- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

DALLAS (AP) - Whether it’s lipstick-red shoe soles or the latest Chanel bag, Ignaz Gorischek knows you want what you can’t have. As vice president of store development for Neiman Marcus, he has crafted store windows for 35 years.

Gorischek and his staff provide the visual catnip to turn passers-by into customers, driving them into the Main Street flagship store downtown. He creates the fantasy tableaux that transform wants into needs.

In Gorischek’s summer windows, perfectly appointed mannequins in Belstaff jackets perch on vintage motorcycles like European socialites. The goal is to stir the imagination.

“If they’re dressed in a way you can connect with, you can imagine yourself wearing those clothes,” Gorischek tells The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/1Dytw2A). “It’s fantasy, because you take yourself and put yourself in that world.”

Through a hidden door in the corner of Neiman Marcus’ shoe section is a warehouse-like space filled with bolts of fabric and nude mannequins. Away from the marble and gold lacquer of the sales floor, the storeroom is the office for Gorischek’s team.

Gorischek leads visual planning and presentation for all Neiman Marcus stores. Mari Lavergne, manager of visual presentation at Neiman Marcus’ downtown store, heads up the location’s five-person staff.

A window display starts with the Neiman Marcus corporate office, which names 10 major trends each season from which Gorischek’s team may choose. Once a final determination is made, the team must also factor in a designer’s vision for the brand.

Lavergne said the team does extensive research to understand a designer’s vision. Partnerships are sometimes formed with a designer’s visual team to style the windows.

“Some designers are very specific and guarded. Others are like, ‘Editorialize this,’” Lavergne says. “You’re juggling all this as well as the directive from corporate.”

Lead stylist Ray Souders steps in next. Dressed in a punk-inspired outfit of combat boots and red plaid pants, Souders picked apart the outfits on his mannequins for pre-fall “Global Chic” windows. The late-summer display was meant to provoke wanderlust in shoppers.

“It’s a spinoff of the boho trend,” Souders says. “This girl spends more money on a world-exploring trip. She goes where she wants to go, and she buys what she wants.”

The three mannequins are dressed in couture and ready-to-wear. Dresses are layered on top of pants and accessorized with woven leather jackets, ornate bangles, oversize sunglasses and statement necklaces.

“Our clients don’t need anything,” Souders says. “But they want it. So, it’s about enticing them.”

Souders has been at Neiman Marcus for 25 years. To Gorischek, he is “one of the top mannequin stylists in the country.”

Inside Souders’ workspace, creative stimulus comes in all forms: A mannequin sits atop a filing cabinet; a bookshelf is filled with international issues of Vogue, various British fashion magazines, Tim Burton dolls, feathers, oversize scissors and beads.

“You never know what it could be,” Lavergne says of Souders’ work environment. “Inspiration literally comes from everywhere. Anything can trigger that one window.”

The mannequins are then transported to the windows. Two visual stylists, Gracie Martinez and Ean Parsons, work on signage and “collateral” - backdrops, sets, props and “anything that enhances the fashion,” Lavergne says.

Putting up the windows can take anywhere from two hours to two days. Lighting, collateral, placement and the letters on the windows all have to be exact.

“It’s not just the styling,” Lavergne says. “It’s like theater. The way we highlight it has to be precise.”

Most of the time, collateral is the first thing in the window, and lighting is designed last. A key design consideration is how the windows will look at all hours.

“The best time to look at the windows is at night because we have lighting effects,” Lavergne says.

Most mannequins at Neiman Marcus are fabricated to the exact measurements of a real model. Supermodels Yasmin Le Bon, Jodie Kidd and Erin O’Connor are among the ranks of those whose figures have been used as guides in the process. According to Souders, mannequin sculptors sometimes scout up-and-coming models who sit for these creations. Souders has mannequins dating back to the late 1970s that he still uses.

“They’re so well-done and they’re so well-sculpted it’s, if anything, just updating the makeup,” Souders says.

According to Souders and Lavergne, fewer stores use true-to-life mannequins because they require more upkeep. Most store mannequins are styled by an associate who has an interest in styling, Souders says. The Neiman Marcus flagship store has a five-person staff on the job, including a visual manager, assistant, lead stylist and two visual stylists.

Many stores are also shifting to abstract mannequins, which can be less time-intensive to prepare, Lavergne says. Abstract mannequins take the shape of a person, but are typically monochromatic and lack defined facial features. For example, Valentino’s store mannequins are white and faceless except for a bright lip in the designer’s signature red.

“It’s a faster process and a less detailed process,” Lavergne says.

For “Global Chic,” Souders used realistic mannequins to keep the display from looking like an exhibit, he says.

Though the Neiman Marcus staff does use abstract mannequins, in certain instances they can cause a display to look “more like a museum installation,” Souders says.

For the Belstaff window, Souders wanted the mannequins to appear as if they were riding the 1951 motorcycles. The mannequins’ limited flexibility prevented them from being seated on the motorbikes, so they were placed in a standing position.

“We started researching (the motorcycles). They were the ones the nuns and priests used in Italy, and they had to be ridden standing up because of their robes,” Lavergne said. “It worked out amazingly.”

Gorischek stands on the street in observation as the window styling process unfolds. This is his favorite part - watching his team work.

“You can see all the passion they have, and they’re proud of what they do,” he says. “So you get to watch, and it’s fun to step back.”

Gorischek has worked in visual presentation for department stores for 35 years. He’s worked on every aspect of visual display and says he used to spend weeks building a prop for a window.

“It’s a thin sheet of glass separating you from this fantasy world,” he says.

Gorischek’s windows also pay tribute to the surrounding Dallas community. In July, the store highlighted the “Oscar De La Renta: Five Decades of Style” exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center with a display of the designer’s fashions.

“The windows are the eyes and soul of our building,” Lavergne says. “It’s not always just fashion. It’s events, it’s culture, it’s community.”

The team is gearing up for its pride and joy, according to Lavergne: holiday windows. Last year, 8,000 adults and children made their way through an elaborate crawl-tube display, Lavergne says.

It was the kids’ reactions to the windows that made Lavergne the happiest.

“My favorite thing to see is the kids’ noses and handprints stuck on the window from pressing their face to the glass,” she says.

But the displays crafted by Gorischek’s team enchant year-round. Lavergne and Souders say they sometimes get calls from customers driving past the store who ask them about an outfit on a mannequin.

“My favorite reaction is, ‘I have to have it,’” Souders says.

___

Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide