The visual geniuses at Anthropologie (Philadelphia) are good at turning everyday objects into works of art. In celebration of Earth Day 2011, the retailer chose to add a new material to its palette – 29,000 corks that would be recycled at the end of the window campaign to raise awareness about cork forest conservation. “We’ve used recycled wine bottles and water bottles, but I’ve never seen us use only corks,” says Rebecca Weller, visual manager of Anthropologie’s Cincinnati store at the Kenwood Towne Centre.
“People have brought in bags of corks to participate,” says Meg Moli, display coordinator at the Cincinnati location, who helped design and create the Earth Day displays. “It’s exciting to get people involved, anticipating something happening and to see us working on it in the windows.”
More than 150 Anthropologie stores joined in the window campaign. For the Cincinnati store, the retailer’s corporate offices contributed 10,000 of the corks, while 19,000 were collected from local customers and restaurants over a four-week period.
Moli and an intern spent nearly 140 hours creating the window displays, which included two interior mall windows and one exterior. Their materials palette included various textured corks, sono tubes (heavy-duty cardboard tubes from Home Depot), scrap toilet paper rolls, various shades of green paint, and Weeping Moss and Baby’s Tears plants from a local florist. “We chose the plants for their glossiness and small texture, which is similar to the corks,” says Moli. “I bought some varying shades of green plants to give some more dimension.”
She says her inspiration for the interior window came from a stacked button installation by artist Tara Donnovan that was on display at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center. Moli placed the corks on top of one another, supported by the tubes, to mimic a terrarium. She painted the tips of some of the corks green and glued the black synthetic corks in discrete locations. Mannequins inside the windows are dressed in spring fashions. “It’s an intimate display for our customers to discover the textures and moments,” she says. “But we did have worry about running out of corks.”
For the outside window, which took 40 hours to complete, the Anthropologie home office sent several prototype images and then allowed each store to pick and manipulate the best idea for their location, making no two Anthropologie windows exactly alike. In Cincinnati, Weller and Moli created a drive-by window that has thousands of corks placed in medallion-shaped circles, with plants jutting out from their centers. “We were big on repeating the circle shape,” Weller says. “It’s like a sideways view of a cork mound with a circle in the center where the plant life will grow out of.”
The window displays will come down in May. The Cincinnati Anthropologie store will donate its corks to the Salem, Ore.-based Cork Forest Conservation Alliance (CFCA) recycling program, which increases awareness of Mediterranean cork forests. Other stores may also choose to sell the displays through a silent auction with the proceeds going to CFCA, marking the first time Anthropologie has ever partnered with philanthropy.
“Ultimately, we’re all trying to create something that feels beautiful and is practical to the customer,” Weller says.