Come September, Ellen DeGeneres will pop up in New York. She’ll tape two shows at an as-yet-unconfirmed Gotham location, and her ED by Ellen collection will open at one of the world’s great bastions of luxury, Bergdorf Goodman. The designing star and retailer have signed up for a short-term partnership with in-store and online components.
ED by Ellen Decorative Home will find a home on Bergdorf’s 7th floor, the brand’s first foray into brick-and-mortar after its fevered online launch on EDbyEllen.com in June. Fashion offerings will be available on bergdorfgoodman.com from Sept. 8 to 30.
Given DeGeneres’ broad-based cultural appeal and her brand’s mostly approachable pricing, Bergdorf’s makes an interesting partner. “I’m so excited that Bergdorf Goodman is hosting my lifestyle brand, ED’s, exclusive pop-up shops,” she told WWD via e-mail. “You can now officially refer to them as ‘Bergdorf GREATman.’ Ha — I made that up myself. Hold on. Now I’m laughing so hard, I’m crying.”
Yet within the humor beats an essential tenant of DeGeneres’ approach. From the outset, she has worked from the premise that hers would be a lifestyle brand of chic, unfussy products reflective of her own style and value-driven ethos – comfortable, functional, with an emphasis on quality – focused on accessibility but moving upward when “halo offerings” justified a higher price. “These products are just quality,” she said in May in advance of her brand’s online launch. “My concern was if it’s got my name on it, I want to be really proud of it…I’m trying to do something that is going to last.”
DeGeneres is well-known for her highly specific personal style of dress. What has emerged since she started discussing her brand is her knowledge of fashion and her exacting standards, whether about the depth of a cuff, exactly where a short sleeve hits on the upper arm or whether a dress sits well. Shelter junkies know her as a self-taught real estate mogul, highly regarded in the architectural and design worlds for her keen eye for value and her taste in savvy, elegant renovation.
The duality appealed to Josh Schulman, president of Bergdorf Goodman and NMG International. “Ellen has an amazing sense of style,” he said. “Everyone knows of the impact that she has through her talk show and social issues. I think what’s a little less known is her impact in the world of interior design and fashion. She is in the vanguard of home influence. Her homes are favorites on Pinterest. She has a unique following of people who really want to approximate her unique style. “
Schulman described that style as one with reverence for the past with “an appreciation for form” and mixing genres, whether midcentury, African sculpture or European antiques, that makes her a natural for Bergdorf’s highly curated approach to home. “I think people are really wanting to capture a piece of that for themselves,” he noted.
Fashion-wise, he said DeGeneres projects “a strong signature style that’s about being clean and confident and authentic to herself and letting Ellen shine through, letting her personality shine through.”
While noting that her clothes may not resonate with those ladies who swing toward Oscar de la Renta and Valentino, “we do a tremendous business with brands with a simple aesthetic, a refined, clean aesthetic and we believe this will be something fun for them,” he said. Which is not the same as writing DeGeneres’ style off as merely classic. To the contrary, Schulman bestowed that most hallowed of fashion accolades: “perverse.”
“It’s obvious no one would ever call her trendy in the conventional sense of the word,” he said. “But in a perverse way, the consistency of her sensibility has allowed her to be enormously influential. I think about the look that she pioneered of tailored pantsuits with sneakers. That look has been one of the most influential changes to the way that people dress – both women and men – in decades. I was front-row at a show, counting the number of Stan Smiths that fashion editors were wearing with their designer clothes. In that way, Ellen was way ahead of the curve and her consistency has been really influential.”
When the collaborative opportunity arose, Schulman loved the idea, but wondered, “will there be enough luxury for our customer?” In the end, he found DeGeneres and her team “excited to work with our merchants and have the elevated expression of her brand at Bergdorf Goodman.”
Prices of the fall clothes on BG.com will range from $45 for a T-shirt to $1,495 for a hand-knit cashmere fisherman scarf. ED Home features both soft goods from barware and ceramic objects to textiles, from the approachably witty to extravagant. In the former category, there is a set of four white dessert plates. Each plate is printed with part of an old joke:
“A horse…walks into the bar.”
“Why the long face?”
On the high-luxe end: a handwoven cashmere throw is priced at $3750.
The collaboration is in celebration (albeit slightly delayed) of the launch of ED by Ellen. Festivities will also include a cocktail party and an online auction at Paddle8, to run from Sept. 3 to 17, of vintage and antique design items, curated by DeGeneres to benefit the Humane Society. Some pieces will be on display in Bergdorf’s pop-up.
The Bergdorf’s partnership was conceived as a September-only special event. As to whether there’s a possibility of extension, Schulman said, “you never know.”