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VM choice: Selfridges works to put its heart in its window

As part of the Selfridges ‘Work It’ campaign about the way we work now, the current windows of the London store are a series of mise-en-scene. Originally a theatre term this is, in film terms, a single shot or image that summarizes an entire movie.

In this case the window is the heart of the topic, literally. Selfridges has put its heart in its end window. The opposite would be metteurs-en-scene, a disparaging term for movie directors who fail to put personal vision into their films - in VM terms, perhaps this would be an uninspired row of mannequins in a store of window.

Captioned ‘Labour of Work: basic needs,’ the pink, pegboard-backed window is filled with a larger peg-board heart, constructed in two parts and all bathed in pink-tinted light. A series of irregular shelves and hooks fill the surface of the heart and on them are hung or balanced an array of beauty and toiletries products. A giant pair of scissors fills the foreground.

This is a lovely example of perfect visual merchandising. We might think of VM as being like a tree: something that looks pleasing from a distance and then, as we move towards it, reveals itself to be equally interesting close-up. Just as the shape of the tree is pleasing so is the heart, and just as the leaves or bark is pleasing, so are the serried ranks of soaps and shampoo bottles.

Our eyes, or rather our brains, hugely enjoy comparing and contrasting the organized collection of pink bottles and containers. In more spiritual terms the display acts in much the same way that the Tibetan Buddhist thangka acts, as a trap for the attention due to its organised complexity.

This might be a sales assistant’s idea of heaven, with merchandise arranged in perfectly straight lines and no customers to disturb.

The contrasting shapes and analogous-toned pinks are very pleasing together, as is the gap between the heart sections where a column of mugs suspended on red cord varies the repetition.

Some large items – a giant clothes peg, a comb, some scissors, vary the scale. This just stops the display from being relentlessly busy, which would be tiring to the eye. The scissors might, of course, be responsible for the heart being in two parts.

Concertina files are displayed with each opened pocket decorated with a pen. Arcs of pocket envelopes create the gracefully curved top of the heart on the right side.

And the reimagined use of peg-board rescues what was a banal retail prop for store walls of the past. Changing the scale and colour adds interest.

Selfridges has also created an entertaining film about the work: http://www.selfridges.com/content/work-it-film