Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The windows

West Highland White Terrier looking out his master's window. 3:00 PM. Photo: Jeffrey Hirsch.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013. Mother Nature provided some precipitation, along with grey skies and chillier temperatures yesterday in New York. The bright green of the newly blooming trees and rainbow of tulips remained in place.

The big benefit luncheon yesterday was the Fountain House 10th annual Symposium and Luncheon at the Pierre and it drew a huge crowd. More than 700 attended.

This event which was launched by Lorna Graev and some friends with a plan to assist Fountain House in its work —. It is now up there with the most sought after charitable tickets of the seasons.

This year’s speaker was author Andrew Solomon on the subject of “Mental Illness and the Family.” Solomon as you may know recently published a new book “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.” He is a compelling speaker and a brilliant man in his field.

There is a growing interest among people in the matter of Depression. This is not new. What is new is the “coming out” of depressed people. When they held the first luncheon, Lorna Graev had a difficult time getting anyone to come. Now they're filling the room to capacity. There's a message there about the shape we're in. The good news is people are dealing with it.
Bi-polar is a popular word evoked in reference to the subject. We all know about Depression. I knew a woman once who said she never got depressed. I found that hard to believe although she was someone whom I knew who speak the truth. Many of us, however, get depressed and don’t even know we are depressed. Instead we display its variety of symptoms, unaware of the root of them. Others are aware but crushed by it. Lorna Graev’s Fountain House campaigns have opened a whole new book of information, insights and life-learning for many New Yorkers. I have no doubt that it is a trend that will remain emerging across this country.

Last night they were celebrating the 30th birthday of the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. They honored songwriters Frank Loesser and Jule Styne, and if you don’t think you know their work, you’ve heard it so many times you probably even know a lot of the words and the music.

Among the performers on the program were Nick Adams, Laura Benanti, Stephanie J. Block, Liz Callaway, Will Chase, Megan Hilty, Marilyn Maye, Rob McClure, Donna Murphy, Kelli O’Hara, Laura Osnes, Leslie Uggams, Max von Essen, Anthony Warlow and Betsy Wolfe. After the concert there was a black tie dinner dance at the Plaza. We’ll have a full report later this week.

At the same hour, over at the Dance Times Square Ballroom on West 44th Street, they were celebrating the 114th anniversary of the great Duke Ellington.

I’m not a shopper, although I do go to Bergdorf’s cosmetic and skincare department on the subterranean floor about every six or seven months to buy a jar of moisturizer that someone turned me onto several years ago. But Bergdorf’s is the department store for the very uppah-uppah ladies and gents and those who would be.

I am, as regular NYSD readers know, a big fan of the Bergdorf windows. They are without peer in the great big world of retail in New York: always intriguing, beautiful, highly imaginative, glamorous, wild, crazy, gorgeous sights. 
When I arrived at Florence Gould Hall at the Alliance Francaise on 55 East 59th Street for the Cinema Society Screening of “Scatter My Ashes At Bergdorf’s premiere, the theater auditorium was practically empty. However, on the stage the inevitable “Step and Repeat” was going on. Watching it from my seat in the sixth row gave it a play-like quality, and the stage was actually lit for it too.

Notice the guy in the brown shirt and jeans entering stage right carrying a camera. That’s Steve Eichner who often shoots for EYE in WWD. He and his compatriots are the reason everyone is on the stage, although it seems like no one is paying attention to him. They are and they aren’t. Everyone is there for the picture – like the ones you see on the Party Pictures page of the NYSD.
Eichner is adjusting his camera getting ready for a shot. The blonde in the pink dress behind him is doing the same thing with a smaller camera. The tanned bald guy in glasses and grey suit is Andrew Malloy, the grandson of the legendary Andrew Goodman – the man who inherited the store from his father Edwin, and presided over Bergdorf Goodman for several decades. It was he who built the actual store on Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Street on the site of the Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion.
Eichner’s getting a shot of someone in the audience. There is a lot of activity going on behind the velvet rope and in front of the scrim. This is the “red carpet” and many people who arrived for this screening, instead of looking for their seats, went up on the stage to be photographed (or hoping to be photographed).
I’ve also met Linda Fargo who was the director of window display for several years. I’m not sure what Linda’s official title is now although after seeing the film, it’s my impression that she is the eye and style of this great store. If you’ve seen her once, you’ll recognize her because she has a signature look that is chic, attractive, friendly and bright. In person, she is also all of those things. She’s one of those American girls from the hinterlands who came to the Big Town to make her way, and serendipitously ended up at Bergdorf’s where over time she became the face of Bergdorf’s style.

