In 1901, 25-year-old Edwin Goodman bought an interest in Herman Bergdorf’s tailoring shop in Union Square, and the store combined their two names to become Bergdorf Goodman. Over the next 111 years, the retailer pioneered the direction of ready-to-wear by putting it in the hands of the American customer, moved to Cornelius Vanderbilt’s old mansion on Fifth Avenue to create Manhattan’s eternal headquarters of fashion and international style, and established itself as a household name around the world.
With this history in mind, the retailer is spending much of 2012 celebrating its 111th birthday with an array of events, launches, and special projects. It’s the first time Bergdorf's has planned an anniversary bash since 1951. The terrorist attacks on New York City in the fall of 2001 prevented the store from celebrating its centennial.
First up is the anniversary collection, which will debut in September on Fashion’s Night Out and feature pieces designers made with Bergdorf’s in mind.
“When we approached our vendors, we asked them, ‘What does Bergdorf mean to you?’ Ginny Hershey-Lambert, executive vice president of merchandising, told WWD.
Those contributing to the collection include Alexander McQueen, Christian Louboutin, Oscar de la Renta, and Giorgio Armani. Also, Ferragamo will offer ties with illustrations of Bergdorf’s, the Statue of Liberty, and other icons of the city.
And that’s just the start of the rollout. “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s,” a documentary about the store directed by Matthew Miele, will debut at New York Fashion Week in September. It will take viewers into the “inner sanctum” of the store, a Bergdorf’s rep promises. There is also a supplementary book that pulls together personal recollections from Bergdorf lovers such as Albert Elbaz, Candice Bergen, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. No word on where the name comes from, but we have a hunch this New Yorker cartoon from 1990 has something to do with it.
What else? There’s a gala planned for October in conjunction with the documentary, and that will certainly be a hot ticket. The men’s store is getting a complete revamp, including new Lanvin and Prada boutiques and an area for European brands. Also: a “shoe library” featuring fancy footwear inspired by the 1930s and ’40s will be open by the end of the year.
The decision to mark the 111th year of its existence is a bit arbitrary, but Bergdorf’s seems to have chosen the triple-digit number for its ability to work as a slogan — the tagline for the celebration is “one store, one city, one experience.” As catchy as that slogan is, we think it’s a bit misleading. Yes, there is only one Bergdorf’s and there is only one New York City, but there’s way more than just one experience here. With the collection, the documentary, the gala, the book, the men’s store boutiques, and the shoe library, there are enough experiences to go around.