Linda Fargo

By
Photography Hao Zeng

Published January 23, 2017

In collaboration with

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LINDA FARGO IN NEW YORK, JANUARY 2017. MAKEUP: NARS SOFT MATTE COMPLETE CONCEALER IN CUSTARD.

Just over 10 years ago, Linda Fargo joined Bergdorf Goodman, New York’s most venerable department store. Tasked with keeping Bergdorf current with each new trend and transformation, it’s the Milwaukee, Wisconsin native’s eye and sensibility that are making fashion evermore expansive, forward thinking, and full of surprises. As a face of Interview x NARS Cosmetics’ “The Art of Throwing Shade,” Fargo muses on evolutions within fashion and merchandising, the problem of dumbing down for the job, and bringing a sense of fun to her authoritative position. 

STARTING OUT: Like dating and relationships, you learn as much about what you want in a job from the ones that don’t work out as from the ones that do. In my very first summer job in a fast food joint, my inner feminist couldn’t stomach having to address my petty tyrant male boss as “Sir.” Early lesson number one: Respect thyself. Lesson number two: Respect your boss if they deserve it, or quit.

What I consider my first real career-building job was with Macy’s display department in the ’80s. Macy’s was a different place then; they carried amazing designers like Kenzo, Matsuda, Kansai Yamamoto, Armani, Myrenne de Premonville, Mugler, Calvin Klein—all designers who, for an open-eyed emigré from Wisconsin, were a masterclass in fashion design. I had come from a fine arts background, and my real passion was mixed media, found object, and assemblage—a magpie underpinning that has stayed with me as a fashion director and visual, store, and interior designer. To my eye, everything from trash to treasure was fair game, and that huge, 20-plus-floor-store with amazing stuff in it was a tinderbox of ideas. At 23 years old, I very quickly became production manager for the window director, then, a few years later the window director for the largest store in the world (and the one with the most windows in the world, too).

ON SEXISM: At 25 years old, with such a visible job in what was still a guy’s world—as both straight and gay guys were predominately in the drivers seat—I’m not going to say I didn’t come close to a nervous breakdown. I had to connive a way to get tenured union tradesman and get the impossible done within impossible time frames on a weekly basis. I had to, sadly, feign not knowing how to build something just so their male egos could solve the problems for me. Let’s just say I did what I had to do to get the job done. I’m not proud of it, but that was the way it was in those transitional times. I learned so much about “getting along” by bringing people along with me—from balancing friendships with authority; to valuing fun and joy at work as much as the work itself; to  learning how to “assume the position,” own your role, not be shrill, stay calm and firm, be unwavering without apologies, listen, wait to speak, respect the elders, harness the unexpected and, for god’s sake, work like you don’t need the money. Do it for love. Impress yourself first. Create what hasn’t been done before. Thousands of amazing projects, people, challenges, and opportunities later-here we are.

FEELING EMPOWERED: I’m personally empowered through accomplishment. If I reach, push, risk, strive, solve, create, dare, do, that’s when I’m at my strongest.

BEAUTY & CONFIDENCE: The world responds to effort and originality in all its forms. I get so much pleasure from putting effort into making the best of what I was given, and not bemoaning what I wasn’t! Don’t kid yourself—style matters!

FOR MORE FROM “THE ART OF THROWING SHADE,” CLICK HERE.