Photography by Keiron O’Connor
Styling by Darren Greenblatt
Wardrobe courtesy of Bergdorf Goodman’s exclusive 111th-anniversary collection, created by more than 100 designers this fall as a toast to the iconic store’s fashionable history.
THE CLASSIC LUXURY STORE BERGDORF GOODMAN has turned 111, but it doesn’t look a day over 40! And everyone there is rightfully proud of themselves because there’s a lot of history to celebrate (which a book and a documentary-Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf Goodman and Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s, respectively-recently commemorated to lots of hoopla).
This, after all, is the glorious one-stop destination for the haute, hot and happening. It’s the place where Grace Kelly ordered her wedding invites and where Jackie Kennedy was gowned for her husband’s inaugural ball. What’s more, when the European collections department opened on the second floor in 1977, Jackie was told by then-CEO Ira Neimark, “The floor was designed for you!” (She was so thrilled by the compliment, she kept coming back for more, always in pursuit of one more glamorous ensemble.)
The place gained extra immortality through the years thanks to mentions in films like How to Marry a Millionaire, North by Northwest and That Touch of Mink, and on Sex and the City, this was Carrie Bradshaw’s second home, the place where the acquisitive columnist felt she belonged way more than at her writing desk. And that particular addiction had long been brewing, obviously. Our model, AnnaSophia Robb, plays the teen Carrie in The CW’s prequel series The Carrie Diaries, and here she’s decked out in Bergdorf’s finest, looking every bit the rising star with an eye for upscale.
Founded by French arrival Herman Bergdorf in 1899 (and renamed Bergdorf Goodman in 1901, when Bergdorf joined forces with merchant Edwin Goodman), the store moved to its current location at 58th Street and Fifth Avenue-the site of the Vanderbilt mansion-in 1928. For decades since, it’s proved an untouchable oasis of style, even as trends, recessions and personal tastes come and go.
In 1972, Bergdorf Goodman was sold to Carter Hawley Hale Stores, and in 1987 became part of the Neiman Marcus group. And starting in 1975, a key player was the innovative Dawn Mello, who came aboard as the vice president of fashion and became president in 1984. In 1996, Mello and VP Richard Lambertson hired Linda Fargo (who 10 years later would graduate to senior vice president), bringing her bold talent to the all-important visuals that make everything look appealing and procurable.
Fargo remembers helping usher in an all-new transitional period. “When we got here in ‘96, it was kind of dusty, there hadn’t been much work on the store, and we invested in it and took risks with the image,” she says. “I started doing some notable windows, like a carnival window with girls in Mary McFadden dresses as mummies lying on a bed of nails. We moved past something that was only about being pretty, and started looking for things that were gutsier-a little more risky, but still tasteful.
“That created a trickle into the rest of the store,” says Fargo. “It was a bit of a perfect storm of people. There was new leadership, money spent on renovations, and our marketing got hipper. I think by 2001, we were feeling like we were in a bit of a renaissance.”
The beauty of Bergdorf’s is that it somehow manages to feel pricey yet comfortable. From the counters upon counters of makeup and perfume on the beauty level to the second floor that Jackie loved (it currently houses the likes of Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Armani, Gucci and Tom Ford) to the decorative home items and BG Restaurant on seven and beyond, the store seems to get even more surreally fabulous with every elevator ride. The 40-percent-off racks are extremely welcome these days, but the chichi clients walking their beautifully sculptured dogs around the place are mainly looking for extravagant and exclusive dresses and crystal at any cost.
And let’s not forget that right across the street (since 1990) is the Bergdorf Goodman Men’s Store, where the other half looks for leather jackets, watches, sunglasses, boots and imported ties.
Says Fargo, “I think Bergdorf’s is utterly authentic and original. People say, “Why would you choose 111 to celebrate?” (Beside the fact that our 100th was 9/11, which was not a year you celebrate anything.) Well, 1-1-1 makes sense. We’re utterly unique. There is only one Bergdorf Goodman. We’re a nice meritage of history and modernity.”
“YOU NEVER WANT TO break the spell, but I feel Bergdorf’s is in somewhat of a state of grace,” says Fargo. “People think of us as a boutique, but we are actually a very large store-a store that blends artistry and commerce. I want it to be a series of salons because people feel better when there are levels of intimacy.
“Also, I’ve been here 16 years. This is not a fly-by-night place. It has a family home quality to it-albeit a rather eccentric, luxurious home-but people stay. I love having the store feel like a slowly collected personal accumulation of things.”
Some of the display pieces and decorative items Fargo gets for Bergdorf’s are things she’d want in her own home. “Instead, I buy them for the store,” she says, “and I still live with them!”
Some highlights for Fargo? One was watching a salesperson there practically raise her daughter in the store, the girl doing her homework “almost under the cash register.” (The daughter is now one of their top managers.) Fargo also loved working with stylist Patricia Field on windows for the Sex and the City 2 movie. “I told Pat, “The store is your closet. Go crazy.” It was so much fun.”
Explains one Bergdorf’s regular: “It’s the place for the woman who has everything-and wants more of it. The woman who appreciates fine things and wants luxury and an escape.”
An escape from what, I’m not sure, but I guess there are some tedious things clogging the schedule of someone who’d rather just be shopping for haute couture all the time!
So happy 111th, Bergdorf’s. You’re looking quite spiffy and fresh.Back to top