Just as Miranda Priestly admonishes her assistant Andy at the end of The Devil Wears Prada (2006), David Frankel’s acid sharp parody of the world of high fashion, it seems that everybody does indeed want “to be like us”. However, if you can’t afford the lifestyle of the editors of the top glossies and the readers they cater to, the next best thing it seems is to live it vicariously through documentaries like writer / director Matthew Miele’s Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s (2013).
Films such as Lagerfeld Confidential (2007) lay bare the lives of the people who cloth the elite (in that case Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld), whilst The September Issue (2009) and Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011) show us how magazines create a dream which only the few can afford. But where do the Jet Set who read Vogue and spend the gross national income of a small country on their winter wardrobe, obtain the trappings which they read about each season. Well, it would seem if you’re a New Yorker the only place is Bergdorf Goodman, the exclusive department store situated just along from Central Park on Fifth Avenue.
Rather than show the lives of the people who shop there however, this documentary looks at the shop from the point of view of those who make it work. Though the film is spliced throughout with anecdotes from established designers such as Marc Jacobs and Diane Von Fürstenberg on the difficulty and prestige of getting your line accepted by the shop, and what the experience of shopping there means to them by Hollywood stars like Candice Bergen, the real magic is when it focuses on the people who create the Bergdorf dream.
Those like the store’s top personal shopper Betty Halbreich who has her own studio ‘Betty Halbreich Solutions’ and isn’t afraid to tell her clients what they may not always want to hear. Or chief buyer Linda Fargo, who’s acceptance of a collection can mean make or break for its designer. Topped with a look at the painstaking work of Bergdorf’s display supremo David Hoey, as he creates magical fantasies for the store’s Christmas windows (think Harvey Nichols on acid), and the film makes for fascinating viewing because, like many fashion based documentaries, it focuses on the interesting people – those who create the fantasy as opposed to those who can actually afford to live it.
Like Bergdorf Goodman itself, Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s will bare little semblance to reality for most people. However, as a window into a world which few of us will enter, it makes an entertaining diversion from the everyday norm.