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Shop Local

30 Nov
It’s not that I dislike the big box retailers, I readily admit that I adore stores like Ikea and Target, it’s just that I am very committed to small owner operated shops. My entire career is due to local retailers. In this Christmas display I let it rip, for two reasons, Number 1, I have been doing Ernesto Custom Tailors for 20 years and have a part in their success, Number 2, they are located in my old hood. South Street Philadelphia.
I have a soft spot for South Street, it played a large part in my life. In the 70’s it was in decline, an all but completely abandoned neighborhood facing destruction to make way for a cross town expressway. That is until the “art” crowd in due to cheap rents. South Street was the first example of what happens when the creative set takes over. Those years saw a wonderful mix of residents and a sense of community, that made the hood prosper again. It’s been 30 years and the street has seen many changes, both good and bad, but it’s still there and I had something to do with the fact.
Ernesto pre-dates the decline, they are the original residents. This year I decided to take a stand with a statement window, for them and South Street and me.



The Bear and the Hare, John Lewis Christmas Ad

27 Nov
It is refreshing to see that a few retailers, can produce a wonderful ad campaign. John Lewis the British store has put together a beautiful series.
The commercial uses a unique animation style that combines traditional 2D hand-drawn animation, stop frame, and 3D model made sets.The story is set to a cover of Keane's 'Somewhere Only We Know' performed by Lily Allen. This is now available to download from iTunes

Implanted Earphones

27 Sep

It was only a matter of time, here it is, ear speaker implants.

The first step, audio cyborgs.


Holidays have Started

26 Sep

The holidays are fast approaching, can you believe it? I've been living three months ahead for years and still can't believe how fast the months are passing. The following photos are not the best I've ever taken. I took them quickly, as all I wanted to do was go home. These are three retail stores in two spaces. Kitchenette, Row Home and the new Emilie women's apparel. This took about a week to completely reset floor displays and change windows. Merry Thanks-a-ween….

This is pretty much the way I feel


Bergdorf Goodman and Jason Hackenwerth

21 Sep

The first time I saw Jason’s work was here in Philadelphia. He installed in a very large factory space. I was very impressed, I had never seen balloons used with such artistic sensibility. The ironic juxtaposition of his huge imposing pieces is their fragility, an ephemeral event, lasting only a few days.

As I was browsing the Internet this morning, I came across a set of windows installed at Bergdorfs, guess who provided the theme, Jason. I knew back when I first saw his work that it would make for striking window display. Sure enough it did…take a look,

Take a look at his Blog…

Here we go Again “Punk”

13 Sep

In case you haven't noticed this Fall has been a bit hard edged. On the other side of the color blocking and soft burnt orange knits it's black Leather, studs and expensive black tights. I love it, I made my mark as a “window dresser” back in the 70's when Punk first appeared, It was all about safety pins,leather pants and a anti – social vibe. The whole scene had changed, gone were the sweet peasant blouses and babies breath hairdos. My window displays were chaotic, irreverent and shocking social commentary was the mode du jour. I did not hesitate to join in and speak my mind. The Bicentennial in 76 saw Philadelphia full of trash due to a labor strike, so the window went trash, piled waist high around the smartly dressed mannequins. Broken glass could be replicated with tinsel carefully applied to the window pane, this was my all time favorite,a real head turner,but I took a good deal of flack. That was the whole point controversy was the goal.

Its a steal...the box coming through the broken window

Yes, I still have these photos

I was not alone in the trend toward reality windows [ironic that reality TV might have been born years ago]. Every trimmer was in on the act, Candy Pratts at Bloomingdales, Victor Hugo at ,Robert Currie at Bendels were all practitioners of the new window decor. Warhol reigned supreme. Everyone went for thier 15 minutes It was an exhilarating time, full of creativity. Im so glad I was there.

I garnered local recognition as the “L'enfant terrible” of Philadelphia which back then was not a hard thing to accomplish, it was still a Quaker town. We still had Blue laws and Republicans on the Main Line. All the better to shock the hell out of.

Get down with your bad self

Get out your glasses,some of this is priceless

Bergdorf just installed a set of “punk” windows, well sort of punk, couture is not the punk of the 70's, they traded the Army Navy and safety pins for a hot pair of Louboutins. A very clean version of Punk, not quite the display revolution of the 70's,but after all its,Bergdorf.

