Toronto’s department store holiday window displays, ranked
By this point in the holiday season, Toronto shoppers have passed the festive displays of the city’s various department stores a hundred times (or more)—and surely picked a favourite or two. At least we have. Here, Toronto Life’s very unofficial ranking of the city’s best department-store holiday displays (plus one slightly sombre honourable mention).
1. Saks Fifth Avenue
The high-end retailer unveiled its holiday windows with a splash earlier this month, when it paid Mariah Carey a whopping $1 million to perform two songs at the unveiling. Saks’ windows live up to the fanfare: each contains one of nine glittering, hand-painted mannequins as part of Saks’ “Land of 1,000 Delights” displays. Each figure is decked out in custom-made garb built from giant candy canes, gingerbread men and hundreds of hard candies (some real, some fake). It’s whimsy worthy of Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton-style) and captures the holiday spirit in a way that’s kind of off-kilter, in the best possible way.
2. Holt Renfrew Flagship
Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street location is reliable for the opulence of its annual holiday displays, which always forego the traditional trappings of Christmas for something decidedly more haute. This year is no different: the display mannequins pose and preen in shadowy winterscapes, with heads and faces replaced by feathered caps, giant snowflakes and billowing, abstract sculptures. It’s artistic, but it’s also good advertising, since all of the mannequins are wearing garb from high-end designers—like a red floor-length gown from Dolce and Gabbana, or an elaborate, embroidered mustard-yellow overcoat from Prada—that’s available for purchase inside.
3. The Bay
The Queen Street HBC is a holiday mainstay at the downtown Eaton Centre, and its window displays are more traditional—and kid-friendly—than the previous two. Each of the five windows features hand-sculpted holiday animals (there are 35 of them in total), frolicking in adorable winter scenes. More than 350 square feet of LED lighting illuminates the animated displays, which also feature holiday music. They’re cute, cuddly and super fun to watch—particularly handy for family shopping excursions that have gotten a bit fussy.
The second big American department store to land at the Eaton Centre in 2016 (the first was, of course, the aforementioned Saks) went as simple as can be with its holiday decor at both its downtown and Yorkdale locations: just a few gigantic ornaments emblazoned on the store’s exterior windows and interior entrances. They’re nice and understated, and make use of Nordstrom’s soaring indoor facade at the Eaton Centre (and act as a great backdrop for the mall’s huge, illuminated reindeer).
5. Honourable mention: Honest Ed’s
No, Honest Ed’s didn’t do anything particularly interesting with its iconic Bloor- and Bathurst-facing windows this holiday season, but it makes the list simply because this’ll be the last time those windows feature anything holiday related at all from Honest Ed’s. The store is closing up shop permanently on Dec. 31; in the meantime, you might still be able to snag a $5.99 full-size fuchsia Christmas tree (though probably not).