Behind Sony’s Windows
Christine Belich Melds Technology, Fashion and Art
“We have to make these boxes come to life for people,” says Christine Belich, vice president of visual presentations at Sony, a company that’s been thinking out-of-the-box with an entirely new approach to window design, one inspired by fashion design and art.
That may be why Sony hired Belich to head up its team. Her training in communications and art and experience in retail fashion has helped her refashion Sony Style’s image in hipper hues.
Belich got her start at Neiman Marcus as manager of visual planning in the fashion side of retail. “I learned everything I know about customers, creating customer experiences and visual merchandising design from my early days at Neiman,” she says. “It was a great place to grow up in this field. Stanley Marcus put such great importance on the look of the store and what it meant to the shopping experience long before everyone started talking about it. It was amazing training ground…I worked with so many talented people who were all artists in the field of display.”
Her study of communications and fine art has been an asset. “What I do now is a mix of the written and visual. It’s messaging to consumers in both a written (graphic) way along with 3D visual elements,” she reveals.
Now at Sony Style for nearly 16 years, Christine and her team are responsible for “everything creative that’s goes on in Sony stores.” With the help of some young and rising fashion designers, Belich has launched a cutting-edge and thoroughly contemporary series of window designs that are the talk of the town.
Belich’s fashion week project, a Madison Avenue window display staged to coincide with the launch of the Vaio P Series notebook computer, showed New York and the world the stylishness of its new device. “Everyone recognized that this computer would appeal to fashion people,” says Belich. “The new PC came in four fashion colors. It’s almost designed for the clutch bag.”
The designers who collaborated on the windows were distinctive, young, and hip. Renowned mannequin designer Ralph Pucci designed the mannequins. The Sony project, says Pucci, “was a perfect opportunity to showcase my latest mannequin collection, GIRL. The spirit of the mannequin collection was young, fresh and modern. The mannequins were in groups of threes and twos, leaning on each other, creating a sexy new attitude. The fashion designers created outfits that reflected a free spirit of originality.”
Each window had two or three mannequins outfitted in fashion colors. A tagline, “Sony Style: Where Fashion Meets Technology,” was superimposed at the corner of each window display.
A team of young and avant-garde fashion designers pushed the envelope, including Katy Rodriguez, minimalist Cushnie et Ochs (who used simple pencil sketches as the backwalls of the windows), rock-and-roll-inspired Elise Overland, Benjamin Cho, Libertine and Threeasfour.
The Fashion Week window display debuted in February 2009, but the encore act—Back-to-School Week—was just as interesting. The fall window display at the flagship Madison Avenue store used bright, fall colors: orange-and-green-hued fluorescent tones with the tagline “A Brave New School” proudly showcased several styles of computers, Readers (a line of electronic book viewers), and Bravia televisions. Fluorescent colors and a neon green sculpture of a bicycle grabbed attention.
Two elements—creative branding and design—are essential to any successful visual campaign. Christine Belich is master of both.For Belich, every design should resonate and enhance the Sony brand: quality, innovation and design. “Our products are amazing technologically as well as from a design perspective,” says the branding pro.
Color is a key component in design, according to Belich. “It’s such a critical thing,” she asserts But, for her, design is not all art; it’s also business. “We look at fashion trend forecasting for color design,” she reveals.
Similarly, branding is not all business—it’s intuitive. “I’m always really intrigued by the shopper,” Belich says. “You have to start in the heart of the consumer and try to predict what’s going to be important.” That means an acute sensitivity to what’s happening at the moment.
Right now, the economy has played a critical role. “You have to be able to justify why you should buy something,” she details. People are moved to buy products with a personal touch and are not just buying for themselves, she says.
Belich has a finely tuned business acumen and aesthetic sense. Each display is another challenge. “I love doing something different,” she says. “It’s a real challenge to be one step ahead.”
(Pictured): The Belich-helmed Fashion Week Sony Style window displays in New York provided the substance of a marketing campaign for Sony’s VAIO Lifestyle PC. Courtesy of Sony.