Something about the start of the holidays makes me eagerly anticipate the spirited moves of every major department store. This probably has to do with my longtime ritual of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and then tuning in to the original Miracle on 34th Street. Something about both those traditions makes me yearn for a time long past when stores weren’t busting doors in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday and my email inbox wasn’t blowing up with subject lines promoting deep discounts via Cyber Monday.
Call me old fashioned, but there’s still a thrill in going to the actual store to get my Christmas shopping done — and if not to shop, then to simply spend time wandering and looking at the holiday decorations, the hustle and bustle, and (of course) the holiday window displays. Side note: Among my favorites this year come by way of Barneys New York and its wildly modern winter wonderland and Harrod’s Oz-inspired windows in London.
Here in Dallas, naturally, Neiman Marcus Downtown takes the cake when it comes to getting the holiday mood just right. And right before I jetted out of town for Thanksgiving, the inimitable flagship store kicked off the season with the reveal of a special kind of Christmas tree — one that was not really a tree at all, but a sculpture of sorts, made of carefully constructed sparkling-white, painted wood pieces in a mod, tree shape that, at 15 feet tall, nearly reached the top of NM’s first-floor ceiling. Throughout each branch-y layer, round cutouts boasted 84 limited-edition ornaments.
Who took the credit? In celebration of his line’s 20th anniversary, designer Jay Strongwater conceptualized the tree and its dozens of oversized orbs exclusively for Neiman Marcus Downtown. For its debut, Strongwater came to town to sign just 40 numbered ornaments for a group of top-tier types — and even a few tots — including Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, who brought along her young daughter to select an ornament to hang on their own tree at home.
“Inspired by a long admiration for the decorative arts,” says Strongwater, “each of the 84 ornaments has been hand-painted and jeweled with Swarovski crystals in patterns ranging from Chinoiserie to Art Nouveau.” Indeed, the papillion-inspired ornaments are a sight to behold, but it is what tops the tree that was most impressive: a ruby crystal topper with jeweled butterflies.
I left Neiman Marcus that day fully prepared to decorate my own tree — albeit mine will be of the Noble Fir variety — and set with my next Christmas mission: Head back downtown to take a stroll around NM’s holiday windows, keeping one display called “Love to Give” in mind.
Created in collaboration with the Nasher Sculpture Center, this particular installation is decorated with artwork made by children, inspired by a prompt of “what giving means to them.” Indeed, nothing could encapsulate the spirit of giving much better.
As for that artful Strongwater tree, it remains on display through the end of this month, and gives good reason to make NM Downtown one of your holiday stops.