Design By Humans
Published On: Mon, May 13th, 2013

FILM: Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf'sFashion—some overlook it, others live and die by it. And it is the second statement that is behind the title of the documentary Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf Goodman’s. Yes, some have made such profane statements, as Susan Lucci overheard a shopper say there, as a last rite, of course jokingly, at this fashion world temple located at the corner of 58th Street and 5th Avenue in New York City.

Directed by Mathew Miele, the documentary reveals some of the inner sanctum surrounding what makes Berdorf’s department store the Bergforf experience. More parts frivolous than serious—as the title suggests—it reflects a certain spirit that pervades this unique place, as imaginary as it might be. That spirit is captured in this documentary by following, mostly, Linda Fargo, the fashion director, and David Hoey, the director of window design. However, don’t let their whimsical personas and their sartorial display deceive your eye. Under their personas of fashion playfulness lie mature critics that buy, display and maintain the Bergdorf name. This is underplayed though in the doc. What makes the documentary fun and even archival are the many people whose lives have been affected, both professionally and fashionably, by what many critics call the fashion world’s “benchmark of approval.”

If you are one of the skeptics concerning the importance of fashion and its personal connection to public persona (Think: First Lady and Jason Wu), Fargo is quick to remind the viewers that the Alexander McQueen exhibit (2011) at the Metropolitan Museum was one of the top ten exhibits of all time. Yet among all the hoopla, this doc welcomes the viewer to the mythical world of Bergdorf’s, and we see and hear it through fashionistas such as Susan Lucci, Candice Bergen and Joan Rivers; we hear designers say fashionable things about fashioning themselves there, such as Karl Lagerfield, Michael Kors, Isaac Mizrahi, and Jason Wu, to name a few.

The documentary ends with what we can all partake at Bergdorf’s, as paradoxical as this might seem. There is an underlying subtlety—of whimsy (in humor), fantasy and imagination—all connected to the Bergdorf fashion sense of serious fun (and money). The doc reminds us that our lives are bound up with fantasies and imagination by showing cuts between Bergdorf’s as a real place for few and the development of the window displays for many (as in the people behind the displays). Those unreal displays of the imaginary remind passersby to dream and imagine, and indeed last year’s was characteristic of that. With the front people, the shoppers, the fashionistas —all of these are part of a truly exclusive Bergdorf. But it’s the displays in which we can all glimpse into other worlds, fantastical ones, perhaps, worlds in which self-fashioning is almost ceremonious and beckons your attention, to be more of yourself than you thought, with a little nudge from Bergdorf’s.

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s is now in theaters nationwide.

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FILM: Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s