I see couture safety pins


We had platforms but not like these..


Congrats to Bergdorf for a stellar set of windows and thanks to all the others who made it possible the first time around.


Dad and the Lionel

2 Sep

My life long obsession with model building started as an infant. My Dad launched my passion with model trains, which he purchased for me in 1953. I was one year old, what could I possibly do with them? I was simply an excuse for him to play with them. All post war GIs loved them. They were his toy not mine. He built a huge layout in our basement, it had everything, I remember how he sit me on his lap and let me push the reostat, and drop the little pills in the stack so it would puff along. As I got older he let me take over, I would lay on that whistle and increase the speed hoping to derail it, which I did time and time again, much to Dads dismay. Time on,my sister was born and we moved, we never again had the space, the trains were packed up and sent to the attic.

As a much older teen I would occasionally set them up on the attic floor and long for the original layout, grass, gravel, trees and hills, but that was never to be again. Time moved on and I went away to college. Never really to return home, my mother called and informed me that they had sold the house and were moving into an apartment. She was going to hold a garage sale to get rid of everything, the train set was first on her mind. She did have the sensitivity to ask if she could sell it. Mom said she would forward the money to me if I gave her permission. What a fool I was,I said yes, she later sent me the fifty bucks she sold it for.

I have regretted that decision ever since. Not only because my is Lionel worth a good deal more now, around 500 bucks, OUCH, but I miss my trains and all that went with them, especially the building of the miniatures. Plasticville U.S.A. Produced hundreds of hometown buildings, a strangely appropriate name, don't you think? A plastic city doesn't have to be in a box, just take a ride to your local Walmart.

Years have passed and I found a way to satisfy my obsession with miniature model making. Being an urban dweller I knew a train layouts are square footage hungry and I had no room. While prowling around thift shops, to funish my humble flat I found a doll house kit, unassembled. Hell! why not I thought, little did I realize what that small and somewhat boring kit would morph into.

Its been over 30 years since I started building and It is still unfinished, The Painted Lady Hotel…..Collection of photos I've taken over the past 7 years…

On Flickr



Fall in French

1 Sep
I will readily admit that I am a total Francophile. I adore all things French. There are those who would take me to task on my obsession but as they say in France,” aller en enfers” The French pocess a heightened passion in all things they pursue and a taste for the dramatic, especially when it comes to affairs of the heart, food, and personal appearance, but more on that later.

It was my early exposure to Paris that formed my adoration of all things French. At 16 I was sent to Europe,to “Get Culture” For a kid from Ohio this was eye opening to say the least. The Parisians were beautiful, the buildings were beautiful ,the rain on evening streets was beautiful, everything was beautiful. What have I been missing? I asked myself. The French introduced me to the art of cafe sitting, solely to people watch an occupation I fully immersed myself in, The French sure know how to accessorise, Parisians can use a scarf like no other culture. Age appropriate was invented by the French and a good hair cut is everything, Paris taught me what true “style” was all about. I learned all the rules I stiil use today. My life was forever changed, Vive La France.

I have managed to visit France twice since my early exposure,that further solidified my love of the French.I've heard all the negative comments leveled by other Americans, the French are arrogant, the French are rude, the French are ,on and on. I pay it no mind, the French have the right to be proud, they do just about everything better than everyone, wine, food, clothes, art, furniture, EVERYTHING.They reached a level of cultural civilization centuries ago. America was years behind, in the big picture of time, we have only recently adopted style (most of which is French) We drink French roast coffee, we drool at a creme brulee, we love French wine but we still won't do snails, C'est dommage.

Like most art students in thier twenties I worked as a waiter.I was lucky to have worked in a very chic French restaurant, catering to Philadelphia's carriage trade. I still miss those staff dinners. Our chef de cuisine was a strict task master, a real Frenchman, he demanded the best, polish those glasses, the forks are on the right, Mon Dieu! he would say, Americans know nothing about fine dining. He thrived on personel intrique and loved to hear all the dish on the clientele as well as who was seeing who among the staff. (very French) He never missed an opportunity to add a bit more spice to the cassolet when recounted the latest news to others (also very French, more drama Sil vous plait) I still carry his words with me to this day, he would say, “there are only three types of people to pursue, in THIS order, The Rich, The Beautiful and The Talented.” He was right and that's why I love the French.

