate the cheapness of the fashion Items Is attained by means of basic merchandising techniques. Ä book on window dressing of the 1920s, describes three standards of display.372 The "open display" uses very few things, thus promising the discovery of more booty Inside. The second type Is the "open display with side dressing". Ml the lines of the offer are represented In the show window. This technique Is meant to Inscribe all these lines In the public's mind, even when the place In the show window Is limited. Änd the third type Is what we see here, the "stock display". This window type has three main functions:

"1. Strongly push the quantity Idea of goods bought In bulk.

2. Advocate cheapness and low-priced merchandise.

3. Strongly appeal for direct sales."373

372 Timmins (1922)

373 Timmins (1922:45)

Although a lot of things have changed In the field of merchandising, it seems that the pioneers of the discipline discovered the rules very early on. While the fashions haye changed, the basic rules of meaning-creation in the show window are fixed. When the mannequins are removed from the window and replaced by the clothes rack, we do not require any words to guess that the fashion is changing, fhe message of the next boutique is not as obyious. Although we haye browsed throught a lot of merchandising literature from the past until today, we haye found no instructions for windows like this:

<• fhis fashion boutique is located in an old traditional store, fhe storefront has huge windows with cast iron details in the frame, fhe entrance is in the middle, and on the right side is a blue poster with black letters saying: "final reductions up to 70% off". Inside the shop are as many clothes racks as possible full of merchandise. On top of the racks are a lot of posters indicating that items haye been reduced by fifty percent. It looks more like a warehouse than the fashionable boutiques featured in interior design magazines. the show window has no back walls, the "stock window" effect is attained with this type of dramatisation as well, fhe window on the left is covered by two white curtains, fhese curtains are usually used when the windows are being changed, to be read on both of them is: "Window change". We see a mannequin lying on the floor through the gap between the two curtains whose upper body supported by one bent arm is in an upright position, fhis totally undressed female mannequin is lying on a surface covered with newspaper title pages. It is always the same page.

Since this window has no back wall and all the curtains for the window change haye not been installed, the naked mannequin is quite prominently exposed. Seen from the street, however, she is only hidden when customers are directly in front of the window. Its nakedness is unprotected from the side and from inside, fhe scene mimics the act of trimming the window. Sut there is no window dresser in sight, nor all the things used for window dressing. Sesides, the window is not totally covered, and the dressing of the window is usually done when not too many people are about in the streets, for instance, at the night. Sut how does this scene become meaningful in relation to the change of fashion? fhe normal action of window dressing is free of transcendent meaning. Catherine Sell explains how such actions become meaningful:

"[...] an action can be meaningful only when it is detached from its initial context and objectified as an autonomous entity, and when its autonomous

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| significance is addressed for any relevance or importance that can be I addressed to 'an indefinite range of possible readers'."374

In our case, the action of window dressing has become meaningful by the act of detaching the scenery from its utilitarian purpose. Here, the action, which is normally hidden and only for a short time, is continually dramatised during the sales period, fhe action of changing the decoration for the window stands for the changing of fashion, fhis meaningless action transcends into a meaningful message of the seasonal sale, which is performed year after year. Inside we haye the appearance of a stockroom. Ho piece stands out. Everything is made equal by means of the presentation and the universal belief in paying half for everything. It is the state of "communitas" of the merchandise during the passage rite from one fashion to another.375 fhe warehouse is the place where the garments wait in darkness. It is the state prior to merchandising and before the window dressers start their dramatisation of the goods in the retail theatre behind the show windows, before the curtains can be opened, fhe next store with a striking seasonal sale decoration is a jeans boutique:

<• fhe two windows are separated by an entrance in the middle, fhe shop's floor begins immediately behind the show windows. We can see directly into the store because there is no area dedicated to window display, nor any back walls, fhere are two transparent posters with red arrows in the left window, fhe arrows point downwards. Suspended from the ceiling is a huge three-dimensional arrow, which looks as if it was made of stone, and it is painted red. fhe arrow sculpture seems to be jagged along the edges like chipped stone. Sig red letters on the window say: "fW&L WEEK. 75% Off (on selected items)". Inside the shop, everything is just the way it is during the year. Ho posters, and no piles of fashion items, fhe right show window is dressed with a white pedestal and two pairs of jeans that are shown by using only the legs of a mannequin, fhe upper body has been detached, fhe imprint on the show window says: "HEW SE&SOH (in store now)".

