My crystal ball has a crack in it. Two years ago I predicted that by now women would surely have tired of dressing like hoochie dancers and switched to black turtleneck sweaters and gray pencil skirts. Think Doris Day in Teacher’s Pet. Yet hoochie lives on. Last year I opined that platforms had peaked, and gosh darn it if they are not still ascending.
I guess I’m just not much of a visionary. In fact, my list of could-I-have-got-it-more-wrongs gets longer every day. Examples: Phones that take pictures. “That’s retarded,” said I. “Why take lousy, miniscule third-rate photos of something that you can already see with your own fabulous naked eyes?” BlackBerrying: “Never going to catch on,” said I. “People will run out of things to say after about eight minutes and then stick it in a drawer.”
And then there’s the Green movement, possibly my biggest unprediction of all time.
Let’s go back, way back. Eighteen months ago the subject of “green,” not the color but the colloquial word for eco-consciousness, came up at Barneys, with particular reference to the holiday season. Both CEO Howard Socol and fashion director Julie Gilhart felt strongly that we should throw our hemp undies into the ring and join the green revolution.
I had other ideas for Holiday ’07: “How about a ‘Jackson’-themed holiday? We could fill the windows with effigies of everyone with the last name Jackson—La Toya, Jesse, Samuel. They don’t all have to be black. What about Kate? We could also include a few politicians and/or serial killers plus some obscure Jacksons like Mahalia and Millie.”
When asked what I thought of the notion of a Green Holiday, my reaction was swift and wildly unprescient: “The future belongs to flashy, superficial, nouveau riche people like Victoria Beckham and myself,” I intoned, adding, “yes, we recycle—who doesn’t?—but the Green movement will never get a foothold in our luxury-obsessed world of flossy-flossy fashion.”
Fortunately for all concerned at Barneys, I was outvoted. Being the team player that I pretend to be, I hopped onboard and set about the task of envisioning the campaign—HAVE A GREEN HOLIDAY!—and creating some totally organic visuals.
I started by taking some twee holiday icons and giving them a Green twist: How does “Frosty the Fair-Trade Snowman” grab you? A little contrived? Not if you compare it with “Elvira the Environmentally Conscious Elf.” We ended up settling for “Rudolph the Recycling Reindeer.” Adorning both shopping bags and windows, Rudolph would be our Green holiday icon.
All throughout the spring and summer we elves over at Barneys’ fair-trade sweatshop were toiling away on graphics, catalog shoots and window props. A charity tie-in with American Forests was solidified: Barneys would make a donation of 25,000 trees. The Barneys buyers, meanwhile, were developing and finding gorgeous Green gifts and sensationally sustainable swag. Designers Phillip Lim and Stella McCartney, among others, were enlisted to make fabulously fair-trade fashion. By last August we had fabricated the wood frames for our giant Rudolphs. (The Barneys flagship stores around the country were each scheduled to receive at least one.) Now all we had to do was procure the billions of recycled cans needed to encrust Rudolph’s massive head and antlers. Next stop, the Bowery.
First we started buying sacks of cans from homeless people at recycling centers. This was a dodgy, unfragrant undertaking at the best of times, involving ugly shakedowns and lots of bad language. And then there were the bugs. The huge mounds of fetid cans introduced all manner of vermin to our already vermin-infested display studio.
The bottle tops—these were mosaic’d onto Rudolph’s face—were easier to come by. Every Barneys window dresser seemed to know somebody who worked in a bar in the East Village. These good souls were more than happy to save all their beer-bottle tops. (Sincere thanks to all the downtown drunks whose discards now adorn Rudolph’s visage!)
The second week of November: It’s all systems go. Time to install the holiday dioramas. Will I be proven wrong, yet again, or will people start demonstrating outside the windows and accuse me of polluting the environment with glitter and glue-gun fumes?
All my misgivings were for naught: The minute we started to unload the props into the windows, people were screaming and banging on the window in a wild orgy of Green solidarity. They seemed grateful for the fact that we had added a dollop of humor to the sometimes preachy and earnest Green movement. They were even singing along with our Green version of the 12 days of Christmas:
“On the twelfth day of Christmas my pro-Green true love gave to me …”
“12 tons of tofu,”
“11 solar panels,”
“10 New Age gurus,”
“9 organic carob bars,”
“8 tickets to Burning Man,”
“7 sustainable ostrich farms,”
“6 compost toilets,”
“5 rolls of recycled gift wrap,”
“4 fair-trade futons,”
“3 free-range sustainable-farmed organic hens,”
“2 vegan chefs,”
“and a Prius in a pear tree.”
For next year’s windows I have decided—given how horribly wrong I was about this year’s theme—to come up with an idea and then do the complete opposite.