Bergdorf Goodman's New 57th Street Entrance Is Unveiled
—But Not Finished

We have been actively following the progress of Bergdorf Goodman's current exterior renovations partly because we are interested and partly because we happen to have walked by the place a lot in the past few weeks. Today, we noticed that the last remnants of the plywood covering has been removed from

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the newly remodeled 57th Street side of the store including a new entrance into the store's re-conceived jewelry salon. The store has faithfully replicated the 58th Street (pictured at left) entrance on the other side of the store to create a grander entryway (pictured above in the best shot we could get over Midtown traffic). While the 58th Street door is technically the store's front entrance dating back to the building's completion in the late 1920s, more customers tend to enter through the more heavily trafficked 57th Street and Fifth Avenue doors, so it makes practical sense to upgrade the entryway. Despite the completed construction being exposed, it is clearly not totally finished and ready for its close-up just yet. The wrought iron railing at the window above the door and new awnings over the reconfigured windows have yet to be installed, but what has been revealed seems to answer one questions. The new, pristine white marble visible between the windows and on the new entryway appears not to be decorative, but a practical measure. We now can safely presume that the new stone will ultimately be toned to match the color of the building's original facing to create a seamless effect once the finishing touches are applied. As we have noted before, how all of this remodeling will affect the building's chances at being named a City Landmark remains to be seen, but by the end of this year, by which time a final designation is expected to be made, the building will look substantially different from when it was initially proposed for Landmark status.

Extended Transformation: Bergdorf Goodman's 58th Street Side Is Getting Redesigned, Too 


Bergdorf Goodman's 58th Street Side Is Getting Redesigned, Too

While the revamping of Bergdorf Goodman's 57th Street storefront as part of the store's current top-to-bottom renovation has still not been completely unveiled, it looks like the 58th Street side is up for a revamp that is almost as dramatic. This week, plywood scaffolding (pictured above) appeared covering the ground floor exterior and what is officially the store's front door. As on 57th Street, a life sized rendering covers the construction area showing the familiar big display windows (visible on the right side of the photo below) replaced by a series of smaller vitrine-type windows which are more suitable for showing off accessories, shoes or other small merchandise items. It would appear that the windows will be framed with green marble to match the arch around the main entrance that they flank, though it remains to be seen if any of the white marble accents that have been added to the 57th Street renovation will be used here. The new windows on both sides will now reflect the reconfiguration of the main floor selling areas with the fine jewelry salon on 57th Street and a consolidated handbag and accessory department on 57th.  It took until the late 1960s for Bergdorf's to expand enough to fill up the entire building it currently occupies, but the 58th Street side has been part of the store since the building was completed in 1928. Since then, it has remained essentially intact architecturally, windows and all —until this week.
When the construction is completed, the building will have lost the original storefronts on all three of its street-facing sides. As we have pointed out before, the entire building is on a fast track to be considered for City Landmark designation before the end of this year which would preclude any further alteration to its exterior. The more it is altered, however, the less likely it is to be landmarked —which would please both the store and the building's current owner who are not in favor of landmarking. The redesigned façade should be finished in less time than its counterpart on the other side of the building since the dramatic arched entrance is expected to remain intact, but that will one of the few architectural elements left on the exterior street level from when the building was originally finished.

