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Saturday 1 October 2016

The man creating Christmas memories across generations

A team of 30, led by John Redmond, will create a winter wonderland in the Brown Thomas window

Published 29/11/2015 | 02:30

Store of wonders: John Redmond, Creative Director, Brown Thomas Group
Store of wonders: John Redmond, Creative Director, Brown Thomas Group

For over 30 years, the shimmering wonderland behind the iconic Brown Thomas windows on Dublin's Grafton Street has attracted eager pilgrims.

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Parents from all over the country have taken their children by the hand, leading them from one window to the next, as they peek into a fairytale world amid of the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers.

You may not recognise him, but this is the man who dreams up the magic that inspired some of your childhood Christmas memories.

From dressing the windows of his mother's shop at 14 years of age, creative director of the Brown Thomas Group, John Redmond now has his dream job.

"We are trying to create memories for people. That is the most important thing. The best part is quietly looking out at the front of the shop and seeing faces as they walk from window to window. The big day is December 6, that's when a lot of people will come to see them and it kicks off the festive season.

"We have had some great openings. The crowds froze to the spot when Eimear Quinn sang here one year, while Michael Buble famously closed down Grafton Street with the number of fans he attracted," he recalls.

Each exterior of the Grafton Street store boasts 150,000 lights, while the window display is a year in the making and has a team of 30 working as hard as Santa's elves while you sleep.

"We do make a special effort not to let people see the window displays go up. The team work through the night like Santa's little elves. One year, when a project on Alice in Wonderland wasn't what we felt it should be, they worked in warehouses around the city to get it done. There's a lot of work and commitment that goes into getting the job done."

Redmond is already preparing for Christmas 2016, flying from New York to Tokyo to pick up ideas to bring home for the following year.

It was just over a decade ago when the team caused a stir with the decision to change the display from children's stuffed animals and toys to a more luxury adult feel.

John explains: "We don't sell toys in Brown Thomas, most of what is on sale is for adults, so we have to look at what products are for sale.

"With the growth of shopping centres, furry toys are something you would expect to find there, so we wanted to do something a bit different and make our mark in our own way."

The theme in the windows this year at Dublin's luxury department store is the 'Store of Wonders'.

The group teamed up with Irish children's author Ciara Molloy Tan to write the story - which is then told across each of the windows divided by scenes.

As John explains: "We have decided to celebrate the art of storytelling. We are doing fairytales and enchanted stories with a Brown Thomas twist."

Sunday Independent

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