For 20 years, Linda Fargo has been the eyes of Bergdorf Goodman.
As the iconic New York retailer’s SVP of fashion and store presentation director, Fargo oversees all things visual, including interior design and displays as well as the store’s legendary windows.
“Throughout my time here, I’ve probably physically touched or renovated about 95 percent of the store,” she said. “All of those elements that combine to create the intangible image and ambience of the store go through me.”
Here, the fashion legend, who last month was inducted into the Footwear News Hall of Fame, shares career advice, a glimpse into her creative process and other wisdom she’s learned along the way.
Starting out in the industry: “I recently found an old resume of mine — the first I ever created — and it said as my objective that I’d like to be able to lend my eye to a brand. I was just out of school and I didn’t know how else to sell myself; I just knew that if you could let me turn loose my creativity for you, I could offer something unique. It turned out to be quite true.”
Career advice: “When I speak to young people who are in school, and they’re apprehensive about what they’re going to do next, I encourage them to take risks. You can’t really make a wrong turn early in your career. It’s a lot like dating. You might date someone who turns out to be a bad match for you, but you learn a lot about what works and doesn’t work for you. It helps you drill down to what you really want.”
Bergdorf’s 20/20 renovation: “The 20/20 vision is all about being forward-looking and positioning the store for competitive growth in the city. We completed the main-floor renovation in September, and it was definitely evolutionary versus revolutionary. We updated or restored a lot of the building’s historical elements such as the moldings, chandelier and limestone facades. We changed the whole color palette and lighting, created better sight lines and maximized the tremendous height of the space. The overall goal was to make the space function better, improve shopping logic and allocate more space to our handbags and leather goods. I really feel we accomplished what we set out to do.”
Footwear brands that excite me: “It’s been absolutely fascinating to see Aquazzura’s phenomenal success and growth. I just can’t take my eyes off that brand. There also is a whole group of smaller, emerging brands like Brother Vellies. For spring ’17, we’re bringing in about eight new niche-y brands. Will they have the staying power of a Manolo or a Louboutin? I don’t know. But I think there is a bit of fatigue right now when it comes to big brands, so customers are very much drawn to these smaller, more individualistic labels.”
Creative process for displays: “Deadlines are my secret — they are incredibly motivating. Overall, as an artist or designer, you are always seeking to surprise. You want to come up with something you’ve never seen or thought of before. Everybody has their signature themes they play with. For me, it’s fantasy. I’m a fairy-tale person.”
My favorite window themes: “I love scenes of feasts — those overindulgences of food and confections. I love looking across a table and seeing a ravaged, well-enjoyed meal. You feel like you just saw something happen. It’s very voyeuristic. One year, I did a Marie Antoinette-inspired window with a figure who looked like she had consumed so many sweets that she passed out. Another year, we did a death-by-chocolate display, where everything in the window looked like it had been dipped in chocolate. I love those kinds of overindulgences because, as a viewer, you feel spoiled.”
Biggest change in the industry: “Over the years, there’s been an increasing pressure on the bottom line. There used to be a better balance between the demands of commerce and the dream. Considering the competitive environment right now, it’s not easy to make sure you’re keeping a level of that dream, that sense of theater — which is why we all love shopping in the first place.”
Challenging part of my job: “If you’re a fashion magazine, you just need to show it. As retailers, we actually need to sell it. So it makes editing our merchandise assortment very challenging. You have to hit a level of reality with it. Every shoe, accessory and piece of clothing is brought in here and tried on and evaluated for its function, its style and its price-value relationship.”