Slow Reveal: Bergdorf Goodman's New 57th Street Façade is Coming Into Focus




Bergdorf Goodman's New 57th Street Façade is Coming Into Focus

The reveal of Bergdorf Goodman's new 57th Street storefront is happening at a very protracted pace, but recently part of the redesign has been revealed (pictured above), and it looks even more different than we expected. The new Jewelry Salon which spurred the renovation has been open for weeks, but the unveiling won't be complete until the exterior is fully visible.
While the design of the new jewelry display windows is rendered on the plywood scaffolding covering the construction area (pictured below), the three actual windows that have been uncovered show details that aren't necessarily evident on the two-dimensional preview. Unlike on the rest of the store, the outer borders of the new windows are a contrasting gray stone rather than metal creating a more varied look on this side of the store than we were anticipating. Lighter gray marble surrounds the actual windows whose frames are made of beveled glass tiles, another material not found elsewhere on the building which should create a striking effect once the display lights are activated. The design echoes the faceted display cases inside the store. The biggest surprise is the expanse of white marble between the windows, an element that is not depicted on the rendering which suggests a more seamless looking update. What has yet to be revealed, and appears to be under wraps for a while longer, is the redesigned entryway meant to replicate the store's front door on 58th Street along with the Juliet balcony above it. Once it has been revealed and the lighting fixtures and new awnings are installed, we will have the full picture of the store's new 57th Street face. The only other thing that remains to be seen is how the dramatic alteration to the building will affect the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission's decision regarding the entire building. Last week, it was selected among a series of buildings put on a fast track to be considered for city landmark designation. Neither Bergdorf's nor the building's owner are in favor of the designation, which would disallow any further alterations. The costly new construction shows that two of the building's three street facing exterior walls have now been substantially changed from their original with stylistic elements that are not strictly in keeping with the period architecture of the building. That could potentially disqualify it as a historical landmark. It may be months before we learn the commission's final decision, but hopefully it will be only a few more weeks before we see the rest of the new storefront.

Frozen In Time: Bergdorf Goodman's Building On A Fast Track For Landmarking



Donna Karan's Urban Zen Will Take Her Spot At Bergdorf Goodman

A current Urban Zen look.
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There's a silver lining for true blue Donna Karan customers who were caught by surprise with last year's announcement that the superstar designer's main collection would be folded in favor of a revamped DKNY collection designed by the guys behind the Public School brand. With Donna herself relinquishing creative responsibilities at her namesake label, would this be the end for her as a designer?
As it turns out, no. In at least one store, her side project will take center stage.
In a not terribly surprising development, the Donna Karan Collection shop on Bergdorf Goodman's sixth floor, currently in its last days of selling her final Resort collection, will be converted to an Urban Zen shop by the middle of next month. For those unfamiliar with the line, her website describes Urban Zen as ". . .  a philosophy of living by Donna Karan, touched and inspired by cultures and artisans from around the world. We give back by supporting the Urban Zen Foundation, which has a mission to raise awareness and inspire change in the areas of Preservation of Cultures, Well-Being and Education."
Put more simply, it is also the name of three freestanding shops in New York City's Greenwich Village, Sag Harbor, New York, and Aspen, Colorado that Karan has operated for several years independently of the now LVMH-owned fashion empire that she founded in the 1980s. Now, the line will take over Karan's Bergdorf boutique in what should be a fairly seamless transition. So far as we know, this is the first time that Urban Zen has entered the wholesale business, likely because, in previous years, it would have been too great of a conflict with the former Donna Karan Collection. Karan's fans who are unfamiliar with the label will be comforted to find that the apparel offerings, limited though they may be, basically look like classic Donna Karan designs including draped jersey dresses, roomy cashmere sweaters and leather accent pieces as seen in the image above from the current offerings. Don't be surprised to see Urban Zen's home accessories and other items in the shops well. Given one of the designer's longtime pet peeves that has returned to the fashion conversation, you can also expect the merchandise to be sold in-season with winter clothes in the winter and summer clothes in the summer.
Donna Karan has always had a special relationship with Bergdorf Goodman. It was where she launched her own label, and her personal appearances at seasonal trunk shows were known to cause mob scenes that nearly gridlocked the entire floor.
Bergdorf's won;t be the only store left with a gap in its offerings. Saks Fifth Avenue also has a Donna Karan shop on the second floor that, as of last week, was still offering what was left of the final collection. While they might not be looking to add a new shop to the floor that will soon be converted into a grand beauty department as part of a top-to-bottom store renovation, the development at Bergdorf's suggest that we might see Urban Zen grow a bit more to fill the inevitable void left by the end of the original Donna Karan label with new Donna Karan-designed merchandise.

Urban Zen to Bergdorf Goodman (WWD)


Bergdorf Goodman's Building On A Fast Track For Landmarking

Yesterday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing to clear out a backlog of proposed landmark designation for over a hundred buildings in New York City, among them, The building that houses Bergdorf Goodman at 754 Fifth Avenue. While over 60 buildings were rejected for various reasons, the Bergdorf's building was included in a group to be prioritized for a final vote by the end of 2016. The store itself, which holds an extremely long-term lease on the location, has been fairly quiet about the developments, but the owner owner of the property is known to oppose a landmark designation.
Wouldn't it be a prestigious honor to have the building protected and singled out for its architectural contribution to the city?
Well, sure, but it's not that simple.
Once the building has been declared a landmark, it precludes any further alteration to its exterior, which can be a challenge when it houses a thriving business like Bergdorf's which may want to make upgrades and renovations to suit its needs. Currently the store is finishing up a major alteration to its 57th Street façade for its new jewelry salon (pictured above) which would not be permitted after a landmark designation. Occasionally, the commission requires that owners return buildings to their original state as much as possible, which can incur great additional expense. Alterations for business purposes are not entirely unheard of, however. During the 1990s, the landmarked Rockefeller Center got a special dispensation to substantially increase the size of its store windows on its Fifth Avenue side after a lengthy series of discussions with the commission. Ralph Lauren's flagship boutique at Madison Avenue and 72nd Street in the landmarked Rhineland Mansion was also substantially altered to create store windows and entrances when it was opened in the 1980s. In both cases, however, the original building materials have been carefully stored and numbered in the unlikely event that they would be returned to their original positions to restore the buildings' original design.
For its part, Bergdorf's exterior is not in its original state either. The building was constructed on the site of the Vanderbilt Mansion, but the store did not initially occupy it in its entirety when it moved in in 1928 to the northern portion of the building with its entrance on 58th Street. The Fifth Avenue storefront was divided amongst several stores (as seen in the image below compared with its current state) which Bergdorf's progressively consumed, eventually taking over all of them by the early 1970s except for Van Cleef & Arpels which still exists on the first floor of the building's southeastern corner. What might keep the building from being landmarked is the major redesign of the Fifth Avenue side of the building which erased the disparate storefronts and installed a unified facade and introduced the big display windows we see there today. Unfortunately, the re-design reflects the post-modern architectural style that was popular at the time featuring outsized detailing free of the kind of refined, carved decoration found on the rest of the building. Now it looks glaringly out of scale particularly on the grand entrance with its arched window and oversized keystone and the large cartouche featuring the store's main sign.
The architectural inconsistency on it's biggest exterior wall might discourage the commission from landmarking the building, especially because the prospects of the store submitting to a restoration of the old facade are essentially nonexistent —if it were even feasible to do that at all. Of course, the commission could vote to landmark it regardless of any alterations because of Bergdorf Goodman's prominence in the city's history and its retail industry. We should know what happens by the end of the year, if not before.

Landmarks Commission Acts On Backlog Properties (NYC Landmarks Commission)

754 Fifth Avenue
Image: Museum of the City of New York
Bergdorf Goodman's current 5th Avenue storefront including 1980s redesign as well as recent alterations to windows at Van Clef & Arpels


Bergdorf Goodman Raises Its Jewelry Game

The main floor at Bergdorf Goodman will be a construction zone for a while as a major overhaul continues through next year, but the first phase of the revamp has been unveiled (mostly). Not only does it consolidate the store's somewhat scattered jewelry display into a coherent salon, but it aligns the store with its immediate neighbors like Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels as a major player among the city's purveyors of precious baubles. While the previous arrangement which interspersed the handbag and jewelry offerings made for an entertaining meander through the main floor, it wasn't the most efficient format for selling either category, and specifically lacked the kind of intimacy expected from major jewel purchasers. Consolidating jewelry into the 57th Street side of the floor is a more conventional arrangement but gives the department a new potency that will be emphasized with a redesigned entryway and façade on that side of the store that will actually eliminate the large display windows in favor of smaller windows more suited to  jewelry. New plywood covering the ongoing construction (pictured below) shows the updated exterior design which will mimic 58th Street's main entrance. Despite its heavy traffic, the 57th street entryway was actually considered the store's "back door", but now that West 57th Street in being developed, for better or worse, into a "Millionaire's Row" of extravagant luxury towers, an upgrade seems to be in order. 
But back inside, the new Jewel Salon quietly opened over this past weekend revealing a 1930's French Moderne-inspired interior featuring a pearl-gray based palette that will eventually extend throughout the main floor. Now set off from the bustle of the rest of the floor, the new salon has a more hushed ambiance, but still has its share of visual excitement with a pair of  glittery, starburst chandeliers and paneled walls with beveled edges that recall gemstone cuts. Hexagonal display pieces also subtly allude to the shapes of the stones they contain. Another addition less apparent to the casually browsing customers is a private viewing room, a mainstay of the highest-end jewelers, for exceptional clients and special trunk show events. 
The new salon is only the first element of the store's elaborate "2020 Vision" plan which will include more renovations throughout the store and eventually allow it to capture two more floors of selling space as executive offices and other behind-the-scenes facilities are moved into an adjacent building next door on 58th Street. The whole project is meant to position the store for the future. "Timelessness is a very important mantra for us will all of our design decisions," senior vice president, women’s fashion and store presentation director Linda Fargo tells WWD, "What we do today in my lifetime is not going to be touched again for a long time. With something like a main floor, my feeling is this is definitely going to have to last another 20 years.”

