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VM choice: Goyard, humour and handbags

Not only does Goyard in Paris have impressive Fall/Winter windows – it has also taken the trouble to display pictures of the windows on its website. While many premium brands add their Christmas windows to their websites, this is the first time I have observed one add its windows as a matter of course.

The Saint Honore store is the flagship of this French heritage brand best known for its leather print goods, and so gets special treatment. There is much more than the stack of leather print covered trunks on the pavement that we tend to associate with a Goyard store.

Unusually, Goyard’s campaign employs humour. Humour in VM can be problematic as displays strives to be eye-catching but not controversial, attracting positive attention but not negative comment.

The secret to success is, as Goyard has found, to employ gentle visual humour, remembering that we work in a global market. Verbal puns might be missed by overseas visitors.

Goyard’s theme imagines a number of possible ideas in which its leather-goods feature. This one displays a part-opened, silver leather print covered suitcase, lined in golden-yellow leather and filled with colourful paints. A handful of artists’ brushes, each with a plain white wooden handle, clutter the shallow white plinth. More peep from the leather-covered jewellery case to the right side of the window. Above, is a framed image of a rainbow with a French caption below, which translates as: ‘Travel Kit for Gloomy Weather.’

The bright colour and the use of an expensive suitcase as a paint box brings a smile to customers’ faces, underlined by the weather-appropriate caption. This is exactly the response that humour in VM should generate. Not visible in the image is the English translation of the caption, positioned neatly at the foot of the plinth.

In this window, captioned ‘Bubble gum get away above the American plains,’ the translation is visible at the foot of the plinth below two leather-print bags. One is resting on a sea of pink bubble gum while the other, stuffed with a single giant pink bubble gum, is flying away.

Customer are invited to imagine that this one piece ofgum, which represents the sole individualist amongst its brethren, has inflated and escaped. It is no longer earth-bound and is taking a handbag with it. Perhaps a secondary message is that these are handbags for individuals? Note the thoughtful use of colour too: the pale-pink nicely enhances the strong blue of the bags, and on the white ground they look very crisp.

In this window a dark leather-print trunk spills its contents: a massive number of words, cut from a black acetate sheet. Above, but not visible in this image, is an opened book, revealing two completely blank pages. The caption: ‘Police search at the Academie Francaise following the theft of One Hundred Thousand million poems.’

The Paris-based Academie Francaise was founded in 1635 and is composed of forty members, usually authors, with their own elaborate uniform. It is the pre-eminent council for matters pertaining to the French language, vocabulary, and grammar, on which it advises. The Academie Francaise has been thought unduly conservative and ridiculed for attempting to prevent Americanisms – ‘le hamburger’ – from entering the French language. The idea that these eminent members might steal words is, of course, laughable.

Here a yellow handbag, attached with a tangle of lines to a stylized air-balloon, appears to have jumped from a dark moon, fitted with a small yellow diving board. Captioned: ‘High Diving from the dark face for the moon,’ the curved shape of the top of the bag, the balloon, and the moon are sympathetically pleasing.

Captioned ‘What if I spruced up the trees for winter?’ are three seasonally-red handbags filled with green leather leaves. A further pile in front is secured with paper bands, just as money is banded in bulk at the bank. At the back of the window is a small leafless bonsai tree awaiting the proposed attention. Note the nice pun on the word ‘spruce:’ both a type of fir tree, and a verb to mean ‘to tidy-up.’

Altogether lovely windows, using humour that is so imaginative. Let’s hope we see more humour in VM. We all, customers and VM practitioners alike, welcome windows that make us smile.