To achieve those visions, Olszewski contracts out much of the Christmas windows work to companies that fit the particular needs of a project. Standard Transmission, which is working on this year’s displays, is one. Manu Sawkar, owner of the company, says Olszewski’s love of craft is key to creating astonishment.
“Over the past several years working on smaller-scale projects with him, I’ve had the opportunity to watch and learn how his creative vision is expressed, and this has given me a tremendous amount of respect for Paul’s process,” Sawkar says.
Right around the time the current year’s displays are unveiled — usually the week before Thanksgiving — Olszewski says he starts thinking about the next year’s windows. “The process takes about a full year,” he says. “I start getting inspired as we install our Christmas windows, because I think the best time to get inspired is as you’re doing it. But it starts as a seed in the back of my head, and then come January and February we’re already sketching out ideas. Once we flesh something out in the spring, we have full-color renderings and models and we’re starting to build in the summer — all the way up until we unveil them the week before Thanksgiving. I get to live with Christmas all year round.”
During those rare few moments of the year when he isn’t completely absorbed with the holiday and other windows, Olszewski likes to … look at holiday windows. Seriously. Of course, the man has other interests. But when the job is done and the Herald Square window displays are presented to the public, Olszewski likes to be there to savor the reactions.
“I will go out and stand with the crowds or stand in line with them and listen to their reactions and watch the children,” he says. “That’s the biggest payoff for me. Hopefully we’ve done a good job, and they’re all in awe and just really getting involved in the windows. That’s how I measure the success of them.”
He’ll also take a walk around the city and check out the competition. He’s a windows guy.