Friday, 28 November 2008

Everything Must Go: Harvey Nichols Christmas 2008

Stood at the eastern end of St. Andrews Square, the mannequins pause frozen beneath fluorescent lamps, limbs locked in postures of defiance against news of market meltdown. For the “international luxury lifestyle store” Harvey Nichols, tabloid headlines telling of global crises must be dismissed as so much tomorrow’s fish and chips papers. The brand has been pushing its aspirational wares for nigh on 200 years and today accommodates franchises as far afield as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Scotland’s own appetite for ostentatious displays of wealth and good taste is still to be sated, and given the new worldwide capital fiasco the silvery window displays seem to communicate a steely determination rather than mere glitz and razzmatazz. Of course the world presented here has never been about “need” and it’s nothing to do with “enough”. The place still operates a rung or two above your common-or-garden high-street chain, its racks packed full of difussion lines from haute couture labels, its shelves piled high with elaborately bottled fragrances from the jet-set guest-list of most wanted names to drop. The face it presents to the world striding purposefully by outside has to sell an aesthetic of aspiration, an aura to transmit an advanced economic and social standing. To this end the immobile models pose before a backdrop of kaleidoscopically coloured Perspex diamonds, their deadpan gaze staring out far beyond the passing hordes of weekend shoppers into a distant future that seems suddenly harder to fathom. One inanimate beauty crawls across a daunting landscape of scattered glitter, all decked out in the latest finery from the likes of Gucci, Fendi and Roberto Cavalli, seeking out a transient identity to be adorned then discarded with the changing of the seasons. Any cosmetics counter moisturising lotions would only slip off her synthetic skin, while any instore Forth floor cafĂ© snacks will leave no taste on her lifeless frigid lips. Her mute companions recline impassive before a palette of neutral greys to better accentuate the vividness of those huge hanging plastic treasures. The scene resembles the wake of an especially elegant send-off, its walls dotted with reflections cast by slowly revolving mirrorballs, each illuminating the marionettes’ inhuman discotheque, each providing an illusion of motion where once was only a deathly stillness. How much more alive these figures appear now, bathed in the light of a thousand spangled squares, bodies held in a trance as they contemplate an eternal present that will gratify their incessant desire for shiny distractions. ¬The speckled patterns go endlessly round and round the glass cabinets that will double as the tragic dummies’ mausoleum, condemned to an eternity spent silently contemplating their own reflections, trapped in a reverie haunted by dreams of miracle serum and terracotta air stockings. Eventually this season’s sparkle will fade and so the cycle will begin again anew, spring/summer 09 will follow autumn/winter 08 and so on and on forever and ever until the sales start and then surely everything must go…

No comments: