Bergdorf Goodman’s Linda Fargo’s Eye for Beauty and Singular Fashion Sense Are Unrivaled

Linda FargoPhotography by: Weston Wells

There are arguable few queens in the fashion kingdom with the gravitas, perspective, and impeccable taste that Linda Fargo of Bergdorf Goodman holds. She’s a super-hero of sorts—a tastemaker in the truest sense of the word—flashing her ruby smile for street photographers, magazine features, or hosting a Bergdorf gala—it’s part and parcel of her position as the SVP, Fashion Office and Store Presentation. Her job? To select and oversee the lucky designers and overall trends eventually wheeled in the hallowed selling salons of New York’s most elite retailer. But the grand moniker does not come without challenges. Twice yearly, Fargo takes the fashion bus across the Atlantic to attend a marathon of runway collections and showroom market appointments—a visit which provides invaluable seasonal ideas. The fashion ogre needs feeding and its Fargo’s job to find the stylish bites. Privileged life? Yes—gracing the front rows of fashion’s top-tier runway shows are activities for a select few. But nights with fine Italian linens at Milan’s luxurious Principe’ hotel is sandwiched with traffic ridden car rides, running to showroom meetings, and the ever-present pressure to remain on top of the fashion pile.

What’s most amazing about Linda is that after almost 20 years at Bergdorf’s she is gaining in popularity evidenced by the all important, and now required engagement in social media. She is a formidable representative for her brand, morphing into a model for street fashion paparazzi supporting the designers she loves. She’s a paradigm of New York chicness all rolled into one slender body. But working for one of the most elite and directional luxury purveyors makes ac- cess to clothing easy—she sports a Tamara Mellon leather skirt with two-foot fringe, unaware of the attention it would garner in the boroughs. In Fargo’s world fashion is drama. “I have always admired women with great original style. People like Iris Apfel, Giovanna Battaglia, and Ran- jana Khan— not only do they have astounding style but also they live on their own terms and with such grace and humor. I hope to see myself in their ranks someday,” says Fargo, confessing a sense of modesty and seemingly unaware of her tastemaker status.

Linda’s story begins in the Midwest where she grew up as a first generation American to a Norwegian mother and a Hungarian father. “My mother had incredible pared down style and unusual beauty,” she says. “My father was a fiery Hungarian and I get my hot bloodedness and survivor instincts from him. Both my parents were somewhat alien creatures dropped into the middle of the United States—my mother wearing clogs and Norwegian sweaters and my father sang Hungarian folksongs to us on the chair-lifts. Growing up in the Midwest forced me to cre- ate my own dramas and sense of theater. That genesis of creativity has been with me always.”

She was bitten with the New York bug from a Parsons School of Design brochure that she came across back in high school. “I got fixated on New York,” she says. “I was already making art since as long as I could remember and all I knew was that I had to go somewhere where artistic people congregated. I heard about the city, but everyone tried to scare me away saying that it was dangerous to look people in the eye {in New York}. Of course, I came anyway— with nothing but some thrift store clothes and $1,000,” she says of her Big Apple start. “I stayed with various friends from an artist in Chinatown to a family on polished Park Avenue,” she explains. “That said it all to me—I was at home right away.”

Her penchant for theater and fashion brought her to Macys 22 years ago where she found her first job working in the display department. “I love and thank my stars for that job!“ she says. “I learned everything in that “finishing school”—how to get along with every type of person, the importance of loving what you do, and working extraordinarily hard to seek out original solu- tions. The desire to distinguish myself was born in my days there.” Her assiduous work ethic and flair for the dramatic led her to become the window director quite young. “Can you imagine changing all those windows once a week?” she asks rhetorically. “ For god’s sake, {the windows} ran around 3 sides of the block, “ she says exasperated. “Display was perfect because it combined theater and artistry all on the playground of fashion and retail. I was bitten by this fantastic craft. Those were the days of American fashion’s dominance. I found myself at shows for Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Bill Blass—at the time Macy’s carried very advanced European and Japanese designers like Matsuda and Yohji Yamamoto—very different than their current mass- audience focus,” she recalls.
Linda Fargo NYAfter Macys I headed to the now defunct, I. Magnin, which was basically a West Coast Berg- dorf’s. The best thing about San Francisco was that it made me realize that my home was New York. I returned and knocked on the BG’s door where I had pressed my face against the window so many times,” she muses. “The legendary Dawn Mello and her creative director Richard Lam- bertson hired me after I created a custom portfolio of ideas that I would execute if hired.“ They took a chance on me,” she divulges with appreciation.

