NEW YORK — With a special two-tone shopping bag and an intriguing band of lavender light emanating from its windows, Bergdorf Goodman on Tuesday will begin trumpeting its latest renovation project.
It’s the store’s new fifth floor for contemporary merchandise, called 5F. Sportswear, dresses, shoes, denim and accessories are displayed in a different way than on other floors. 5F is more heavily merchandised (though not choking with product) and departs from the usual static phalanx of collection shops with an open, energetic, loft-like setting with unobstructed views. Items and trends are showcased by mixing designers and brands in vignettes and, overall, there’s a feeling of modernity and movement created by displays executed with flair and a sense of set design, by the undulating, louvered ceiling and by sliding walls and scrim fixtures.
The floor has been “re-branded,” as Bergdorf officials say, and unlike any other spot in the store, given its own name as part of a concerted marketing effort. “We decided to create a subbrand, 5F, to send a strong message to our clients and vendor partners that Bergdorf Goodman, a store steeped in luxury, is also very serious about its contemporary sportswear, shoe and accessory business,” said Jim Gold, president and chief executive officer. “We want to be the fashion destination for all of the generations who shop at Bergdorf Goodman.”
“It’s not about an age or a demographic,” added Michael Crotty, senior vice president of marketing and sales promotion. “It’s about the spirit of the customer, a lifestyle, and being interested in the trends of the season.”
The floor has taken a year to complete, as sections opened in four phases, and already has been promoted to some degree with small mailers and parties for individual designers. For its completion, however, there’s real marketing muscle: a 10-page mailer with 50 key items, expected to arrive in 75,000 mailboxes by the first week in April; seven weeks of full-page ads in New York magazine, launching March 27; brunches; book signings, and other special events.
Key designers on 5F are Theory, Elie Tahari, Diane von Furstenberg, Catherine Malandrino, Milly, Tory Burch, Paige Premium Denim, Vince, Nanette Lepore and Robert Rodriguez.
Bergdorf’s has 10 designers collaborating with artists to create limited-edition clothing, which will be available Wednesday. Sales of the items will benefit the New Museum of Contemporary Art, which hooked up Bergdorf’s and the designers. For example, DVF designed a dress with an artichoke print by artist Filip Pagowski. Cameron Martin created a tree branch design for a Tory Burch off-white, knee-length skirt. And raincoats designed by Adam + Eve each bears the face of a celebrity — Sean Connery, Heidi Klum, Donald Trump, Gwen Stefani — painted by Martin Saar. Inside the pocket is a signed photo of the artist with the celebrity.
The museum also connected Bergdorf’s with other cutting-edge artists to create windows and in-store installations. The window art will subliminally refer back to the number “5.” But when working with artists, “you have to refrain from attempting too much art direction, as these are accomplished artists and not commercial designers,” noted Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion director and store presentation. “We have to embrace the unknown to some degree, which makes it edgy and exciting all at once.”
Leo Villareal created a 12-foot-tall-by-10-foot-wide light sculpture with tubular LED fixtures and a computerized light show program. Jon Kessler created a wall of 45 video monitors, with a mannequin holding a live video camera focused on people and traffic on the street that become the images on the monitors.
Rob Pruitt is setting up an arrangement of found objects he’s collected based on some of his obsessions, including Andy Warhol memorabilia and panda bears. The objects will be for sale. Ruth Root will show 25 of her acrylic paintings juxtaposed with mannequins, and Beth Campbell will devise a “freeze-frame” installation arranging a series of identical objects into five successive “moments” in time, like a film strip.
On 5F, photos of street scenes by Jessica Craig Martin will be on wall panels off the 58th Street elevators. 5F is also for music lovers, particularly those with eclectic tastes. CDs from different countries, as well as books, will be sold, and a wide variety of music will be played by DJ Felix Cutillo, from bossa nova and pop to jazz and classical. Since October, Cutillo has been the DJ in Bergdorf’s men’s store music bar and he says the concept serves as a “great sticking point,” keeping customers on the floor. It becomes more of a hangout since the music bar in the women’s store is linked to a wine and sandwich bar.
The 5F windows, above Fifth Avenue and 57th and 58th Streets, are rigged with a computerized lighting system and specially treated windows to act as a lens to diffuse light so it projects uniformly.
The specially designed shopping bag was one of the most sensitive pieces of the project. Officials said it took practically as long as the renovation to get the bag right.
“It’s a very important part of marketing,” Crotty said. The outside of the bag is in Bergdorf’s signature lavender, and the inside is chartreuse. Bergdorf went bold with the 5F logo, with the store name more discreet. Crotty said the shopping bag design represents a “balance of newness and tradition. Getting it right was really crucial.”
The 25,000-square-foot floor was designed by Gabellini Sheppard Associates, in conjunction with Fargo. It’s part of a 10-year, $85 million top-to-bottom store renovation that’s bringing greater individuality to the floors and is largely done, except for the third floor for designer sportswear collections, which is being remodeled, and the sixth floor for modern sportswear collections. Bergdorf’s can’t expand the flagship anymore, so it must strive to increase the already high productivity of its selling floors.
Despite all the special attention being showered on 5F, Crotty stressed, “We are not trying to create a separate silo. The intent is to draw existing Bergdorf customers who may be shopping other floors to visit 5F as well, and attract those who have not been shopping Bergdorf’s at all.”