The events of September 11 brought me to a favorite spot high on the Hudson River, to reflect. Gazing southward, even from 20 miles away, I could detect a distinct pillar of smoke ascending over what remained of the twin icons of the New York skyline.
Has any good come from the events of Sept. 11, 2001? I found a glimmer of hope. The aftermath witnessed an amazing coming together of so many people from so many diverse political, ethnic and ideological groups. Americans of all cultural backgrounds joined hands and hearts. Observing the universal outpouring of generosity and oneness was inspiring. But what about the future?
It might seem frivolous and unimportant to consider issues of store design. The "retail wars" seem to pale in the wake of this storm. But in bad times as well as good, retail can be a chronicle of the life we live. The past hundred years have been defined by times of peace and prosperity and times of war and desperation; times of isolation and times of unity; times of simplicity; and times of unimaginable technologies. These times and events - from the impact of cast iron architecture, to the devastation of two world wars, to the advent of the Internet - have all been reported in some manner by our industry.
And now this precarious crossroad, the shaking of the very foundation of our civilization. The towers of the World Trade Center were the biggest physical entities in a city already the embodiment of "big." They were icons to our strength and resolve. Oddly, the towers now seem to loom even larger. The ground below the emptiness has become hallowed.
And the new century is still brimming with promise and hope for a united world. Going forward, we will share alternative construction techniques and explore the nature of new materials. We will enjoy an intensified globalization of the manufacturing process, whereby a garment might be designed in Milan of Egyptian weaves, made in Hong Kong and distributed in New York.
Billions of marketing dollars will be invested to ensure worldwide recognition of brands. A new professional ethic, based on universal design, will address the health, safety and welfare of the shopping public. Stores will be designed for the human experience: interior space for human function at human scale. Designers will strive for a mutually beneficial relationship with the environment as we move toward whole earth design. In our stores, mannequin changes will be made at the speed of a mouse click as customers marvel at the latest fashions projected on strategically positioned plasma screens.
It's the incessant beat of ongoing history that moves us to a better place. As in the Beatles'epic "A Day in the Life," the music of the 20th Century built to a fevered pitch, a crescendo that peaked on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Though we move ahead, we must reflect. We will always be touched by the actions that turned a moment into forever.