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Visual Retail Artist Talks Holiday Windows

The FIDM Advisory Council member shares the magic of the season.

Award-winning visual retail artist Roya Sullivan has had an illustrious career as the former Design Director of Visual Merchandising at Bloomingdale’s and National Window Director at Macy’s. Today, Roya is the VP of Projects and Client Services at Harlequin Design, a London-based company known for producing and installing retail design, windows, and pop-up spaces. We recently caught up with Roya, who is an Advisory Council member to FIDM’s Visual Communications program, to chat about her journey, holiday windows around the world, and the recent work she’s done for Macy’s and New York City’s Fifth Avenue Foundation.

How did you get into visuals and window design? After attending the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, D.C., I wanted to work and earn some money so I went into the closest mall and applied at different places and one was [the former department store] May Company, and the gentleman suggested I should join the visuals team. I worked there for a year and then came to New York City and went to grad school. I’d seen the movie Mannequin so I knew that it was an option for someone interested in art and fashion and styling and bringing it all together.

What are some trends you’re seeing this season with holiday windows around the world? For holidays it’s all about shine. I think people have been cooped up for a couple years, so being able to be out, I see retailers focusing on holiday celebrations even though it’s careful. People definitely want to dress up. People still want to be comfortable, but I definitely see a surge in holiday gold and silver and glitter.

What continues to excite or inspire you regarding windows? I think it’s the magic of it all. When we install Christmas windows or install anything that has animatronics or an interactive aspect to it and you see people say “That’s amazing.” That to me is what’s inspiration — it’s bringing that other level of artistry to it.

Tell us about Harlequin Design’s collaboration with Macy’s and New York’s Fifth Avenue for the holidays: We created a window called “That’s What Friends Are For,” which focused on Tiptoe, a young reindeer who doesn’t know how to fly, and her friends helping her learn and encouraging her. For the Fifth Avenue Foundation, we designed The Pulitzer Fountain and turned it into an experience with animatronics and beautifully sculpted animals with holiday themes.

What advice would you share with students interested in a career in window design or visuals? I would say for sure this is a career that is not what it was when I first started. There were many department stores and window activations. Now you need to think differently — it’s pop-ups, as well as limited time activations in a quick rented space. I think those are the future of holiday and holiday windows and where any type of activation lies.

Learn more online at harlequin-design.com or on Instagram @roya_windows.