Bergdorf Goodman Unveils Updated Jewelry Salons (WWD)



Go Behind The Scenes Of Bergdorf Goodman's Spectacular "Crimson Peak" Windows

It's pretty rare for a premier luxury store like Bergdorf Goodman to participate in something as commercial as a promotional movie tie in, but director Guillermo del Toro's "Crimson Peak" has proved to be a welcome exception. Billed as a gothic romance, the film's lavish production design has been an inspiration to the store's visual team, a group that has demonstrated time and again that no concept is too complicated or ornate for them to take on. While the folks at Bergdorf's haven't yet posted crisp photos on the store's blog 5th at 58th, they have released a behind-the-scenes video (embedded above) that shows the team creating and constructing the film's takeover of the Fifth Avenue windows in all of their macabre splendor. The movie opens this Friday, but you have all week to stop by Bergdorf's to check out another in a series of spectacular windows.

Click HERE for a slideshow of the full windows plus many production stills form the film that provided inspiration.


Former JCPenney Spokesperson Ellen DeGeneres To Team Up With Bergdorf Goodman For Pop-Up Shops

EllenbyRozmanWWDSometimes it takes a while to find the right business associates.
It was just a few years ago that Ellen DeGeneres became the face of a radical makeover of mass market department store JCPenney. As we recall, it didn't go too well for anyone involved, but since then, Ellen has forged a new merchandising path with a more upscale lifestyle brand, ED by Ellen that launched online earlier this year. In a belated celebration of the new brand, the comedian turned talk-show-host turned designer will make a decidedly more luxurious statement by opening at the city's most opulent retailer, Bergdorf Goodman.
From labor day until the end of September, ED by Ellen Decorative Home will have its own in-store shop in Bergdorf's home furnishings department on the 7th floor. It will be the first time that any of DeGeneres's merchandise will be available to see and purchase in-person in a retail setting. Apparel offerings from the label will be available online at, though they don't appear to be scheduled for an in-store appearance at the moment. While Ellen's pared down and casual style, as well as more accessible price points, might seem more suited to store with a broader customer base like Lord & Taylor or even Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman president Josh Schulman told WWD that her "amazing sense of style" will resonate with Bergdorf customers, elaborating, “we do a tremendous business with brands with a simple aesthetic, a refined, clean aesthetic and we believe this will be something fun for them.” Schulman calls the specially curated offerings "the elevated expression" of the brand. Apparel items will range from a $45 T-shirt to a  $1,495 hand-knit cashmere fisherman scarf, which seems priced well within Bergdorf's wheelhouse. In the home section, items will include barware and ceramic tableware and a handwoven cashmere throw going for $3750 among other selections. While the pop-ups are currently slated to be a one-time event, an ongoing partnership has not been ruled out depending on customers' respone to the new brand.

