“It was pointless, but good,” one moviegoer said as she was leaving the preview screening. That is an overly kind take on this glittering, 93-minute documentary/advertisement for iconic luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman.
The cast is certainly star-studded. The first five talking heads interviewed are Karl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta, Christian Louboutin, Diane von Furstenberg, and Joan Rivers, whose witty quips (“People who take fashion seriously are idiots.”) make for some of the best moments of the film.
It’s exciting watching the celebrity commentary pile up — Giorgio Armani; Patricia Field, the Sex and the City costume designer; Vogue contributing writer Lynn Yaeger; Jason Wu, etc. — until you realize they’re all performing the same cheerleading routine. And why would they do otherwise? It’s clear that Bergdorf Goodman is not a store you want to disappoint. Or, as designer Isaac Mizrahi puts it, “If your clothes are not at that place, then they have no future.”
Highlights include following fashion director Linda Fargo, who’s been called the friendly version of Vogue‘s icy editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, as she meets with hopeful designers vying for a shot to have their clothes on the racks at Bergdorf’s, and any scene involving white-haired, wickedly honest veteran personal shopper Betty Halbreich, who keeps the audience giggling amid the repetitive Q&As shot on elegant couches.
But perhaps the most enrapturing footage of all is that of David Hoey, master of the store’s famed window displays. We get a behind-the-scenes look at the fantastical holiday art installations and the modest studios where these wild visions are brought to life. It’s at once an entertaining look at this painstaking, couture craft and also a reminder of why it matters.
Shamefully, the clothing isn’t given the same treatment. Fashion lovers’ hearts will pitter-patter over the reverent shots of well-dressed mannequins at night, close-ups of sparkling red-bottomed heels, and scenes from the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yet what’s missing is an answer to the question of why all this glitz and glam is necessary, in what ways fashion as an art form can feed the soul. Instead, the film becomes a simple glorification of consumption in the name of status.
For frequent shoppers, the film gives Bergdorf Goodman a fuller story, a personality, maybe even more intrigue. But for most movie-goers, it feels flat. Without any conflict or criticism, you’re left left with the sense that something’s missing. With the sense that the store never really let you in.
Then again, it’s Bergdorf’s. They’re exclusive like that.