Window dresser

Meghan Lorenz designs creative window displays on a dime (okay, more like $60).
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By Jessica Herman. Photographs by Jeremy Bolen. |
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Multimedia inspirations It all started with the movie Mannequin. “It was my favorite movie as a kid,” 25-year-old Meghan Lorenz says. “I thought there was something so glamorous about a woman coming to life in a department store. I forgot about [the movie] until I watched it again as a senior in high school.” Because Lorenz was inspired by the movie, her uncle told her to check out Simon Doonan’s book Confessions of a Window Dresser. “I’d always been interested in fashion and art and when I read the book, I realized that [window-dressing] would be a perfect way to incorporate both things,” she says.

In the real world After studying retail management at Columbia College and working at Urban Outfitters in the Gold Coast as a saleswoman, she landed a full-time gig at Macy’s working with the window-display team. By the third day of work, Lorenz got her hands in the mix disassembling the Glamorama display, which featured a heavy tree trunk suspended from the ceiling. “[I immediately saw] how it was put together and learned how important it is to have a system,” she says. While she acquired technical skills and knowledge about construction and installation, “most of the Macy’s work was realizing someone else’s vision. I started missing my ideas,” so Lorenz decided to try freelancing for local boutiques.

Picking favorites Having befriended the owners of Wicker Park boutique Eskell, Lorenz offered to design their shop windows for free, affording her solid practice and publicity. For the second Eskell window, they asked her to riff on the theme of summer. “We needed one element of summer that made sense that people related to,” she says, “so I got bags of squirt guns from the Dollar Store.” Tying the small squirt guns to strips of coral, yellow and blue fabric and yarn hung from the ceiling, Lorenz created a colorful weblike backdrop for three dressed bust forms. Within months, she started picking up additional freelance gigs, including the Hard Rock Hotel, vintage boutique Dovetail and the Target pop-up shop on Michigan Avenue. Her favorite design to date? A delicious spread of real ice-cream cones filled with pastel pink and sea-green painted foam made to look like ice cream spilling all over the window case of Dovetail.

Finding inspiration “I try to go to a lot of galleries and openings to see what’s happening and different stores like Robin Richman and Eskell [where she still works] that visually inspire me,” Lorenz says. “Every month, I window-shop and walk up and down Michigan Ave to see what’s happening everywhere.” She also relies heavily on blogs, such as Citizen-Hawk.blogspot.com and TheMoldyDoily.typepad.com. “They’re not only for home decor but somehow it always translates to windows…like, I like this color palette and these crystals are cool.”

Tools of the trade “One thing I disliked about working at such a big place [like Macy’s] is they’re so wasteful. I try to use everything I can as much as I can.” In a spare room in her apartment, she keeps pom-poms, dozens of types of glue, acrylic paints, seashells, sequins, glitter, beads, tons of yarn, cardboard and branches—basically, materials that are versatile, cheap and pliable.

Treasure chests For sleuthing in thrift stores, Lorenz suggests Salvation Army outposts and also Unique Thrift for its bags of goods (including trim, scrunchies and ornaments) for a dollar. She also loads up at hardware stores and garage sales in the suburbs. “I did an event at Eskell with Mary [a friend who runs vintage clothing site Chitown Vintage] called Not Your Granny’s Panties,” she says. “We bought 100 pairs of vintage underwear, bras and garters, tie-dyed them and hung them from the ceiling from rope with clothespins.”

See for yourself Check out Lorenz’s work, a collaborative effort with friend Sarah McLaughlin, in the display cases at Rainbo Club (1150 N Damen Ave, 773-489-5999) through mid-October. “We wanted to do something reminiscent of childhood, very Care Bear and My Little Pony–inspired but with a modern touch of geometric shapes and tribal prints,” Lorenz says. Take a peek at her blog at electricbanana.typepad.com.

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