Linda Fargo Fashion Director of Bergdorf Goodman

Linda Fargo, Now

Then: The 1997 Interview...

Linda Fargo, Vice President of Visual Merchandising at Bergdorf Goodman for a year and a half, comes to the post with positions as Senior Directory of Visual Merchandising at the Gap and as Vice President of Visual Merchandising at I.Magnin under her belt. She won the Where Magazine award for last year's Bergdorf holiday windows.

When we finally met Linda Fargo, we could not help but be struck first by her stunning silver hair and beautiful clear sparkling eyes. In a day and age where beauty is about artificiality improving, even transforming reality, Linda and her work achieves fantasy through reality and its celebration of the details. She is generous in crediting the collaborative process that is integral to the creative process. She is joined here by James Aguiar, Associate Creative Director-Windows Visual Merchandising.

Lookonline (LOL): OK starting from the top... What other store window displays do you admire the most?

Linda Fargo (LF): I pretty much consistently admire two stores. Three, maybe. I think Barneys does a terrific job. I think they've really created something that didn't exist before which is a big contribution and gift to everybody. You can always expect something that you've never seen and there's a level of inventiveness and the way they play with found objects-- trash that becomes art, I admire it a lot. And within the display industry itself they've brought a lot to the industry, a lot of ways of presenting things: the types of risers they've used, things --fixturing-- things that people outside the industry don't notice but from a window point of view, umm ... They've created their own look - and that`s a lot. And I also think Polo does a beautiful job - in the sense it looks like they spare no expense. They fit a lot into a very small space and it's handled just beautifully.

LOL: The Madison Avenue store? The Mansion.

LF: The Madison Avenue store. The Mansion, right. There's a funny little store that I never remember up on Madison Avenue. The one with the kind of handpainted china... They have the ribbons and they have the big bird cage...

LOL & James Aguiar: MacKenzie-Childs???

LF: MacKenzie-Childs! They do some really beautiful inventive work also. I think. New York is probably one of the only cities where windows are still important. I think a lot of other cities are, you know, malls. New York is a walking city. So, most everywhere else are cars, so there is not that kind of-- it doesn't lend itself.

LOL: Who is or was considered by you to be the greatest or most respected or most talented in doing windows in all the history of window display?

LF: I couldn't say "a most." There are some books we have, old books, windows from the forties and the fifties that I was never even aware of who these people were and I couldn't even recite their names... I mean Gene Moore-- obviously at Tiffany's, very special - very, very special. And on the modern side, I think Candy Pratts when she was at Bloomingdale's doing very shocking, tableau type of pieces. Colin Birch when he was at Bloomingdale's, very graphic, also very modern. There's have been a lot of people and everyone in their time, I mean Saks - stores go through periods where they have certain directors, more or less talented. Bob Benzio at Saks turned out some very memorable windows also. I'll never forget where he did an aerial view - I think it was for women's blouses maybe - where he did an arial view of women playing bridge and it was from a top view and all you saw were their tops and their arms raised out towards each other. So there's been memorable contributions from a lot of different people.

LOL: Have there been any funny stories from your experiences from putting up window displays?

LF: Probably so many I think they cross each other out. I guess I can probably think most recently - you know we end up in some very funny places and you have to negotiate with a lot of unusual people. You have to go to Canal street and speak to those guys who run those kind of hot shops ---- you know one like one week we did something with a smoke machine, we wanted it to look like heaven. And you look at each other and you go, "Do you think they're really going to deliver??? (James is laughing) Do you think they're going to tear up my credit card receipt afterward, or you know, what?" You know. Not necessarily the most trustworthy people.

James: What about the cake? That's pretty good.

LF: Oh we couldn't even find this place, for one thing. But once we found it... we didn't give ourselves a lot of time - the idea of Marie Antoinette was actually our last character we finally settled on for the windows. So we, you know, you had to do a cake - you know - "let them eat cake." And we needed a cake that was going to be really grand and big and we called around and we found this gentleman, Ron Ben Israel, who we had seen, some of his cakes, in a magazine. So we went to his place to get the project going. And then we go down and look at it again and I say, "Can we make it more elaborate? Enough is never enough for Marie Antoinette, it has to be more, it has to be more." Well we get it back and now it's even taller. And we were like, "Oh my God"-- when we finally get to the window - it's too tall ! I mean the monkey that was hanging from the ceiling literally would have had his feet in the cake. So James and I, around midnight on Saturday night (just about 24 hours before the windows were due to be completed ), we go and find a hack saw. And basically we had to do surgery on this very delicate cake.

