Linda Fargo appeared to be having a lip-smacking good time last week on the fourth floor of Bergdorf Goodman, surrounded by a mixed bag of magazine editors and writers, society swans, designers and other nifty individuals of the fashion industry. Wearing a crisp white shirt that highlighted her signature silvery-white side-swept bob and bold red lipstick, the Senior Vice President, Women’s Fashion Director and Store Presentation of the luxury retailer was unfazed by the amounts of air kissing and stream of congratulations that befell her. All were there for the unveiling of Linda’s at Bergdorf Goodman—a finely curated boutique that holds a treasure trove of the most eclectic assortment of fashion, accessories and home furnishings that speak to Fargo’s personal tastes.
The space looked intimate and special. It was as if Talitha Getty and Babe Paley put their heads together and created an environment that befits the true meaning of luxury. The walls were lined with eye-catching tropical printed wallpaper. Tabletops were decorated with gilded knickknacks and crystal leopard minaudières. There were racks of colorful kaftans, sumptuous fur coats, feather skirts, and shimmering evening dresses. Glass cases held candy-colored baubles. The floors were lined with shoes that would make Carrie Bradshaw squeal with envy. The dressing room walls were covered with a print made of fashion show invitations. And there were enough red lips to put a Robert Palmer music video to shame: a lip-shaped couch, lip masks, and even a lipsologist to read guests’, well, lips. It was very Linda.
“It is not just her name. It is also her eye and her unique sensibility,” said Joshua Schulman, the soon-to-depart President of Bergdorf Goodman and NMG International, who was circling the crowd at the event. “We’re really excited about the mix of product here. When we merchandise Bergdorf Goodman, we often do it by brand. For instance, we have a Gucci shop, a Prada shop. But the way Linda is merchandising her shop is really based on her own sensibility, which is much more eclectic. She’s often mixing brands, mixing inspiration, mixing eras.”
Having worked at Bergdorf Goodman for 20 years, Fargo is a veteran, a doyenne of fashion that has become synonymous with her employer. Moreover, she has garnered a degree of fame outside the selective confines of the industry. But unlike the many influencers that have sprung up in the last few years as a result of street style photographers documenting their wardrobes, Fargo is a purveyor whose authority is based on credibility, and not on how many social media followers she has, or how many “likes” she can muster with a post.
“Personal style is everything right now,” said Sasha Charnin Morrison, the former fashion director at Allure and Us Weekly magazines. “To be able to get a taste or direction from somebody with that kind of access is really amazing. She’s more than just an influencer, a curator. She’s a fantasy destination provider. There’s so much lack of inspirations out there with all these other influencers.”
Inspiring as it is, the boutique still has to make a profit. “This is a creative endeavor, but it’s a commercial enterprise, too,” Schulman affirmed. “All of these shops have to produce a certain amount of sales per square foot, and we were really confident that she could do this.”
That said, confidence, however salient in business, does not guarantee sales. Luxury retail has been going through a downward spiral as of late, and Bergdorf Goodman is certainly not immune to the epidemic. More and more stores have either been minimizing their brick-and-mortar presence, investing in their online efforts instead, or have closed shop altogether. Luckily for Bergdorf Goodman, it is distinct in that it has only one location that has amassed an incredible reputation, and has an experienced SVP that not only has a following of her own, but also understands the changes going through the industry.
“We're definitely hoping that hanging my name on the door will be a draw, and the fact that I'm a crossover with my age and my range in taste,” said Fargo through email after the event. “Added to the unique format of the shop with an unusual curation should all serve to stimulate interest in the in-store experience and sales, especially at a time when retail is in need of reinvention and active introspection.”
This personalized approach to shopping is certainly gaining traction online. Many e-commerce sites, including Bergdorf Goodman, are creating specially curated boutiques based on seasonal trends, special occasions, professions, celebrity style and more. However, when it comes to selling luxury, there is something to be said about being immersed in a world of wonder—feeling the fabrics, trying on a dress with the right set of earrings and shoes, talking through a purchase with a knowledgeable salesperson. This is what Bergdorf Goodman does best, which is why it’s a leader in the category and why its fashion director has become so admired and often copied.
“I'm frequently asked what I'm wearing, so we're operating on the assumption that people will like what I like,” said Fargo. “I'm already a customer in my own shop. Linda's at Bergdorf Goodman is really my fantasy closet and home.”
Linda’s at Bergdorf is located on the 4th floor of Bergdorf Goodman at 754 5th Avenue.