En septembre, je pense à la France et Edith Piaf….écouter


Rocky Land

31 Aug

I ran across this photo recently and it took me for a ride on the way back machine. This is the quintessential Philly photo. Its 1980 and the hoods have seen better days, but the scenario depicted has been the same for generations.These working class row homes are typical. They were built in the early 20th century to house the many mill and factory workers. Philadelphia's neighborhoods once produced a large percentage of the durable goods consumed by the U.S. furniture,fabrics,paints,carpets an endless list of products all came from the very neighborhood where I now sit to write this.

The 60's and 70s saw the decline of manufacture and the loss of jobs that supported these hoods. The exodus left behind a crumbling shell throughout most of the city. Many inhabitants simply left and those who stayed turned to drugs and crime. The once clean and tidy homes on streets like this fell prey to lack of maintenance and section 8 housing for the poor and unemployed. Philadelphia had lost its claim as workshop for the world and its pride.

As 1976 aproached the city mounted a no holds barred policy to put a better face on the rampant decay.The Bicentenial to celebrate the nation's 200th birthday was to be the defining moment for the city that gave us the Declaration of Independance and the Bill of Rights. What the BiCen did give us was programs to paint flower pots and curtains on plywood to fill broken windows along Broad Street and a trash collection strike,along with an ugly visitor center and the removal of the liberty bell from its place in Independance Hall to another ugly pavillion on the green.The high point was a visit from Queen Elizabeth..a good effort but, Philly was still second class.

Philadelphia had developed a inferiority complex of major proportions,no longer were we first in anything,a sad end to a glorious past. The came Rocky Balboa,the down on his luck, working class, corner hanging everyman hero The perfect metaphor for Philly in the 70's. I remember when Sly Stallone was here filming ( Adrian's pet shop is 4 blocks from my house) Our savior had come to resurrect our sinking city.Little diid we know just how influencial Rocky would be.

From the moment the film debuted, Philadelphians were energized, our underdog came out on top.If he won so could we. I think that was the moment that sparked our return to prominance. Philadelphia is a very different city than it was 30 years ago. Neighborhoods are coming back,our population is increasing our Arts scene is vibrant and our restaurants are world famous. Sure we have problems, things are never perfect, but Philly is full of strong minded, fiercly proud citizens (just attend an Eagles game) and some of us still thank Rocky for giving us back our pride.


Getting Strong Now


Why I had no Summer

29 Aug

Despite what the media tells us the retail bis is still tough.The last quarter was less than stellar. When one takes into consideration all the options available to consume its a wonder that “Brick and Mortar” still exists at all. The recession fundamentally changed the consumers head set,the lowest price has become the first priority in vast majority of shoppers. China has beat us at our game,their cheap labor has mortally wounded our manufacturing sector and while it provides us with cheap merchandise it has destroyed our middle class. The irony lies in the fact that it is our manufacturers who have given them the work. No thanks to our Congress and recent administration.

Our greed and entitlement have added fuel to the fire. Madison Ave. keeps cranking out advertising that tells us what we cant live without and we believe them. Hell bent on “keeping up with the jones” we have fallen into a misguided pattern that believes every generation should have more than the last. The reality is that we have become the 99% while the 1% calls all the shots

The reason I had no summer this year is a double edged sword,I was too damn busy. I suppose I should grateful but I'm not. My clients are all struggling to survive,due to rising costs of doing business and fending off online retailers. Rising taxes and no credit are killing owner operated retail, what happened to 30 day invoices? Suppliers want payment before shipping.Suppliers are in the same boat as retailers..everyone wants cash flow.It's a MESS.

There is a bright spot in all this doom and gloom, Shop Local has become the mantra for those socially conscious shoppers. As of late many ask me where the product was manufactured,a good sign. My own gentrifying hood is full of crafts people and artists aware of this trend. Nothing can replace the owner,customer relationship. To touch,feel and hold a product that the retailer believes in and can explain will never be replaced by free shipping and a prepaid return sticker from an anonymous online retailer, no matter how clever the user friendly pitch.

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