Chain saws, chisels, drills…these may not be the elements that come immediately to mind when one envisions a typical holiday window, but when it comes to our partnership with the world-renowned ice carvers of Queens-based Okamoto Studio, these tools of the trade are integral parts of the creation of something wonderfully unexpected.
As part of our Chillin’ Out holiday windows, Barneys’ visual team—led by creative director Dennis Freedman—paired with Shintaro Okamoto and the other artists of his namesake studio to create “The Ice Carvers,” the title of the window at our Madison Avenue flagship. Okamoto and his fellow carvers are presenting live performances of their craft, transforming blocks of ice into winter-themed creations as crowds look on. “We want to celebrate and glorify the craft, but also the sense of beauty and performance that I think works so well with Barneys’ aesthetic,” Shintaro told us. “People can see the process start to finish, beginning with the raw blocks of ice.”
To make this amazing feat possible, the Barneys team worked to transform the window into a custom-built, fully functioning 35-foot-long ice locker. The walk-in freezer maintains the perfect temp for ice—between 3 and 15 degrees—and serves as a stylized satellite studio for the Okamoto team, putting their craft on display with multiple performances each day. The window also acts as a gallery for their completed pieces, which rotate as new sculptures are created.
“Every inch of the space was considered and discussed, from where the full ice blocks are to exist, to how to move them to the pedestal to carve, to where the scrap ice goes, and even to how to minimize cut ice hitting the windows,” Okamoto says. “The goal is to make it all look natural and as necessary as if we’ve belonged inside Barneys forever!”
“It’s been so cool to see all our tools chromed and see ice and snow flying all over inside and people staying for hours to watch a block of ice turn into penguins and bears and cityscapes,” Okamoto told us. “It’s always rewarding to see what was only a scribble of ideas on paper few months ago turn into a fully immersive experience the whole world gets to enjoy.”
The all-metallic freezer components are echoed not only in the freshly chromed tools the carvers use, but also in the silver-themed clothing they wear, all custom designed by Thom Browne for Moncler Gamme Bleu. Along with their silver blazers, vests, and jumpsuits, carvers are also outfitted with silver cashmere gloves, beanies, neck warmers, and scarves, all exclusively available at Barneys this season. “We appreciate the depth of care Barneys advocated when working with Moncler to design what we wear inside the freezer, so as to make sure function of warmth and comfort was not compromised over fashion,” Okamoto told us. “We’re nearly sweating inside when working, and it’s almost zero degrees!”
“The Ice Carvers” featuring Okamoto Studio is on display now through December 31, and will feature new sculptures daily. “We hope the people on Madison Avenue will be awed at the range of artistry possible with ice,” Okamoto said. “We believe ice is an under-discovered, under-appreciated medium, and we hope that our presence at Barneys will elevate the appreciation for what we do every day.”
To see the sculptors live, be sure to head to Barneys to see this amazing work up being done at the following times:
There will be no performances on Christmas Day.