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VM choice: Barrie charms in Paris

Wandering along Rue Saint Honore in Paris en route to pay homage at Collette I was struck by the display in the Barrie knitwear store, a pop-up, or ‘boutique éphemere’ in French, now in its third season of Chanel ownership. The store, adjacent to the Chanel shoe and cosmetic stores, occupies two floors and has a corner window. Let’s take a closer look.

The side window catches attention through the casual use of sweaters knotted around the shoulder or waist of body forms. We are accustomed to seeing merchandise treated rather reverently, not casually played-with as we might play with our own clothes. Add a few giant wooden cones and yarn-covered discs of card - the sort used to make giant pom-poms - and the result is intriguing.

Around the corner the actual store window features sweetly posed the body forms. They seem to be having a real conversation about the sweater in the straw basket and their interest inspires our interest, which is exactly what VM is intended to achieve. Again, sweaters are knotted and draped, and even make impromptu skirts, all with a cream, pink, pale blue, and navy colour way with touches of red. Wearing a sweater as a skirt seems almost plausible here, although it breaks the general VM rule ‘do not torture the merchandise.’ That is, do not use the merchandise to dress mannequins in a way in which the merchandise would never really be worn.

Inside the store the merchandise has been displayed mixing styles and colours, with repeated use of cream to prevent the display looking too manic.

The upper floor includes a body form which seems to have just laid out the folded merchandise on the pale blue-stained table, set off by a white floor strewn with a navy/cream rug and William Morris-style Arts & Crafts prints on the staircase. Notice those twinned spotlights throughout the store softly lighting the merchandise.

In the adjacent side window two body forms show a sweater, their heads perfectly tilted to suggest that they are watching customer in conversation.

The VM here employs very simple body forms and some, admittedly lovely, merchandise. What sets the displays head and shoulders above much VM is the skill of the visual merchandiser – who I understand in this instance works for the Chanel team – and his or her clear understanding of the store and the merchandise.