The new documentary, “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” by Matthew Miele is more than a film about the history of an iconic department store, it shows another layer of the American dream and the pursuit to keep it alive. Bergdorf Goodman has just finished celebrating 111 years in business and to culminate the celebration, the world can now learn the mystery behind the scenes, meet the key players and understand the impact this department store has made on clients, designers, and the city of New York. Unlike most department stores, there is only one BG and it has come to define the epitome of luxury. Being located on the corner of 5th avenue and 58th Street in Manhattan, and with close proximity to Central Park and The Plaza Hotel, all have contributed to making BG a mecca for both tourists and New Yorkers.
The Film: Director Matthew Miele has produced a documentary that you care about whether or not you are a fashion icon, are interested in fashion or shop at The Gap. It’s the story about the American Dream and how the concept behind the dream inspires so many people to think big and aspire for change in their lives. It’s a who’s of who of designers including Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Bobbi Brown, Karl Lagerfeld, Patricia Field, Manolo Blahnik, Vera Wang, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Dolce and Gabanna. As designers, they all speak about the importance of having their lines in BG, and how it’s impacted their status as designers, and ultimately their business. Bobbi Brown, in particular, speaks candidly about how her sales went through the roof the minute her line was featured at the store. Michael Kors was discovered at a small boutique across the street from Bergdorf Goodman in 1977, where he was changing the window display for his own designs. Dawn Mello, former Women’s Fashion Director, discovered Kors, literally in the window, and handpicked him, to be featured across the street at BG. The rest is history, as Kors has now gone public with his company.
Miele also does a great job of telling the vast history of the store of how two men Herman Bergdorf and Edwin Goodman, started the company in 1899. You learn how Bergdorf sold his portion to Goodman, while keeping the original name, to the various incarnations of the store in Manhattan, and of course how the Goodman family inhabited the upper level of the store as their home for years.
It’s not all dreams behind the scenes as the film shows many designers who, back in the day, were required to be exclusive with BG, a concept that isn’t practiced so much today, as designers can have lines at BG and at Target. Miele also follows SVP, and Women’s Fashion Director, Linda Fargo around in her various roles at BG, including her meeting with Ally Hilfiger (Daughter of Tommy Hilfiger), as Fargo meticulously gives her take on Hilfiger’s line, Nahm. Ultimately, the audience learns that Nahm isn’t BG ready, as Fargo encourages Hilfiger to keep up the good work as she’ll revisit the line in the future. The awkward moment on screen as Fargo and the designers exchange pleasant words before parting, is nothing short of watching sheer rejection played out before your eyes. Additionally, even the finest luxury store isn’t immune to a recession, as BG was hit over night back in 2008, as sales plummeted. It took until a couple years ago to rebuild, which isn’t surprising, but further demonstrates that when you dream big, you are also prey to falling at the same rate.
Of course seeing various celebrities like Joan Rivers, Susan Lucci, Rachel Zoe and Stylist Robert Verdi, who has some of the most candid and hilarious lines in the film, all add to the film’s entertainment value. But, it’s Miele’s portraits on key players like Fargo and leading personal shopper, Betty Halbreich that take the viewer into the passionate roles that help make BG an iconic entity and lifestyle. Halbreich has been on the fashion scene forever and possesses a sardonic humor and ‘tell it like it is’ attitude when it comes to advising clients as to what looks good, or awful. Many eye rolls come out of this woman, and the viewer only wants to see more. I wouldn’t be surprised if Halbreich landed her own series of some sort.
Weaved throughout the film, we are treated to an inside look at the making of the infamous window displays that signify the holiday season in Manhattan. At the helm is a portrait of Senior Director of Visual Presentation, David Hoey. Hoey is responsible each year to outdo himself, along with a very large team, to produce magical windows that reflect a theme, inspire tourists and create movement. We follow Hoey to various warehouses in New Jersey and across the river where countless workers bead, glue, string, sew and build these amazing pieces, that ultimately are built on 5th avenue and 58th Street for millions to adore each year. Miele intersperses these ‘window moments’ throughout the film showing the countless hours, dedication and commitment to excellence that the job requires and the audience expects from BG.
Bergdorf Goodman has been and remains an important layer and institution in New York, that draws international shoppers from around the world. It offers emerging designers and young business professionals to dream big, while tourists get to enjoy the inspired windows as street art. “Scatter My Ashes on Bergdorf’s” says more about our obsession with clothes and luxury, than it does about dreaming big.
Go to Bergdorf-Movie.com for more information. Now playing in major cities. Watch the video below as Barbra Streisand performed inside BG back in 1965 for her television special.