Goodman-Bergdorf’s, New York’s swankiest department store and a mecca for fashionistas with money to burn, occupies an entire block on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and houses the West’s most decadent products. ($6,000 shoes, anyone?)
This appositely lux-doc portrait of a haberdashery gathers together some 175 luminaries from the rag trade – Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Manolo Blahnik, Marc Jacobs, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, Jason Wu – to talk us through the emporium’s century-plus history. Select clientele (Candice Bergen, Cher) appear in person. Others feature in store folklore: the time Elizabeth Taylor ordered mink earmuffs for everyone on her Christmas list, the time John and Yoko bought fur coats for everyone on theirs.
The stars of the show, however, are the wizards behind the curtain, notably head fashion buyer Linda Fargo – think Anna Wintour, only human – and star window dresser David Hoey. Never mind the frocks. Watching the process and the months of preparation behind each Christmas window display is almost as mesmerising as the finished product.
The film adds archival footage and various Bergdorf's movie appearances (yes, the Sex in the City coven pop up) into a jolly, chatty account. Negative subtexts are quickly glossed over. Contributors note that in a time when some Americans can't buy milk, prices at Goodman-Bergdorf's are actually going up, and that the one per cent is doing better than ever.
But the film's smarter contributors understand the darker implications of haute couture and are capable of simultaneously embracing and headbutting fashion: "Anyone who takes fashion seriously is an idiot," cries Joan Rivers, presenter of Fashion Police. As if on cue, step forward Betty Halbreich, the store's fabulously rude personal shopper since 1976.
“I love Betty,” says Rivers. “She hates everybody.”
“I don’t hate,” snaps Betty. “I dislike.”
Fans of Bill Cunningham: New York should start queuing now.