The Windows of Bergdorf Goodman
December 23, 2010 | by Thessaly La Force
On a recent winter afternoon, I sat down for tea with Linda Fargo and David Hoey of Bergdorf Goodman, on the top floor of the store, in the restaurant overlooking southern Central Park. Fargo, who has an immaculate silver bob, is clad in a black Balenciaga dress, capped with a furry Mongolian gilet by Vera Wang, her throat studded with a necklace by a designer named Grazia Bozza, whom she discovered while vacationing in Capri. Hoey is wearing a Band of Outsiders suit—“a journeyman’s vest,” he explains. “It’s a symbol of a real working man who rolls up his sleeves.”
And roll up his sleeves he must, even at Fifth Avenue’s most refined department store. Hoey and Fargo are the masterminds behind Bergdorf’s window displays, and they had invited me to come talk with them about their work and their new book, a $550 lavender-sheathed tome (“Our signature color,” explains Fargo) published by Assouline. Titled Windows of Bergdorf Goodman, the book catalogs more than ten years of their work, interspersed with remarks and witty one-liners from some of Bergdorf's closets friends (Bette Midler, Vogue editor Hamish Bowles, and street photographer Bill Cunningham, to name a few).
Hoey dresses between 250 to 350 window a year, while Fargo oversees the process (“She’s like the editor-in-chief.”). The two are good friends—one is often finishing the other’s sentences, and they have fond memories of working together as we all look through Windows. “Remember the time I tried to create that window about heaven?” asks Fargo. “I wanted the girls to be floating, diaphanous, so I thought I would try those smoke machines. I went to Canal Street, dealt with those strange guys who sell those kind of things, and then I remember us getting locked inside the window and the machine wouldn't stop! I thought we were going to choke to death. And we were thinking about how we were going to have to put SOSs on the glass so that somebody would let us out. And then finally—you get into the windows from the fine-jewelry department—we’re pounding on the door, and somebody in fine jewelry hears the pounding and opened the door, and we tumbled out onto the selling floor in a big puff of smoke.”
“For some reason,” says Hoey, “Fourteen years ago, the windows locked from the inside. I haven’t the vaguest idea why.”
Hoey works out of an atelier on the eighth floor of Bergdorf, where he’s assisted by five full-time people. “It has a lot of props, old stuff on shelves, and it’s packed a little bit like hoarder’s lair. It’s on purpose; it has to be like that. Sometimes we have to do a window, and we have, like, five minutes to grab something. We never do a window that doesn’t have some statement.” Though later, after our tea with Fargo, Hoey confides in me down by the elevator bank, “You know that show Hoarders? Sometimes I’m afraid that they’ll see the windows and then think of that show.”
Nonsense, I told him.
Hoey walks me outside to show me this year’s holiday windows. They’re a sight to behold—playful, luxurious, overflowing. We pause in front of a window containing a giant wooden winged horse (“I found that on 1st Dibs”) transporting a designer-clad mannequin to the imaginary heavens, and passersby from the street collect around us. “These holiday windows represent a years worth of work,” he says. “I’m thinking about next year already.”
Below, a slide show of some of the more memorable Bergdorf windows.