Aspen Times Weekly: What’s in a window

by Kelly J. Hayes
photos by Aubree Dallas


A conversation with Pitkin County Dry Goods window designer Dana Laughren

KH: Where does the inspiration for your windows come from?

DL: Inspiration comes from everywhere! What’s happening in fashion, color, media, what’s happening locally and what colors and styles are trending. I read trend reports and visual and retail merchandising journals. I create Pinterest boards about color, pattern, window ideas and fashion. I love collecting props and can find things everywhere — hardware stores are great for ideas!

KH: Are Christmas windows especially challenging?

DL: The Christmas window definitely has the most preparation and planning involved. We start early every year but it seems like we never decide until the fall. I take notes and pictures throughout the year when I travel for inspiration and sketch out a rough design for my boss, David Fleisher, to approve.

One of the craziest installs was when I collected broken mirrors from a local glass company for months and then smashed and glued pieces to boards to look like ice and covered the whole floor with it. It looked amazing with these glass penguins, but my hands were pretty cut up!

This year I really wanted to have a different look from all the urban, big-city shops that have opened and show that we are an Aspen, locally owned store. The theme this year is “rustic” and I carried it through to our Kraft paper packaging and gift options like candles in mason jars, etc. We’re kind of known for doing a mannequin a few times a year that is a “dress” made out of something unexpected. One of my favorites was a mannequin I made out of bicycle parts.

KH: So do you dig doing this?

DL: I love my job! It’s definitely my zen “happy place” when the creative juices are flowing. I love when a customer buys an outfit, head to toe, because they like how it looked in the window. I feel lucky that I get to create beautiful environments and I’m allowed a lot of creative freedom.

Aspen is many things. An amazing ski town. A haven for intellectuals. A wonderful wine community. But over the past couple of decades, it has developed into a shopper’s paradise. An exalted place in the pantheon of desired destinations for those who want the best of the best. Local emporiums and the crème de la crème of the world’s most aspirational brands sit cheek by jowl, lining the streets in the long shadows of Ajax Mountain. For those in need of retail therapy, Aspen is a must-stop. Especially at Christmas.

With the holiday season in full swing and the shop shelves stocked to their tippy tops, we thought it would be fun to cruise the streets and gaze, enviously, at the spectacle of some of Aspen’s most appealing windows.

Here then, is a look at the stuff that dreams are made of …

A ‘Gatsby-esque’ glow

As a boy in the Bronx, Ralph Lipschitz knew what it was like to be on the outside looking in. So when his fledging tie business morphed into POLO, one of America’s most iconic brands, Ralph Lauren made sure to reflect the dreams of his clientele in his store windows. The windows at the flagship shop on 72nd Street in Manhattan make you “want” not just the things, but the lifestyle that goes with them.

The Aspen store mirrors that approach. In Christmases past, there have been epic displays of RLX gear in skiing motifs and climbing scenes that resemble movie sets. This year, with the DOW hovering around 18,000, the windows went a bit Gatsby-esque. It looks like parties trump skiing this winter as off-white gowns and slacks ensembles dazzle and drape the rail-thin mannequins.

RALPH LAUREN • 501 E. Cooper Ave., 970-925-5147

Bunny brigade

Think rabbits and Easter may come to mind. But this year the bunnies at the McHugh Gallery are celebrating Christmas. A bright-white, big, beautiful bunny sits in the window, sporting 19th-century mercury glass Christmas ornament earrings that hang on satin ribbons from his ample ears. This meticulously crafted copper sculpture is covered with 60 to 80 coats of shiny lacquer and represents thousands of hours of handwork. He (or is it she?) would be a welcome addition to any menagerie.

Rounding out the theme is a series of paintings by renowned New York artist Hunt Slonem that also celebrates the joy of the Hare. Hop to it.

McHUGH GALLERY • 607 E. Cooper Ave., 970-925-4214

All dressed up

What does the perfectly dressed Aspen man look like? Why like any given mannequin in Pitkin County Dry Goods front window, of course. Dana Laughren’s (see sidebar, opposite page) window assemblages combine the ethos and elegance of what the Aspen man could/should/would wear if he had the design sense of the folks at PCDG. If fact, Dana so gets it that, rather than reflecting the Aspen man, her windows define him.

This year’s Christmas window features a casually dressed mannequin with a green bough of a Christmas tree sticking out of the top of the neck where a head should be. Simple, clean and green. Something to which we all can aspire.

PITKIN COUNTY DRY GOODS • 520 E. Cooper Ave., 970-925-1681

Cool cashmere

Cashmere is the fabric of the gods and this town has any number of stores that can cover deities — local and otherwise. Most bear Italian names, and while all will clothe you in cloth that feels as smooth as 3 inches of fresh snow on top of just groomed corduroy (for the righ price), I have always favored Loro Piana. Understated, clean and elegant, just looking at the way the cashmere falls makes me feel rich.

And, if I were rich, my LP indulgence would be the box of cashmere “MY-Socks” that sit in the window near the Paradise Bakery. One box. A dozen socks. Assorted colors. I may have no need for anything else ever again.

LORO PIANA • 316 S. Galena St., • 970-544-0502

In tune

While some windows showcase “things,” the subterranean window at Hamilton Sports showcases work. The labor that goes into putting a diamond-sharp edge and a silk-smooth waxy finish onto a pair of skis, make that 100 pairs of skis, each evening. In the small alcove on the Durant Street side of the shop is a window where you can watch the ski techs turn out perfection each night.

