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.
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.
(LOL): OK starting from the top... What other store window displays do you
admire the most?
(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
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
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
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
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?
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.
James: Also the
fashion, getting the fashion is a big trauma for us sometimes. We're all
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.
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.
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
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 Lookonline.com & Totally Cool