If your holiday decorating typically begins on Christmas Eve with a trip to Duane Reade, consider this: Production designers Shari Anlauf and Joe Tate start theirs in August, when they begin sourcing materials to design holiday windows for some of the city's best stores. This season, they did the slick, neon-lit ones at DKNY; in the past, they've worked with Barneys, Bergdorf's, Fendi, and FAO Schwarz. Last Christmas, Polo Ralph Lauren windows cost tens of thousands in trimmings alone -- pricey silk flowers from Dulken & Derrick, antique ribbons from Hyman Hendler, and odds and ends from insider-y antiques shops like Paula Rubenstein. But more often than not, Shari and Joe hunt in professional supply shops. These aren't particularly cheery themselves, but -- as we discovered tagging along on a shopping expedition last week -- they have everything you need to get into the spirit on a shoestring.
Spools of ribbon hang from floor to ceiling at Daytona Trimmings, a dusty garment-district shop that supplies designers with every imaginable kind of adornments. Most ribbons here are under 50 cents a yard, and even the more intricate ones -- embroidered, sequined, beaded, or metallic -- rarely cost more than $3 or $4. As Joe says, the place "blows Kate's Paperie out of the water." He and Shari have an enviable knack for making rather silly-looking stuff look very stylish and modern (for DKNY, they made wigs out of $7-a-yard extra-wide pink raffia-fringed plastic ribbon). But beginners are advised to experiment with disco-y sequined elastic styles (50 cents a yard), folksy embroidered cottons (mostly $3 a yard), or skinny, old-fashioned zigzag ribbons in dozens of saturated pastel colors (25 cents a yard). Wider ribbons make chic, easy garlands for trees and are snazzy accents on other decorations. "I'm putting olive boughs from the flower district over my doorways," Shari says as she unrolls a funky, Moroccan-patterned spool ($3 a yard). "This would be great for tying them."
With all those ribbons, you don't need fancy wrapping paper. In fact, these two prefer makeshift versions -- artists' parchments, French marbled papers, and handmade Japanese rice paper from Pearl Paint ($2 to $5 a sheet -- significantly less than this stuff costs when packaged as wrapping paper). Minimalists: Retire that tired brown craft paper in your closet. Shari has a better idea: Red Rosin, the sturdy reddish paper used by movers and painters to protect floors, has the same effect and is far more original ($12 for a 500-square-foot roll at Janovic stores). Use it alone or tie it with pretty ribbons "for a leather-and-lace kind of look." Finally, pick up a load of bulk-priced tissue paper in white or beige from Wolf Paper & Twine ($26 for two reams -- that's 960 sheets), where these two buy chipboard to make papier-mâché sculptures (like the faux cakes and hams Joe once whipped up for Barneys). And while you're at it, Shari points out, you might as well pick up a few boxes to stow your creations in at the end of the season.
For flashier materials -- say a disco-chic gold foil or, for that matter, a disco ball -- Shari and Joe swear by Industrial Plastics, a dark, grungy Canal Street source of gargoyles, garden sculptures, plastic desk accessories, and loads of metallic papers and plastic sheeting. Kodak Halosheen, a delicate, iridescent mylar, is Shari's favorite. "So spacey and icy -- for that really special present," she marvels ($7.95 a yard). Joe prefers a kitschy pink-and-yellow-painted version -- and adores deliciously garish perforated fuchsia foil streamers: "Bows! ribbons! garlands!" The possibilities are endless ($3.50 a yard). Festive "linens" are a cinch with a few yards of the shop's translucent plastic sheeting. Shari inspects a rippled-looking gold roll. "Use those square-edged shears to cut it," she suggests, for glam mats or runners ($18 a yard). "Or a tree skirt," Joe pipes in, fashioning a red version into a cone. With these two, nothing is useless. Tinted clear-plastic bowls? Joe holds two together, "cheap instant packaging," he insists.