fhe presentation of the new collection while the reduction is still going on is significant for the incorporation state of the passage rite, fhe ambiguous scenery with the arrows and the high reductions is still present while a forerunner of the new collection is already being presented. Sut both conditions are dramatised in a very abstract way as no merchandise is used, except for the two pairs of jeans. We find the next show windows between the marble pillars of an old traditional building:

374 Bell (1992:51)

375 Turner (1997:96)

<• With the exception of one window, all the windows of this fashion boutique are blocked out by a white nontransparent film. Written in the middle in the 1970s retro typestyle is the word "sale".376 fhe single letters consist of fiye parallel coloured lines, which form the letters with abstract lines and circles, fhe lines range from pink to orange and brown, fhe only transparent window has the same inscription, but with a supplement: "further reductions", fhe window is dressed with two headless mannequins wearing items of the winter collection. In front of them are two shopping carts, fhe shopping carts are painted white and contain several items with a mix of home accessories and clothing, literally flung into them.

fhe shopping carts are the central element in this window, which is why they haye been painted white as well as to make them distinguishable from the everyday shopping cart, fhe way they are filled makes it look as if the things were being thrown away rather than presented. When people shop, they prefer to select their purchases with great care. Sut the message here is quite clear: things that were prestigious a few weeks ago are now being thrown away. It is a desacralisation of the merchandise and a clear message that the items haye lost their status as fashionable pieces, fashions are changing with great speed, and it does not take much time to forget them:

"Since old stock is regularly removed from the boutiques and supermarkets, these sectors of the industry haye a short memory, fhe introduction of the new functions primarily as a reyiyal, though one cannot say instantly to what extent such a reyiyal corresponds with the historical model. In order to be able to do that, one must create a special fashion archive, which for a normal customer would be largely irrelevant, fherefore, the market cannot dictate innovation as often assumed, fiather the market operates in a zone of indistinguishability between new and old. fhe mass consumer consumes what pleases him - without a clear criterion of distinction between old and new"377

In reality, it would be difficult to differentiate between the old and the new, but the symbolic language of the seasonal sale helps us orient ourselves, ©ionysian aesthetics wipe out our memory, making our minds free for the new collection, fhe ambiguous situation between the old and the new is structured by means of emotion and symbolism instead of the intellectual construction of an archive. Creating sexual desires is the target of the next show window:

376 Andy Warhol's Area Rug Sale from 1976-86 shows a very similar logotype. See Groys (2002:61)

377 Groys (2002:59).

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<• fhis window is dominated by an orange poster, which goes across from one side to the other. On the stripe is the silhouette of a woman outlined against the orange. She is positioned horizontally in a provocatively erotic posture.378 Printed on the window is a dotted frame in the middle of which we can read: "(now showing up to) 70% Off".

fhis is not the show window of a sex shop but the window of a boutique for young fashion. Obscenity is part of ©ionysian aesthetics.379 &nd this is the effect being played with the help of graphics, fhere is no naked mannequin here but just the designed graphics of naked women, the kind of graphics used by sex shops, fhe obscene is a category of the ugly and the ugly is being presented here in the form of the obscene. Sut during the sales, not only does the obscenity of graphic design exist but also that of the commodity, as Jean Saudrillard points out here:

"Marx already denounced the obscenity of the commodity, linked to the abject principle of its free circulation, fhe obscenity of the commodity comes from its abstraction, formal and light, against the weight and density of the object. The commodity is readable: contrary to the object, which never confesses completely its secret, the commodity manifests always its visible essence, which is the price."380

fhe obscenity of the price is over-emphasised during the seasonal sale, fhe reduction undresses the commodity entirely, not exposing it as naked but as waiting in an obscene posture for the satyr.

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