LOL: I think the interesting thing about people like yourselves, or you know some people when they look through magazines, don't even know/realize there are people who dress the models or styled that. So people I think don't always realize; they're fascinated but they don't say, "Wow!"

James: How much work goes into it?

LOL: Yeah...

LF: Well... when something is finished and it's complete you're kind of not supposed to see that, everything looks very seamless. I mean the same thing, any magazine page whether it's Martha Stewart and a snowman - you know, well, somebody thought to do something with the snowman - they found someone to do it, who had an artistic background. There's so much process involved. I mean I just cleaned my desk after this project. The amount of correspondence that I threw out on the installation of Christmas was a lot. You know whether it's your operations people, whether it's the people cutting out your photostats that become your cameos. It's a lot of correspondence. Like in any business is. There's that backside, there's that production side to it.

LOL: Right.

James: Also the fashion, getting the fashion is a big trauma for us sometimes. We're all scurrying ...

LF: We wanted to do couture for Christmas. (Laughs.) The couture for Spring was so incredible this year. And so we thought-- let's do couture. We started there but that became so complicated. But we actually have spring preview which is unusual. We have about three of the pieces in the window this time that are going to be in store for Spring and aren't here yet. So that's kind of unusual.

LOL: What specific display was your greatest challenge?

LF: At the moment this one. (Laughs.) Christmas I told you is really challenging. I think I take a lot of projects on as being very challenging because really almost every week we have to do another one or two designs - - design them and produce them, install them all within these very short periods of time. And if you have a designer like a Galliano or Dior -- all the designers are important and you don't want anyone to feel you didn't give them something fabulous that matched the quality of the clothing. So I feel we really give it our best on a lot of people and it's not always easy because you're on that blank page again - What's new, what's new, what hasn't been done? And think you have a certain amount of tricks up your sleeve. I have a few things I repeat all the time.

LOL: What's a Linda Fargo hallmark, trademark?

LF: I like little creatures - - there's an old crow of mine over there.

James: Hands.

LF: I like hands. I tend to paint on the glass a lot because it changes the architecture of the windows without actually building something. I like a sense of humor. I tend to like things situational. A lot of the stores had gone over to abstract mannequins. I still kind of like the realistic mannequins because they kind of convey something situational better than an abstract can.

James: Surrealism.

LF: A bit of surrealism and fantasy. I feel that if I'm doing my best work or the work that seems to get the most reaction from a crowd, it tends to be like that circus scene. Where it's a complete theatre scene soup-to-nuts. From the sawdust on the floor to the tethered ropes that come down into the stakes that are coming through the floor to the burnt out lightbulb. You know, all the details that make it a very authentic scene. I like taking a concept and then trying to unearth all those little pieces.

LOL: Which project has been the most fun?

LF: We had a lot of fun with the chinoiserie window. The Shanghai Lilly window was a lot of fun.

James: That was a lot of freedom - the clothes were not even in the store. It was a chance to just look at fashion and we weren't really worried about selling it or that type of approach. It was a hot collection.

LF: It was hot and I think the whole Asian thing was really appealing. And we knew we got a grip on something when we got that one rolling. We knew we were going to be able to create some kind of very dark, mysterious, Occidental environment.

LOL: What are your plans for the future?

LF: Go skiing (laughs). In the very imminent future to go skiing. In the more distant future umm... I've been at Bergdorf's about a year, almost a year and a half and I feel very fortunate to be working in a store that really allows us, the visual department, to really run with it. And they let us take chances. You know some weeks we don't do something that's so popular. We may try something that's a little edgy or -- and it doesn't necessarily work but that's, like, OK because we have the next week to redeem ourselves and nobody really goes too crazy with us. And I think it's reaIly rare to have a job where you can come in and really - be - creative. I mean, you still have to be organized, you still have to work with others - - you know "get along with others." But we get to work with the most incredible merchandise, Where else can you... James and I had enough merchandise to fill Marie Antoinette's skirts five times over! I mean that's how many lovely things we have - - between a Judith Leiber egg bag, a Faberge carriage egg, beautiful fragrance bottles that are not common - we just have incredible merchandise. It's like a candy store in here.

(Editor's note: And the rest is history!)

- by Laurie Schechter

Laurie Schechter is a free-lance stylist and Creative Director of Totally Cool© - broadcast programing. Watch for a complete half hour episode of the Linda Fargo interview on Totally Cool© - Thursdays channel 17 at 2:30AM and 5:30PM channel 34 on Time Warner Cable.

(copyright © 1997 The & Totally Cool News©)

DFR: Daily Fashion Report