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Windows of opportunity

Christine Brickman, creative director of design agency Elemental Design, has been dressing windows for more than 20 years after starting her career as a trainee at Miss Selfridge before moving to Wallis. Brickman now works with a host of retailers, citing Harrods as one of her biggest clients. Harrods will unveil a new Elemental Design window display in September, called Timeless Luxury, featuring brands such as Burberry and Louis Vuitton.

What attracted you to designing window displays?

I started dressing windows at Miss Selfridge many years ago, and it’s still a fantastic business to be in. It’s the first thing a customer sees, so I enjoy being able to present a brand in a particular way, summed up by one window display. And fashion retail is such a fast-changing industry that I get a real buzz from working to that kind of pressure. I also get to travel a lot - I love experiencing different cultures.

How important are window displays to a brand or retailer?

Window displays are everything, other than the product itself. All retailers have a responsibility to develop their windows, even small independents. If a product is used in a window display, it can fly out of the store - that’s the power of the window. But a bad window can repel people. Everyone buys into something these days, and the way a window is dressed promotes the design credentials of that retailer. It’s all about good theatre.

Have window displays always been so important?

I think the UK has embraced the value of window displays far more today than 20 years ago. Windows are coming back. Retailers understand the worth of a window and ensure theirs are constantly evolving and changing. They are also spending a lot more money on them than they used to.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Everywhere - books, someone on the street, travelling. I’m always on the lookout for something that stands out visually. But my work is also very trend-led.

What’s the worst thing about your job?

There’s never enough time in the day. Our clients drive the timeline, so we work phenomenally quickly. And fashion changes all the time, so we have to be ahead of the game. But I try to focus on the creative side - we have project managers to ensure everything hits our targets. However, the best thing is that there’s a big feel-good factor. It was a great feeling to see all the Harrods windows go in.



- What is your biggest fashion weakness?

I can’t resist shoes. I have 50 pairs, including my original Biba boots.

- What was your best fashion moment?

Years ago I used to dress head to toe in Biba.

- And your worst?

This morning. I was wearing a hard hat and heavy boots because I had to visit a building site with my client, Lime Blue diamond stores.

- Who is your industry icon and why?

Patricia Burnett, managing director of The White Company. She used to be my boss at Wallis and has the energy and ability to create a fantastic team.

- What would you be doing if not fashion?

I’d be a chef.

- Which is the best shop on the high street?

For high street buys I particularly like Topshop. Marni and Liberty are also personal favourites.

- Who is your style icon?

Audrey Hepburn.

- Who is your pop idol?

It would have to be Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel.

- Who is on your mobile phone’s speed dial?

No one - I’m still working out how to use my phone.

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