The Great VM’s from the 70’s

13 Nov

Back in the 70’s when the boomers were taking hold as the largest consumer class ever, retail display went through a radical change.

robert currie windows - Google Search - Google Chrome 11132013 64106 AM

Robert Currie’s.. Divine intervention

The “Fern and Column” approach to display of the 50’s and most of the 60’s was being replaced by a small group of daring VM’s. New York windows were HOT, Candy Pratts at Bloomingdale’s, Robert Currie at Bendel’s, Robert Benzio at Saks and Victor Hugo for Halston. Pedestrians were being assaulted with presentations unlike anything that came before. Windows gained daring narrative themes or took on a reality look that was shocking to those used to the all so pretty, flower strewn confections of past decades.

Fern and column display was "OUT"

Fern and column display was “OUT”

Candy was "IN"

Candy was “IN”

Bendel"s was hot.

Bendel”s was hot.

Robert Benzio was the VM of the moment

Robert Benzio was the VM of the moment

Halston's Victor Hugo was the "Baddest" of all

Halston’s Victor Hugo was the “Baddest” of all

Hugo was doing picking taboo themes.

Hugo was doing picking taboo themes.

The young designers of the same period had everything to do with the the new look, names like Steven Burrows, Sonia Rykiel, Diane Von Furstenberg, and the king of Disco fashion, basically any dress on the dance floor at Studio 54 was made by Roy Halston Frowick. Maxi dresses in draping, shimmery fabric have become synonymous with Seventies fashion, and it was almost exclusively because of Halston’s designs. While punk and high-fashion may not seem like they would go hand-in-hand, that was before Vivienne Westwood came onto the scene. Westwood was deeply influenced by the hard-rock movement, and it lent to some of the most iconic and interesting styles of the Seventies.

Steven Burrows "Dancing Gowns" at Bendels

Steven Burrows “Dancing Gowns” in a retrospect

Stephen Burrows When Fashion Danced  Museum of the City of New York - Google Chrome 11132013 72933 AM

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Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood

Everyone was “coming out” or “going out” at least three nights a week [sometimes more]  A new outfit was essential for a night of dancing the “hustle” drinking and general debauchery. Retailers and designers were more than happy to provide the styles that best fit the moment [ they were also “going out”] It was an exciting time, we dressed up to go out, we danced in couples, actually HOLDING HANDS and saw the dawn more often than not. Cher, Liza Minnelli and Diana Ross were the reigning disco Divas.

I embraced the “New Window Decor” as the Inquirer named it, here I am the “Bad boy” slopping suds on the dishes in the The Peasant Shop window.


An ancient shot of a window change, I’m still climbing ladders to this day.

Vori Kriaris - Google Chrome 11132013 91122 AM

My  BIG  break came when I staged an “Alien Abduction”, my friend the green man [ a friends handiwork that I borrowed ] holds the frightened mannequins at bay with his ray gun, which he just fired causing a de-materialization of one of the group. The German Shepard looks on in the foreground [we had guard dogs back then] His name was Lobar, animals and kids can steal the show, but not this time. This was the moment I realized that controversy is the best publicity.

Vori Kriaris - Google Chrome 11132013 90929 AM

I received letter denouncing me for promoting violence against women, which never occurred to me. C’est dommage, get over it. I received more compliments than complaints, and I got in the paper. I have carried this lesson with me ever since..”Give them something to remember”

The green man and I did more than one gig together, here I am addressing retail merchandising students at Drexel University.

Vori Kriaris - Google Chrome 11132013 91008 AM

I look back with fondness for my days of naive creativity, before I knew nothing about, focus groups, marketing, perceived value, customer demographics and all the other retail rules that have influenced my work. Still every once  in a while the old “l’enfant terrible” surfaces and I do exactly what I think is right for me, and the result is always memorable.

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