By  on August 14, 2012

For a store steeped in fashion history, Bergdorf Goodman has been surprisingly remiss about celebrating its milestones — until now.

Bergdorf’s is putting the final touches on its most comprehensive celebration ever, which will be an extended affair marking the store’s 111th birthday. Who knew? The 75th passed. The 100th passed. Both without any big to-dos or birthday cakes.

While turning 111 seems like an odd moment for major celebration, Bergdorf’s executives see it as just the right ticket, and explain that the message is in the 1-1-1 of 111: Bergdorf’s being one store in one city, providing one singular luxury experience.

“This is an innovative way for the brand to celebrate over a century of style,” said Joshua Schulman, Bergdorf’s president. “It’s really serving as a catalyst for looking back and looking ahead. It’s the ultimate study of the Bergdorf Goodman brand.”

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In terms of scope and planning, 111 will outdo any of Bergdorf’s Fashion Nights Out, its glorious fashion shows atop the Pulitzer Fountain next door, or even the lavish black-tie gala at The Plaza in 1951 feting the store’s golden anniversary. The founding Goodman family attended, and it was the last time the store threw itself a real birthday party.

Schulman characterized the upcoming event as an extended mix of activities, exclusive products and pop-ups through the fall season, as well as several permanent shop openings and renovations executed in time for the Sept. 4 kickoff, not the least of which will be a Modernist Lab on the fifth floor aggregating the store’s most advanced designer collections.

A new Valentino shop recently opened as part of Bergdorf’s “fast-tracking” to get set for the anniversary. It’s Valentino’s first shop-in-shop in the U.S., and is among Bergdorf’s most elegant, constructed in Italian walnut, with terrazzo entrance portals, leather stitched fitting rooms, brass chandeliers and windows overlooking Central Park.

“We accelerated renovations and a lot of capital,” Schulman said. “There was a concerted effort to touch more of the store than historically would have been touched.”

Among other projects in the works:

• The first U.S. shop-in-shop for The Row, the collection designed by the Olsen twins.

• A new contemporary shoe department on five.

• An expanded Little BG children’s area on five with a candy shop.

• A Christian Dior beauty shop on the beauty level.

On the main floor, a pop-up shop will spotlight exclusives from designers, for a good sampling of what’s being sprinkled throughout the store, and on seven, there will be a decorative home homage to the Gilded Age.

The main floor luxury room will get a large installation of bamboo and orchids by the Belgian artist and floral designer Daniel Ost. Across Fifth Avenue, at the Bergdorf’s men’s store, there will be a new shoe library that triples the space for the category, a new advanced designer section, and a renovated Loro Piana shop.

“It’s a very holistic approach,” observed Linda Fargo, senior vice president of the fashion office and store presentation. “It’s a top-to-bottom celebration including every floor, all the elevators, every hall, all 21 windows on the three sides of the women’s store, even lavender lighting. It’s a season’s worth of celebration. We’ve also got some surprises,” including something dramatic for the Fifth Avenue facade, she said, without giving any details. “A woman needs a little mystery.”

“Our buy was lifted for this — absolutely,” stated Ginny Hershey-Lambert, Bergdorf’s executive vice president of merchandising. “Products were made for every single division and floor in the women’s and men’s stores. Considering the design and production schedules that vendors have normally, it was a lot to ask that they go into one-off kind of products for us. But many stepped up to the plate. Gucci made eight pieces; we only asked for one. There was a lot of opportunity to look back at the foundations of not only Bergdorf’s, but at each of the designers.”

Bergdorf’s buyers went into the market a year ago last fall, filling designers in on the 111 plan, and by last February, the designers had come up with sketches and prototypes.  More than 100 designers came through with special products, including many that have sold the store for decades and were discovered or catapulted to the forefront of the fashion scene by Bergdorf’s, like Michael Kors. He was spotted in 1981 by then-fashion director Dawn Mello, who went on to become president, when he designed under a different label for another store, and created his first collection under his own name for Bergdorf’s. For the 111 celebration, Kors updated that very first collection for Bergdorf’s.

Giorgio Armani did a remake of the gray pinstripe pleated suit that Richard Gere wore in the movie “American Gigolo.” Loewe dug into its archives and found a small piece from 1901, which became the inspiration for a clutch with gold hardware and trim. Relative newcomer Jason Wu created a full-skirted cocktail dress in vivid candylike colors that recalls his first dresses, which made their debut at Bergdorf’s for spring 2009.

As for giving any direction to the designers, “We wanted to leave it open,” Fargo said, though the suggestion was made that they should consider their feelings and perceptions of the store.

Certain designers were inspired by the Bergdorf building itself, including Francis Kurkdjian, who created a fragrance in a bottle shaped to suggest the building and with packaging that resembles the facade. Similarly, Akris produced a silk scarf and dress with a print of the store. Some were even inspired by Bergdorf’s famous chandeliers.

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