New York It’s what all young women do in their spare time: lounge in frilly underwear, fiddle with their rhinestone belly button rings and prance on the sofa, oblivious to passers-by peeping through un-covered windows.
Well, not quite, but the provocatively clad women going about their business on Fifth Avenue aren’t typical. They are an advertisement for the clothing and accessories retailer XOXO, whose live window display featuring two models — friends who live in Los Angeles — engaged in mundane activities is a mega-hit this shopping season.
“Are they real?” one man asked incredulously, whipping his head around toward the window Tuesday as Helene Traasavik and Niki Huey sipped coffee and dabbled on their laptops while wearing lacy lingerie, short robes (open in the front) and slippers.
“I came all the way from Queens to see it,” said another man who gave his name only as Tin.
Whether the display will translate to a permanent boon for XOXO remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: It’s drawing more attention than tiny reindeer and Santa’s sleigh ever would.
Since “the show,” as locals have dubbed it, opened Nov. 27, traffic to XOXO.com has increased 35 percent, said Erin Haggerty of the Kellwood Company — which designs, manufactures and markets goods that include XOXO’s flirty, feminine fashions.
Some of the increase is from Black Friday and Cyber Monday surges, Haggerty said. But some no doubt can be attributed to the buzz the advertisement has created in a city famous for its residents’ ability to barrel down the sidewalks while ignoring the street theater around them.
At the corner of 38th Street and Fifth Avenue, women and men alike stop to stare. Amused strangers debate everything from the appropriateness to the point of it all.
“We have to approach things in nontraditional ways,” said Carol Powley, Kellwood’s senior marketing director. “This is a look into the first apartment, if you will, of an XOXO girl.”
The models spend most of their daily six hours in the window in lingerie, sipping coffee, chatting and checking e-mails on their laptops. Yes, they have WiFi. All that’s missing to make it perfectly homey, it seems, is a cat. And curtains.
This week, neither cold rain nor frigid winds stopped people from standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows once Traasavik and Huey sauntered into view at noon. Most of the lingering men would not give their full names, and they scattered like snowflakes when a TV crew turned its camera in their direction. But all of them had opinions.
“I wouldn’t otherwise look at their Web site, so this was a way of getting my attention,” said an electrician named Chris, adding that his wife might like the blue booties on one model’s feet. “I wouldn’t have noticed them on a mannequin, but on her legs I did. Maybe now I’ll buy them.”
All agreed that the display was mild compared with what one might see in Amsterdam’s red-light district — a view shared by many women passers-by.
“It’s cute. It sure got my attention, but it would help if they put on more clothes so we knew what the items looked like,” Dee Sealey said.
Nobody has formally complained, according to police spokesman Martin Speechley. The biggest problem seems to be the ruckus that ensues each time the models stand up, drop their robes and move toward the clothing rack — a sign that it’s time to shimmy into some clothes and then take them off again. Men press close to the windows. They wave. They hold up signs. One lifted his shirt and pressed his bare chest against the glass.
It’s hopeless, though. Huey and Traasavik, both professional models, have no trouble ignoring what’s going outside.
“We’re kind of used to being stared at,” Huey said good-naturedly.
“It’s so laid-back, it’s almost like not working,” Traasavik said.