At this window you not only see the craftsmanship, you smell it as the hot wax fills the air. It is the smell of speed. Order tickets line the window of the shop and you can see the sparks fly as the edges get their grip.

HAMILTON SPORTS • 520 E. Durant Ave., 970-925-1200

Get thrifty

Here lie the ghosts of Christmases past. Yes, in one of the great bargain hunter destinations in all the world you’ll find a plethora of unused, or lightly used, gowns, ski outfits, men’s jackets and, of course, ties. Just peer at the windows. In most places this would be a town’s top shop.

And the most beautiful thing about The Thrift Shop of Aspen’s windows is it is stuff we all can afford from the other places in this story that may be, well, a bit beyond reach. Oh, and the profits go to support the community rather than a hedge fund. Window shop here, but definitely go inside as well.

THE THRIFT SHOP OF ASPEN 422 E. Hopkins Ave., 970-925-3121

Cowboy up

No window in Aspen says “Come on in and make yourself comfortable pardner” like Kemo Sabe. I think it’s the hats that hang on the walls and are visible from the windows that draw folks in. But once inside they can’t help but fall for the buckles, belts and boots. While it may seem to be a folksy Western store, make no mistake, these are Aspen Cowboys we are talking about.

In contrast to some other places that cater to the “all hat no-cattle crowd,” most of the customers of Kemo Sabe have plenty of cattle. If you get my drift.

They just need a great hat.

KEMO SABE • 434 E. Cooper Ave., • 970-925-7878

Full-on Blizzard

Toro, Toro, Toro. I’m not talking sushi, but rather the new Blizzard Skis (with the Bull on the skins) that are front and center in the window of Miller Sports. Bill Miller and Ted Davenport have built a beauty of a ski shop in the old Performance Ski Shop space and the juxtaposition between this store and the new Performance Ski, which is now next door in the old Pomeroy Sports (got that?), gives us a block chock full of the finest ski gear and clothing known to man.

Those Blizzard skis, which have been great on the snow but garish on the eyes the last couple of years, have received a stylish redesign and I am truly bullish on the Bull.

MILLER SPORTS • 408 S. Hunter St., • 970-920-1500

To serve and protect

The most impressive windows in all of Aspen are the behemoths that front the Aspen Fire Department on Hopkins. The glass doors that protect the gleaming trucks from the elements rise to let the engines emerge with a roar whenever danger is in our midst. They are a perfect marriage of form following function, and if you have ever seen the department leap into action when the great whistle blows you know what the adrenaline feels like.

Every kid wants, at some time, to be a firefighter. And taking the young ones to gaze through the windows at the pumper trucks, to tour the fire museum, and to pay homage at the slab of the World Trade Center structure in front of the firehouse is an Aspen-only experience.

Take a peak inside.


Western view

There are plenty of places to buy great art in this Valley, but few windows say so much in such a small space as the one next to Little Annie’s at Wind River Gallery. The perfectly lit D. Michael Thomas sculpture of a cowboy on horseback is a still life of a still moment. The rider, perched on a pony, appears to be gazing back over his shoulder into the past, perhaps contemplating a time before there were art museums, chairlifts, and yes, even Christmas windows, in this the Valley of the Utes.

The surrounding works by the icons of the Western art movement include paintings from Mark Keathley and Gene Speck that are colorful and evocative of the American West as it existed a hundred-plus years ago.

WIND RIVER GALLERY • 505 E. Hyman Ave., 970-925-3919

Smoked Out

The “smoked” glass window that adorns the front entrance to the newly remodeled Silverpeak cannabis shop serves a dual purpose. First, in accordance with state law, it conceals the contents of the shop from the under-aged. Secondly, like the magician who hides his hand before the big reveal, it sets a stage for amazement.

If Colorado is ground zero for the cannabis revolution in America, then Silverpeak is beyond, actually below, ground zero. This new dispensary will change the way the world looks at how it procures pot. I believe Silverpeak will be the most talked about place in town in 2015. It looks more like a jewelry shop than a “consumer marijuana dispensary.” Tasteful lighting, baby cannabis plants on display, exquisite woodwork. I knew this was coming, but I had no idea that THIS was coming.

You gotta’ take a Peak behind the window.

SILVERPEAK • 520 E. Cooper Ave., • 970-925-4372

A taste of the Alps

There are tons of luxury mountain lifestyle stores in Aspen. But as far as authenticity is concerned, none can hold a candle to the high-alpine empire built by Dave and Renie Gorsuch. The couple have been partners in life and business since they first met at the Junior National Ski Championships in Jackson Hole when they were just 14 years old, and today they are as timeless as their windows.

Gorsuch shops can be found in Aspen, Snowmass, Vail and beyond, each filled with items of envy. But it is the windows of the flagship Copper Avenue home furnishings store that beckon with comfort each holiday season. The display of lights, the snow globes, the cozy throw blankets and antler chandeliers all conjure images of the Alps.

Or the Rockies.

GORSUCH ON THE MALL • 419 E. Cooper Ave., 970-925-7576

Good eats and treats

In the center of town is this wonderful bakery offering delicious cookies and treats, and the green benches in front provide a great spot to enjoy a delightful, steaming hot chocolate or coffee drink. However, what wins you over to visit this bakery is the holiday window outside. Around the window there is an exceptional display of green garland, and wrapping the posts are big red bows with pinecones hanging all around. The icicles are a natural addition strewn across the top of the sills. The window draws your eye to the scrumptious treats. (by Kelley Francis, an Aspen Middle School sixth-grader who is mentoring at The Aspen Times)

PARADISE BAKERY & CAFÉ • 320 S. Galena St.,  970-925-7585