windows 1978 - 1985 Simon Doonan
London 1977. I was young, feral and living in Battersea and then I met Tommy Perse.
He admired my window design at a tailor shop on Savile Row named Nutters. We bonded over vermin. The display in question featured a coffin and stuffed rats in mini-tuxedos. “Your windows are sick,” he said, and offered me a job at Maxfield which was then located on Santa Monica at Doheny and named Maxfield Bleu.
At the age of 26, I emigrated from London to West Hollywood. I responded immediately to the run-down weirdness of 70’s Los Angeles – this was the era of the notorious ‘Hillside Strangler’ – and channeled it into my window displays. I prop’d the windows with a broad range of objects. Examples include stuffed warthogs, medical supplies, kitsch objects from party stores, plus junk from K-mart, thrift shops, dumpsters and wrecking yards. My infantile, cheeky tableaux meshed with Tommy’s subversive fashion aesthetic, and, most importantly, his window mannequins.
Tommy is, amongst other things, a visionary flea-market devotee who had amassed and restored a collection of mostly French antique display dummies. With their glass eyes and real human hair and teeth – I’m not kidding – they expressed a haunting doll-like irony and innocence totally lacking in contemporary window mannequins.
I immediately felt an overwhelming desire to catapult Tommy’s mannequins into inappropriate and jarring situations. They looked surprised to find themselves in my little vignettes. The juxtaposition of my punky scenarios and Tommy’s innocent-but-creepy mannequins – more Kienholz than Neiman Marcus – gave my Maxfield windows a singular look.