The Jac+ Jack store in Bondi showcasing an inventive new window display using LED technology and etched sheets of perspex 
Credit: Courtesy of Jac+ Jack

It is rare, for reasons other than sheer size and spectacle, sound and set design, that a Christmas window will leave a lasting impression on its viewer. After all, ’tisn’t really the season for restraint or minimalism.

That said, two of the most effective Christmas window displays I have seen this year at home and abroad do more with light and light alone than an entire artillery of visual merchandisers armed with polar bears and hackneyed workshop motifs could ever hope to do.

The results are, to my mind, far more captivating in their execution, and not only speak to the spirit of the season but do so in a way that’s far more engaging and inclusive than a snow speckled nativity scene could ever hope to be.

Untitled (1996) by Dan Flavin, seen in situ at Calvin Klein’s Madison Avenue flagship store
Credit: Daniel Shea/Courtesy of Calvin Klein

The first, admittedly, is indebted to the work of the late conceptual American artist Dan Flavin, who preferred to think of his lighting installations not as works of minimalism (the movement with which he’s so often [mis] aligned) but as ‘propositions’ for spaces transformed and made electric using configurations of his signature standard-issue fluorescent light tubes. One such work, Untitled, was commissioned by Calvin Klein himself for the designer’s austere Madison Avenue flagship store in 1996.

The artist’s penultimate work (he died in November that same year) uses extensive red and white lighting fixtures to spectacular effect, so much so that, per chief creative officer Raf Simons’s request, it has been reinstalled on the 20th anniversary of the artist’s death as the first outward gesture of the recently-installed Simons. It’s a move that suggests both reverence for the label’s heritage and reiterates the incumbent designer’s fascination with contemporary art history, evinced in his affinity for artists like Sterling Ruby and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Dan Flavin’s Untitled (1996) illuminates the windows of the Calvin Klein flagship store in Manhattan
Credit: Daniel Shea/Courtesy of Calvin Klein

Closer to home, another label using light to evoke a sense of festivity is Jac+ Jack.

“We like the idea of more abstract concepts that evoke a holiday feel and what Christmas means to different people,” Jacqueline Hunt, co-founder and design director, told GRAZIA. “Our installations are about being positive, uplifting and festive.”

Using LED light, the label’s storefront windows have come to resemble iridescent, effervescent petri dishes. The concept informing them is based on a memory belonging to their European graphic designer, Mattia Pellegrini, for whom the idea of a summer Christmas spent beachside is somewhat of a novelty. The result is a stylised rendering of “the glimmer of light on the ocean as the sun sets” – a moment Hunt hopes will evoke memories of festive gatherings with friends, and one that speaks to the brand’s desire to apply “new and creative approach to everything we do.”

True to the spirit of the label, Jac+ Jack’s LED lighting installation does away the seasonal inclination toward excess
Credit: Courtesy of Jac+ Jack

“We try to be as resolved as possible across concept, design, delivery and product. It’s about creating an exciting environment and product for our clients, sometimes it’s surprising. We want to inspire people and delight them with new and interesting ideas.”

Unlike Flavin’s work, which relied on inexpensive, standard-sized fluorescent lamps, fixtures and wiring, the label had to develop a new LED technique in collaboration with their fabricator using perspex etchings and die cut vinyl to achieve the final effect of a crepuscular Christmas.

“The concept of scale is always challenging,” says Hunt, “Translating something so minuscule as a pin point reflection on water in a way that is recognisable on a larger scale. We also had to evolve the idea to the nuances of each store, to execute something truly special that works across all our stores required us to step away from the norm. It was a bit of an experiment, to be honest, and one that worked really well.” 

The result is an inarguable success that puts an unmistakably Antipodean spin on a white Christmas – proof positive that, despite what we’re often told when it comes to considering Christmas, less is almost certainly always more.

Tile and cover image: Courtesy of Jac and Jack