There are few American inventions as intoxicating as the department store. In the opinions of high-end shoppers and designers alike, there may be none more lusted after and lauded than Bergdorf Goodman, profiled in the style of a 90-minute commercial in the entertaining new documentary Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's.
Founded at the turn of the century as a modest retailer, its current home takes up a whole city block on tony Fifth Avenue in New York City. It has had its share of rivals over the years but remains today the number one destination of nearly every fashion designer of note. Among those like Michael Kors, Vera Wang and Marc Jacobs who willingly risked offending other stores by their effusive comments about Bergdorf’s is Isaac Mizrahi, who speaks for all perhaps when he says, “If your clothes aren’t at this place, they have no future.”
Director Matthew Miele finds a central through line by focusing on the creation of Bergdorf’s Christmas windows. Headed up by David Hoey, the huge creative team invents, designs and painstakingly crafts intricate and gorgeous window displays that look more like art installations than paeans to product placement; in fact one huge window may contain only one dress. It’s more about a feeling and a memory than a sale. And they barely erase one season’s theme before starting work on next year’s.
Other memorable personalities emerge as well, like prickly personal shopper Betty Halbreich (who admits she barely even notices the elaborate window displays) and Linda Fargo, the store’s fashion director, through whom all designers must audition their wares. The store’s history is equally compelling, as in stories about the spacious apartment in the penthouse, its favored nation status with Jacqueline Kennedy, and its prominence in one of Barbra Streisand’s first television specials.
If the movie is a tad self-serving and not quite in the league of fashion documentaries like Unzipped and The September Issue, it nevertheless will appeal to fans of those films. It’s a lush tribute to perseverance and the bottom dollar that practically drips with diamonds and pearls.
Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorf's | Dir. Matthew Miele | 1 hour 34 minutes | Showing at Tivoli Cinemas and AMC Town Center 20. Click here for showtimes.