Dulken & Derrick, 12 W. 21st St. (212-929-3614); Hyman Hendler & Sons, 67 W. 38th St. (212-840-8393); Paula Rubenstein Antiques, 65 Prince St. (212-966-8954); Daytona Trimmings, 251 W. 39th St. (212-354-1713); Pearl Paint, 308 Canal St. (212-431-7932) and 207 E. 23rd St. (212-592-2179); Wolf Paper & Twine, 680 Sixth Ave., near 21st St. (212-675-4870); Industrial Plastic Supply, 309 Canal St. (212-226-2010).
Picks of the Week
Vera Wang evening wear is up to 75 percent off. Short dresses are from $200; beaded gowns are about $800. 980 Madison Ave., near 77th St., third floor (212-879-1700); A.E., M.C., V.; Tues.-Wed. 10-5; 12/12-12/13.
Oscar de la Renta's glamorous leftover fall clothes -- everything from suits and sweaters to ball gowns -- are 75 percent off, from $200 to $1,500. Etoile Café, 109 E. 56th St. (212-753-7690); M.C., V.; Wed. 9-7, Thurs. till 3; 12/13-12/14.
Stuart Weitzman's fall shoes and boots are at least 30 percent off (buy more, save more). Original prices are $170 to $350. 625 Madison Ave., near 59th St. (212-750-2555); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 10-6:30, Sat. till 6, Sun. noon-5; 12/8 until supplies last.
Trussardi's luxe Italian leather -- bags, clothes, shearling coats, and more -- is 50 to 70 percent off, from $50. 20 W. 57th St., 6th floor (212-246-9860); A.E., M.C., V.; Thurs.-Fri. 9-6; 12/14-12/15.
Georgia Hughes is taking half off her glamorous wool hats, many with fur trim (at stores like Bendel's). Prices are $165 to $350. 45 E. 89th St. (212-996-5183); checks accepted; Mon.-Sun. noon-6; 12/11-12/17.
Capezio is taking 15 to 25 percent off everything during its one-day sale. Stock up on leotards, dance shoes, and accessories. 1650 Broadway, at 51st St., second floor (212-245-2130), and 1776 Broadway, at 57th St., second floor (212-586-5140); A.E., M.C., V.; Wed. 9-9; 12/13.
Bajra shawls and pashmina accessories and Catherine's colorful, ultra-feminine dresses and knits are all 60 to 80 percent off, from $40 to $500. 24 W. 40th St., first floor (212-877-579-0222); A.E., M.C., V.; Tues.-Fri. 8-7, Thurs. till 8, Sat. 10-4; 12/12-12/16.
Noir supertrendy jewelry, bags, belts, and hair things are 30 to 50 percent off, from $25 for hoop earrings to $180 for a low-slung belt with a crystal star buckle. 208 W. 29th St., second floor (212-244-4846); A.E., M.C., V.; Wed.-Thurs. 11-6, Fri. till 5; 12/13-12/15.
Jane Bohan is taking at least half off loads of her pretty, fashion-y jewels, including faceted peridot bead necklaces (from $475), pearl bracelets (from $265), and gold and semiprecious stone stud earrings (from $115). 236 W. 30th St., seventh floor (212-594-7103); A.E., M.C., V.; Wed.-Fri. 11-6; 12/13-12/15.
Kokin's many, many kinds of hats -- crushable leather, cashmere knit, structured mink-trimmed, and more (sold at stores like Barneys and Bendels) -- are at least 70 percent off, $15-$180 (usually $75-$850). You'll also find wraps and handbags. 20 W. 36th St., tenth floor (212-643-8225); cash only; Wed.-Fri. 9-5:30; 12/13-12/15.
Annabel Ingall's of-the-moment fur accessories and hand-knit wool ones (at Saks), are 25 to 60 percent off. 80 W. 40th St., seventh floor (212-719-4676); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 9-6; 12/11-12/15.
Gabriele Sanders top-end pashmina -- shawls, pj's, pillows, and baby blankets -- in a huge range of colors (not just pastels) is half off, from $50 for a shawl to $500 for a blanket. 33 Bleecker St., second floor (212-260-5600); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Thurs. 10-7; 12/18-12/21.