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Wednesday, January 3, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Shop window reflects teen's display dream

Seattle Times retail reporter

Two winters ago, Ryan Conover got his wish.

After years of prodding, his family took him to New York City for the holidays. There, he stood in front of the Saks Fifth Avenue window for nearly two hours, indifferent to the cold.

He was too busy studying the theatrics behind a fashion-industry icon — the upscale department-store window display.

Somewhere between Rockefeller Center and the Waldorf Astoria, a window dresser was born.

Conover, now 15 (and ½), is the talent behind Zovo Lingerie's strikingly sophisticated seasonal window display in University Village, the nascent company's flagship store.

For Conover, an Eastlake High School student, the display embodies a lifelong fascination with fashion and art, and a knack for creating displays that belie his age and experience.

Conover says simply, "I hot-glue gun everything."

He created Zovo's first window display last February for Victoria Roberts, the store's owner and lifelong friend of his mother's.

The second time around, he pitched the winter-holiday window over dinner. He brought along an image board.

Conover's idea: "One Upon A Time ... ," a visual story about an Ice Queen and Snow Princess. He started with Robert Tonner fashion dolls, a sort of high-end Barbie with bendable joints.

After years of altering his sister's dolls, he opted to take off their makeup with nail polish remover and repaint the eyes, adding individual eyelashes for dramatic effect.

Roberts remembers taking Conover to a wholesale Christmas-supply store so he could search for an icy cliff — a prop he needed for the Ice Queen, of course.

(The Snow Princess would be on the opposite end of the display, suspended from the roof, delicately floating at an angle.)

In the store, he eyed a rock fountain, one that looked nothing like an icy cliff.

"Sure enough, his mother called me up the next morning," Roberts says. "She walked into his room at 4 o'clock in the morning. He still has a glue gun in his hand. He turned it into an icy glacier."

He designed costumes for the Snow Queen and Ice Princess with soft gray and blue fabrics and a bit of his grandmother's stockings. Somehow, it works.

To make an edgier Ice Queen, he broke a picture frame and applied the glass shards to her dress.

"I wanted it to look as sharp and fierce as I could make," Conover says.

In the end, he made everything in the display, save a handful of large snowflakes. The unicorn began as an old brown doll horse transformed by coats of white spray paint, a feather-boa mane and false eyelashes.

Amy Conover says she has grown accustomed to her son's projects.

She recalls a sixth-grade assignment on Thailand. While most of Conover's classmates built traditional wooden houses, he opted for the royal palace, wrapped in gold lamé with miniature furniture.

"He shrunk down photos of Thai gods and framed them inside his miniature house," she says.

At Zovo, Conover's holiday display not only turned heads, it increased traffic. The week Conover's display went up in December, store traffic rose 16 percent compared with the year before.

Roberts was surprised by the end result.

"When they showed up at the store with all the elements, he just blew my mind," she says. "The vision that he had — he didn't leave out one detail."

Monica Soto Ouchi: 206-515-5632 or msoto@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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