All Is Not Merry and Bright in the Season’s Most Shocking Retail Holiday Window

When silent nights are sinister

Retailers pull out all the stops for the holidays, which makes it a great time for window shopping: There's nothing like an enchanted display to make you feel delightfully childlike with your grownup dollars. 

This window in Toronto, though, might give you pause for reasons less merry. 

FCB Toronto conceived "The Window Project," which, from Dec. 6-13, appears in the window of the Untitled & Co. store in Toronto's Fashion District. The project was made for the Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH), in partnership with the Yellow Brick House. 

From a distance, the display looks like a garden-variety holiday window—a family at table in Christmas sweaters, surrounded by cheerful decorations. If you're extra observant, you'll see that none of the mannequins are smiling, which probably wouldn't strike you as such a big deal; they're mannequins, after all. 

But keep watching. Moments in, the man's hand flips upward in a disturbingly recognizable gesture; the woman's upper body reflexively pulls back.

"The holidays can be a confusing time for women in abusive relationships, especially when there are children involved," says Charlene Catchpole, chair of the OAITH board of directors, adding that many "put on a good face and project an image of stability to keep the holidays a happy time. Our hope is that this campaign will break the lingering culture of silence that exists around violence against women." 

In a 2013 study of family violence in Canada, nearly eight in 10 victims of intimate partner violence were shown to be female. Levels of domestic abuse and suicide spike dramatically over the holiday season, the video claims (though the Annenberg Public Policy Center has debunked this for suicide and even finds the opposite to be true, at least in the U.S.). Per Yellow Brick House, transitional shelters see a 30 percent average rise in support calls. 

But while the window may startle you, FCB also meant for it to be empowering: Window shoppers can stop the abuse, halting the display for 60 seconds at a time, by texting a donation of $5 to OAITH. This money will fund support for women and families impacted in Canada. 

"This effort gives every person the opportunity to personally witness the power one donation can make," FCB Toronto chief creative officer Jon Flannery says. It was also a motivator for Untitled & Co—co-owner and design director Chloe Sam-Mcgrath says the immediacy of impacting change was critical. 

"If one woman is helped by this effort, it worked," Sam-Mcgrath says.

The Dec. 6 launch date also coincided with the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada, established in 1991 to mark the anniversary of the murders of 14 young women at the École Polytechnique in Montréal, dubbed the Montreal Massacre of 1989. 

The case of the Montreal Massacre might be more familiar to Canada's southern neighbors than any of us would like, if only because it speaks what is now a fairly regular occurence: A young man entered a university, wandered from room to room dividing his victims by sex, and shot 24 women and four men, killing 14 women—his primary target. The led to more stringent gun controls and changes in how police tactically respond to such events, in addition to the day of remembrance.

Fourteen roses in the window represent each victim.


Project: The Window Project

Creative Agency: FCB Toronto

CEO: Tyler Turnbull

Chief Creative Officer: Jon Flannery

VP Creative Director: Jeff Hilts

VP Creative Director: Nancy Crimi-Lamanna

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