Paging: The Bergdorf Windows

On my first holiday season in New York, a stylish young friend dragged my uptown to Bergdorf Goodman to see the store’s strange and whimsical windows, which that year included a mannequin in a Chanel suit with an extraordinary 10-foot arm, from which 10 or so bags descended. Turns out, years later, this window is still cited as one of David Hoey’s most memorable achievements—which, for the world-renowned window-dresser, is saying quite a bit. His career, along with collaborator and Senior VP of Women’s Fashion Linda Fargo, is traced in Windows at Bergdorf Goodman, a richly illustrated book produced by art experts Assouline. Available today, the limited-edition tome celebrates not only the richness of the holiday displays, but also the task the duo have undertaken to make the best window displays in the world, again and again, on a weekly basis. “As visual daredevils, we take it as a chance to cause a sensation and create something which might be remembered in the mind’s eye,” Fargo explains of her work. “Like a vivid dream recalled from a good night’s sleep.”

Surveying page upon page of archived windows, the indelible images swing from the high concept to pop-cultural, paying homage both to fashion, fantasy and familiarity. Hoey and Fargo understand the gravity of displaying the world’s finest sartorial objects as art, but they don’t let the history of houses like Valentino or Hermes box them in. Instead, in the 13-foot-high, only four-foot-deep space, Hoey and Fargo stay playful and avoid self-seriousness. “In my wallet I carried a fortune cookie message that said: ‘Your ability to see the silly in the serious will take you far,'” Hoey says. “I took that as a mandate, and my favorite Bergdorf windows illustrate the principle of being silly yet scholarly.” He cites a Prada-dressed mannequin lecturing a group of ventriloquist’s dummies and a Freudian analysis occurring in an ice-cream parlor as examples. Normally, for a Fifth Avenue-traversing passerby, this is New York, there is no time to slow down. But Windows documents artisans who have, for nearly two decades, managed to thrill natives and tourists equally, by showcasing fashion rivaled only by its spectacular context.