Interview with prop master & window stylist, Erin O’

  • Words: Spindle

We sat down with Erin O’ – Prop Stylist, Window Dresser, Prop Master and all-round-NYC girl who is a contributing writer for Spindle Magazine. Her column is called “Diamond In The NYC Ruff” where she interviews her NYC fashion industry friends who started small and rose to the top in the hardest city in the world.

We now flip the switch and interview her to discuss her upcoming role as contestant on Game Show Network’s competition-based reality show Window Warriors. The show follows 8 contestants competing for a $100,000 prize where they will display their visual/window talents. They are given a challenge direction from various retailers that have specific guidelines the contestants must abide by in a very short period of time.

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Spindle asked Erin O’ a few questions:

So you grew up outside of Boston in a small town called Chelmsford… What was that like?

Well let’s just say at a very early age, I knew I would be leaving the town and move on to a city where diversity, culture and fashion would all be a part of what would make me tick. My first trip to Ireland/UK was in 1986. My family is from Tipperary in Ireland and I begged to make a weekend trip to London as I was frequently sneaking down the basement to watch 120 Minutes on MTV, where a short, bald headed man named Matt Pinfield (who I later became friends with in the music industry) was introducing me to bands like Depeche Mode, The Cure, New Order, and The Cult as a VJ. I was hooked – these alternative and mesmerising music videos from the UK had me wanting Doc Martens, Vivienne Westwood t-shirts and a lifestyle nothing in Boston was offering. The clothes, the punk attitude and the obscure art direction in these videos, made me long for the punk style I live for today.

Did you get to go and experience it for a weekend?

Yes, and it changed my life. The windows at Selfridges, the Mods, the Punks, the Mohawks, the friendly people, the energy and vibe reminded me of NYC with a flair. I started following the fashion and culture which were heavily influenced by music, which made me crave it more and when I returned home, I followed and listened to everything and anything that screamed God Save the Queen, I wanted some type of God to save me from this boring, fashion-less, mundane place I called home.

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When did you get into window dressing?

Well I’m an old Window Queen (Simon Doonan called me that when he signed my copy of confessions of a window dresser back in 2000). I had interned with the house of Emanuel Ungaro, and joined the Bloomingdales team as a Manager. I tried it out, but I would watch the visual crew changing the displays and walked by the windows thinking, ‘now that’s what I dreamed of as a kid.’ Helping Donna Summer find Pantyhose was cool, but yeah my calling was in those windows. I answered a classified ad in the back of a Village Voice paper and got hired as a Visual Trimmer (aka a chick who was about to help the world’s largest store, Macy’s, decorate for the holidays).

What companies have you worked for in your 20+ years of living in NYC?

Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Burberry, Chanel, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and many small independent stores, such as Peruvian Connection which is one of my favourites. I design for them quite often.

A few years back you turned direction in your career and focused more on the prop styling side of the business. Why?

Well, although it’s a magical and amazing feeling being on the inside of beautiful window displays in NYC, prop styling gives me a bit more control of my talent and I get to collaborate with art directors, editors and creatives that I feel more at home with. My ideas and my styling are more appreciated in this field. I get to see ad campaigns, billboards and e-commerce sites with my styling touch! Oh yeah and it pays like triple the salary! When I work for other retailers, I take a huge pay cut, but it’s a passion and I love I could never give up.

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Does music play a part in your creations?

Oh my God, I have one tattoo that says in French “Sans La Musique, Je N’Existe Pas! Which means “Without Music I Don’t Exist” there’s a story behind how music literally saved my life a few years back, but that’s a whole other article!

Set the scene, you get one window, one day to create with one person… who is it, where are you and what’s your theme for the window?

Easy! Me and Vivienne Westwood would design this scene. Fortnum & Mason Tea Shop… We get to create a Tea & Punk Rock Window Display… we have live British musicians inside the window serenading an extravagant table of of cool Londoners who support environmental issues our world needs to address. Anarchy at a tea party, cling cling cling! Russell Brand would be outside on the sidewalk orchestrating the protest that Londoners could join in on!

Brilliant Erin, let me make a call to the Miss Westwood and Mr Brand… Thank you so much for your time.

Window Warriors will be airing 15th November, 9pm ET, on Game Show Network.