Ellen DeGeneres and Bergdorf Goodman Getting Together for Fashion Pop-up (WWD)


Bergdorf's Goes Artsy for The Holidays

Barneys wasn't the only store that unveiled its windows this week. Bergdorf Goodman also lifted the curtains on its Fifth Avenue windows which, this season, are devoted to the arts —all of them.
The Bergdorf's team, led by senior director of visual presentation David Hoey, decided to devote each of the windows to a major art form including literature, architecture, theater, painting, music, dance, sculpture and film. each window was designed separately out of its own set materials such as neon lights for the "Theater" window (pictured above), fabric, soft sculpture and needlework for "Literature" and nothing but paper and old blueprints for "Architecture". As always, the windows reveal incredible workmanship upon close inspection, drawing lingering crowds and making them pretty hard for folks like us to casually photograph. As they do every year, however, Bergdorf's has nearly all of them shot in detail on its own blog 5th/58th, which is the best place to see them if you can't get there in person.
Next week: Bloomingdale's and Saks unveil just before Thanksgiving.

Holiday Windows 2014: Inspired (5th/58th-Bergdorf Goodman)


Barneys' Baz-Dazzled Holiday Promotion To Debut On Thursday
Unveiling Dates For Lord & Taylor,
Saks & Bergdorf's

Thanksgiving is kinda late-ish this year, which seems to have given New York's retailers license to unveil their Holiday windows as early as possible. Walk past Manhattan's big stores this week and see all the windows conspicuously shrouded as the visual teams furiously work to get those lights and tinsel trees in place. Barneys' highly publicized promotion with film director Baz Luhrmann is set to be unveiled tomorrow, just as the weather is finally expected to cool down to something reasonably appropriate for the Holiday season (it is currently 61˚F  outside as we type this). 
Barneys has a lot riding on the Luhrmann collaboration. It's Holiday promotions have hit sour notes for the past three years running which is particularly embarrassing for a store whose hilarious Holiday windows were once the talk of the town and one of the store's signature elements. This time, under Luhrmann's direction, the store will be going big and reintroducing some glitter and whimsy back into its newly super-serious minimalistic store. The Madison Avenue storefront will be covered with an elaborate façade (rendering pictured above), and, beyond just having animated displays, Luhrmann, is wife and creative partner Catherine Martin and designer Zaldy have been creating elaborate costumes for live performers who will appear in the windows and on the store's balconies throughout the season. Shoppers can look forward to ice skaters in the windows and a dancer/contortionist called Elphresh who will appear in a glittering gold romper. Weekends will bring the Queens of Night and Light appearing hourly on the store's second floor balconies in voluminous ballgowns to serenade the Madison Avenue crowds and more. We are cautiously optimistic that, after forays into celebrity, cartoons, ostentatious hip-hop-tinged special items and pretentious artsy-fartsy-ness, the folks currently running Barneys may have finally found their way back to the kind of sensibility that originally endeared New Yorkers to Barneys in the first place. If this Holiday promotion resonates with customers, maybe they will re-evaluate that "Taste! Luxury! Humor!" slogan they were so quick to dismiss.
Anyway, Barneys isn't the only store throwing itself a party tomorrow. Lord & Taylor, which is undergoing its own ongoing rejuvenation program, will be lighting up its windows on Thursday as well.
Bergdorf Goodman will be unveiling its windows, currently the city's most acclaimed, on Monday the 17th. The UNICEF Snowflake over the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street will also be lit simultaneously, and 10% of the evening's proceeds will be donated to the U.S. fund for UNICEF.
Saks Fifth Avenue is conservatively holding its Holiday window reveal back until Monday November 24. With new ownership and management, the store is also looking to make a splash, so say goodbye to those illuminated dancing snowflakes on the façade that the store has presented in the past seasons. This year, Saks is promising The Rockettes themselves at the unveiling as well as a display from Fireworks by Grucci. The windows will pay tribute to the Roaring '20s and include brand new high-tech projections and lighting schemes. The launch will be live-streamed at
Bloomingdale's will be celebrating its windows on Monday as well with a live performance from Broadway star Idina Menzel at 5 PM on the Beacon Court of the Bloomberg Building across 59th Street along with the cast of the Off-Broadway show Illuminate.
Plan to leave work early.

The Holiday Race: Barneys Taps Baz Luhrmann For One More Shot At Holiday Glory