Two weeks ago, Lord & Taylor unveiled its holiday windows theme "Christmas is the Moment," based on the the five senses and the wonderful things people enjoy during the holidays. The country's oldest department store and also the first retailer to move to Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor was also the first to create Christmas windows for "pure delight."

The flagship store at Fifth Avenue and 38th Street has a hydraulic lift system that carries the windows from the basement to the street level (the only one in the nation). We recently asked Manoel Renha, Vice President and Creative Director in charge of New York windows, about the designing the windows during the holidays and other times.

How long have you been designing windows? How did you get your start?
For over over two decades. I started right after I graduated with degrees in both Architecture and Industrial Design. A family friend who owned a chain of Department Stores in Brazil needed some direction with design and the rest is history. When I moved to New York I began working with Lord & Taylor.

How do you decide on this year's holiday window theme?
Each year you need to find inspiration that taps into the "feel" and "emotion" of the holiday season. This year I decided that the senses associated with the holidays was going to be a way to evoke the feeling of the holiday no matter where in the world you are visiting from. Ideas and inspiration are all around us and one needs to be open to trying out different concepts -- I always make sure we keep the traditional holiday themes that Lord & Taylor is known for around the world. Our windows are gifts to NYC and all who visit to enjoy this season.

When do you start planning the holiday window?
The planning process for the following year starts the day after we install the current window - - It's the best time to be inspired by the holidays when watching NYC come alive with the holiday spirit.

What about planning the non-holiday windows? How often do they change?
We have a total of 32 windows which are changed every other week throughout the year. We normally try to plan each window ahead of time with a six month calendar. There is much coordination with various departments,schedules, and events. There can be last minute changes and I love the face-paced challenge of getting them done on time. There is such excitement in the whole process of getting the details right.

Can you tell us a favorite story about one of a previous year's windows?
The year we had to re-build a window the night before the window unveiling. We were sending the windows to street level to put the final touches of lighting on them before going home and we accidentally let one window go past the proper stopping point which lead to crushing the top of the set (It is important to note that L&T prepares the windows in the basement and "magically" lifts them to street level via the only hydraulic lift system in the world). This story is a favorite because it reminds me of the dedication and drive the team has to make sure every detail is perfect - we worked through the night and the windows were unveiled without a problem and the crowds never even realized that we had such a dilemma the night before. That year we were once again honored with the title of "The Best Holiday Windows in NY".

2007_11_ltlight.jpgRecently, the Lord & Taylor building was named a landmark by the city. Does the building's history and play into how you develop designs?
Yes. I have such respect for the building due to my background in architecture. This year we were able to illuminate the entire facade to showcase the beauty of this 1914 building. I do make sure I design contemporary window themes as well...our customers are sophisticated, and I truly believe they too appreciate the blend of traditional and contemporary - this is, after all, New York City.

What about New York City inspires you?
Every day life in NYC is complete inspiration to me. This city is so alive with people from around the world. One never really knows where the next big idea will come from....movies, theatre, museums, galleries or just walking through the streets can lead to an idea from the most unexpected places.

What are other store displays that you like?
I really enjoy window shopping throughout the city to see what is happening - there is such immense talent in NY. I also find my trips to Europe help inspire me.

And how do you enjoy the holiday season?
Celebrating at home in front of the fireplace as often as possible with friends and family---isn't that what the holiday season is all about!

Lord & Taylor is located at 424 Fifth Avenue, at 38th Street. Recently, critic Francis Morrone wrote in the NY Sun, "Long the gold standard of New York's holiday windows, Lord & Taylor's this year are as fine as any I remember at the grand old store."