Aside from her obvious talent in her business, she is also the kind of person you’d think came from Out There to make her way in the Big Town, i.e., she’s nice and down-to-earth, and gracious. My personal take on her is that she loves her business and is heavenly grateful to have found her place in it. Everyone else who knows her or knows the store is, too.
I don’t know whom she shoots for but she’s got the figure and the dress for a shot, no?
This couple sauntered away from the red carpet, and Steve Eichner got a shot of them before they left the stage. I don’t know who they are but the young woman was clearly interested in getting a good shot. It wouldn’t surprise me if she had a specific interest in the event.
Eichner turns his lens to the crowd entering the auditorium. I don’t know who she is; maybe you’ll recognize her. Eichner chose her for a reason.
Someone told me the Times referred to the film as basically an infomercial. It is that in the best sense. It demonstrates why this store is the place of professional arrival for fashion designers and marketers of quality, luxury and style.

There are several segments about the making of their windows which are always masterpieces of visual content and fashion -- but as a canvas to entice, amuse, and entertain. I always make a point of passing by every couple of weeks to see what they’ve done that is new. I know I’m going to be awed and even astounded at the artisanship, the craftsmanship and the creative explosions they offer up to the millions of us who pass by (and the thousands and thousands who shop there).

I figured the film would be about the business. It is. The secret of its long success is the legacy of the Goodmans (Mr. Bergdorf sold out to Mr Goodman in the 19-teens and retired to Europe). Mr. Edwin Goodman set the terms and his son Andrew completed them.
Red carpet almost over, Eichner’s concentrating on people filling the auditorium. There were a lot of boldfacers including many who were in the film and many who are big Bergdorf fans. I saw Blaine Trump and Steve Simon; Debbie Bancroft was there with Patricia Duff. Writer Jill Kargman (who has a funny bit in the film) was with her two little daughters; Kathy and Rick Hilton were there with daughter Nicky. Ann Dexter Jones was there; Fern Malllis, Dawn Mello, Amy Fine Collins (also in the film); Robert Verdi, Dennis Basso and Michael Cominotto, Pat Cleveland, Ally Hilfiger; the great Linda Fargo, the Bergdorf’s executive who is now famous (and a famous persona in New York as well) as Bergdorf’s style guru.
The pensive man in the red jacket taking it all in from his seat in the fifth row center is Patrick McDonald who is also in the film. Patrick is the self-styled “Dandy” in New York. He works in the fashion business but personal style is his mantra and his ticket to ride. As outrageous as he can look, he’s a practical man, and focused and courteous. He must have an amazing closet because I’ve never seen him in the same thing twice.
That’s Tommy Hilfiger quickly exiting stage left and being pursued by a woman with a recorder.
She got him, and he’s talking. The seats are now filling up. The screening was scheduled for 7:30 and at this point it was almost 8 o’clock.
They just can’t tear themselves away from the lights and the mikes and the lenses. That’s Marina Rust in the black print dress and black stockings, with her back to the audience, talking to what looks like a reporter.
That’s style expert and TV personality Robert Verdi, on the left talking to a member of the Cinema Society staff. Verdi is in the film also. Legendary model Pat Cleveland who seems to be looking for someone on the red carpet. The show is about to begin.
The screen comes down, the stage clears, the lights dim, Andrew Saffir, the Cinema Society founder welcomes the audience – thanks his sponsors Grey Goose and Swarovski – and introduces the director.

8:10. Thankfully lights out and the film comes on screen.
It is the store that all designers want to be a part of. It’s not an easy task being recognized as a worthy designer by the management although they are open to all. Michael Kors got his first recognition at Bergdorf’s. Same with Akris, and Jason Wu, and Oscar and many many others.

The film covers every aspect of the history and life of the store. The lesson therein is: it is all about focus, creative imagination, marketing with an eye toward The Client (which is how Andrew Goodman referred to his customers). The Client is rich, or at least very wealthy, or aspiring. The shoe department is considered the best in the world. There’s a great Yoko Ono anecdote about her Christmas shopping one year that I’m not going to tell you because I don’t’ want to ruin it for you.
Bobbi Brown, Catherine Malandrino, Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs, and Vera Wang.
The Cinema Society audience is generally 20- and 30-somethings (with a dusting of us older ones) and they are devoted movie-goers, seeing everything. This was a two-hour film, and the only time there was a rustle of sound, it was from laughter at something said by one of the players (staff or designers). The audience was very attentive I think because of the “instructive” nature of the film. It was about something so many people come to New York to learn: HOW it’s done.  And what it takes.

Like the song says, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere ... New York, New York.  That’s the essence of “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” and it’s fun and fascinating and kinda eye-opening too. Linda Fargo is its star and we couldn’t be luckier as an audience, as store clients and as designers aspiring to have her presiding over the “showing how.” The art director who presides over the window is designer David Hoey. He is her Picasso. Genius.
David Hoey and Linda Fargo in one of the Bergdorf windows (Ruth Fremson for the New York Times).
 

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