21 February 2017
Douglas Little: 'A good window should transport the viewer and provide a moment of pure fantasy'
Douglas Little is a master of visual communication and storytelling. He specialises in interpreting corporate identity and then transforming it into dramatic window displays, products, advertising and other media that articulate the unique sensibility of a particular brand.
A California native, Douglas Little originally studied marketing and product development at UCLA and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. After years of working for prominent companies in the beauty and cosmetics industry, he left America to study at the Syndicat National des Fabricants de Produits Aromatiques in Grasse, France. With that experience in hand, he returned to the U.S. in 2003 and founded D.L. & Co.: Modern Alchemists and Purveyors of Curious Goods. Douglas has applied his personal aesthetic to a wide range of products beginning with artisanal perfumed candles and extending to jewelry, porcelain, glass, writing papers, home accessories and personal care items. Douglas has produced window displays for Jim Thompson for both their Paris and London showrooms; as well as for an array of other well-known luxury brands. Most recently, he used his experience in window design as a judge on the American TV show 'Window Warriors'.
How did you first get in to window display design and what did you first love about it?
In 2006 I produced an editorial for House and Garden Magazine called "Gothic Splendor", the 8 page editorial celebrated the dark and romantic mood that had set into interior design. The images were shot in a spectacular mansion in Yonkers, New York where I curated a series of decadent tableaux's complete with legendary model and muse Carmen Dell'Orefice. I showed the images to Linda Fargo at Bergdorf Goodman who immediately suggested that they be windows at the store.
This is how it started. Up until this point I had not done windows per se. When I first got out of school I was recruited to work for a manufacturer of professional cosmetics as an art director. Part of my responsibilities was designing and producing trade show displays and environments for our product launches. This work provided the beginnings for my love of environmental design and developing unique ways of communicating brand identity and product display.
What initially sparked my interest in window display was that it was often overlooked by retailers. In 2006, when my "Gothic Splendor" windows debuted at Bergdorf Goodman, window dressing was not a major topic of discussion. Now, window dressing has made a massive resurgence with retailers investing big money in their windows, retailers understand that they are a unique and important means of communication with their customers. Outside of the business of window display I also love the immersive story telling that they allow. A good window should transport the viewer and provide a moment of pure fantasy.
What inspired the latest collection of fantastic beasts for the Jim Thompson Deco Off display?
When we begin discussing ideas for Paris Deco Off I ask Ou Baholyodhin (Creative Director for Jim Thompson) to tell me about his inspiration for the fabric collections. I was completely taken with Leo De Janeiro - the fabric pattern inspired by the dancing lion of January, and Ming Ming - the opulent silk jacquard adorned with traditional Asian motifs.
I wanted to take inspiration from the fabrics and bring them to life in an elegant and whimsical way, a sort of three-dimensional Chinoiserie behind the glass. With window display, you have about three seconds to get your viewers attention and these fantastic beasts are both visually arresting and charming.
Where do you go for inspiration for a new project and how do you come up with a new design?
I find a lot of my inspiration in fairytales, verses and idioms, like "cat got your tongue" or "thick as thieves”; I love these old fashioned sayings as they are imbedded into our subconscious and make for great visual inspiration. When I am developing a new design idea I like to draw my inspiration from the materials I am working with and let them "speak" to me. I personally feel that each material has a language of its own and it takes time and patience to articulate their poetry.
You are a window display and set designer but have also designed a wide range of products and have specialised in scent. Is working with scent very different to other aspects of design?
Working with scent is my passion. I have been obsessed with fragrance since I was a child and have spent any spare time indulging in its history and creation. What I love about fragrance is that it is invisible and dramatically different from my other design projects. Fragrance is also wildly personal and subject to interpretation, which is another reason that I love it so deeply. It causes us to communicate with one another in new and deeply engaging ways, talking about the way a fragrance makes one feel or how it reminds them of a loved one or favorite place and time.
(Explore Douglas’ Fragrance brand, Heretic Perfume here)
How do your various design expertise come together?
We are living in an age obsessed with technology and companies are trying to figure out new and innovative ways of engaging with their customers. Engaging the senses is one of the most important and poignant ways to do this. More and more I am being asked by clients to design the way something will look and how it might smell. In my work on Queen of the Night at the Diamond Horseshoe in NYC I was hired as the set and scent designer where I created opulent environmental design that was reinforced with fragrances that emphasized and accentuated the spaces.
When you’re not working, what do you love to do?
I am an avid motorcycle rider and enthusiast, love cooking, drinking wine and playing with our three bulldogs.
Aside from creating inventive window displays for Jim Thompson, Douglas’ client list includes Van Cleef & Arpels, Barney’s New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Maxfield Los Angeles, Neiman Marcus, Harry Winston, Mrs. John L. Strong, Ports 1961, Nasher Sculpture Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art. For more, visit his website here.
Posted by Amelia Jim Thompson on 21 Feb 2017