Although Linda has 20 plus years of fashion experience, she is not one to sit on past accom- plishments or talk about the “good old’ days.” A hallmark of her success is embracing the future and in the current digitally obsessed world, that equates to social media. Linda is naturally me- dia savvy and is aware of her place as a brand representative or muse. She started on Instagram early on and loves the medium. “Like so many of us these days, I can’t get enough of Instagram. I think it’s made everyone so much more visual. There are so many incredible images being made and not just by professionals,” she says. “It’s an antidote for all the disturbing news coming at us daily—it’s a counterbalance.”

A finger swipe through her Instagram feed reveals Linda’s work-life balance necessary for such a monumental position. “I have just returned from a special trip to Capri and then off to Tulum, Mexico for a special birthday. I need a venue for escapism and humanity, which I find by reading, traveling, or simply having dinner with my inner circle of friends on the North Fork of Long Island. As rich and layered as my life is, I am most happy with the simple things—a beautiful view surrounded by nature, a home cooked meal, or time with my lovely boyfriend—that is what makes me breathe more easily and fully,” she di- vulges about her personal life.

Her off–duty summer jaunts are a must in order to meet the demands of the fall season with a fresh eye but the spring runway season (coming in September, October) are fast approaching. “The fashion business is moving at warp speed,” she concedes. “The Internet Age demands many more layers to everyone’s professional and personal lives. The feeling of never getting it all done is the hardest part of my work,” she admits.

Like “conveyor belt sushi” where the plates change while the belt moves round and round, retail’s never-ending search for newness in the changing face of consumer buying habits led Bergdorf’s to unveil a new in store concept called, “The New Level Of Fashion”—the first comprehensive renovation to the sixth floor since the early 1980’s. The Row Shop, Mary- Kate and Ashley’s Olson’s tailored clothing brand and 2015 CFDA winner, has just opened.

Phase two of the renovation will be completed at the end of August and will include shops by Donna Karan, Thakoon, Tomas Maier, Etro, and Leila Rose. The idea is to showcase clothing as if customers were at home in their own closet, says a Bergdorf Goodman repre- sentative. “Sweeping views of Central Park add to the updated shopping experience while reconfiguring the space to look like a luxury residence. Linda’s take? “The future of retail is what we call “OMNI,” she explains. “It basically means to unify the in-store and on-line shopping experiences. I feel personally challenged to make sure the future of the human in– store experience and the physical relationship with clothes remains vibrant. What people may not know about me is that I am also responsible for the look and feel of the store,” she says. “I work on all the renovations and interiors.” This disclosure shows the massive scope of responsibility that most are unaware of. Truth be told, Linda Fargo worked hard to get to this point and continues to labor in this changing retail enviroment.

Fargo’s huntress instinct—foraging the globe for objects of desire and creating a com- fortable and inviting environment at her shop of curiosities, which is a formidable task, but one that she takes on with passion. When hearing Fargo talk about a designer, her enthu- siasm is clear and for the upcoming fall season she divulges her current favorites. “I would encourage people to take a look at the new Gucci and Dior. One needs to pause and admire the risk that these great brands take when they retool,” she says about the recent shifts in designers. “Also look at Sacai—and Valentino can do no wrong—so utterly beautiful and desirable!” For Linda Fargo, beauty and dedication to craft go hand-in-hand.