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Legendary Fur Shopping


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200 mink earmuffs and 80 fur coats in one trip. These folks knew how to get things done!


Secrets of an A-list dressing room

By Kirsten Fleming



It was the early 1970s, and screen siren Elizabeth Taylor had made an appointment at Bergdorf Goodman’s fur salon.


As she sauntered into the room, workers were lined up at attention. After all, the store expected Taylor to walk out with enough fur coats and blankets to keep all of Siberia toasty.


But instead, Taylor asked if they could make her a pair of mink earmuffs. The furrier at the Fifth Avenue institution happily agreed.


“Well, great,” the screen siren replied, “because I need 200 pairs of white mink earmuffs to give to everyone on my Christmas list.” She widened her violet eyes before adding: “And we’re leaving for Gstaad in a week.”


This story, as relayed by designer Michael Kors in the new documentary “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s,” is just one of many celebrity secrets revealed by the film, out May 3.


The cinematic love letter to the department store, which has been at its current Fifth Avenue location since 1928, spills tales of high society, first ladies and the fashion elite who made up the store’s well-heeled clientele.


“Bergdorf is the jewel in the crown and the centerpiece for retail in New York,” says Joe Zee, Elle magazine’s creative director. “There isn’t anything else like it.”


Elizabeth Taylor wasn’t the only celebrity to make a sizable impact on the store’s fur department.


Former fur buyer Jack Cohen recalls the phone ringing at 4 p.m. one Christmas Eve in 1978 or 1979.


It was Yoko Ono, a huge fur collector at the time, calling on behalf of her husband, John Lennon.


“John wants to buy me some furs. Can you come over?” she asked.


Although it was almost closing time, Cohen’s boss told him to do whatever it took to hit the team’s sales numbers, so he and his co-workers lugged about 10 trunks full of fancy pelts to the Dakota, where Lennon lived with his wife.


Ono came to the back door right away and apologized for calling Cohen on Christmas Eve.


Cohen and his colleagues waited in the living room while Ono and Lennon surveyed the luxe offerings privately in the kitchen. Almost two hours later, Ono led the sales team into the room.


“I have a surprise for you,” she said.


She and Lennon had picked out nearly 80 furs for themselves and for friends as gifts — making a sale for Bergdorf’s worth well over $400,000.


After the sale, Lennon asked: “Did we do well?”


“You did great,” Cohen replied.


The countless celebrities who frequented the store included Grace Kelly, Barbra Streisand and Jacqueline Kennedy.


Although many assume Oleg Cassini made Kennedy’s inauguration dress in 1961, the design was actually a collaboration between the store’s then-fashion director Ethel Frankau and Diana Vreeland.


The first lady had also developed deep ties to the department store through Halston, who started as a milliner there around 1957. He designed the pink pillbox hat she wore the day her husband was assassinated, says former model Pat Cleveland.


According to Cleveland, Halston was enamored with the first lady, calling her “one of his favorite people.”


The designers have always been a part of the magical recipe beyond the threshold of the Beaux-Arts building.


New York designer Lela Rose says a high point of her career was when her work was showcased in the store’s famous Fifth Avenue windows in 2004. When she saw the display, she couldn’t contain her excitement.


“I biked by the window about 500 or 600 times, just going around the block and taking so many pictures. Of course, this was before we had digital cameras,” Rose tells The Post.


Or, as designer Isaac Mizrahi quips in the film, “If your clothes are not at [bergdorf’s] then they have no future . . .  Sorry.”


Michael Kors owes his career to the store. He was a shaggy-haired dropout from the Fashion Institute of Technology making one-off pieces in the late 1970s when he was discovered.


Kors was putting up clothes in a store window near 57th Street, when Bergdorf’s legendary fashion director Dawn Mello spotted him — and his intriguing garments.


She walked up to him and asked who had designed the clothing.


“I did,” he said.


That’s when Mello offered Kors the opportunity of a lifetime — to show his line to her buyers.


He eagerly agreed, but there was one problem.


“I didn’t have a line,” he recalls in the movie with a hearty laugh. He quickly crafted a collection, which was picked up by the store.


Three decades later, Linda Fargo is in charge of the fashion and presentation at the store, sitting front-row at fashion shows and searching for new stars.


In the film, she is seen meeting with Tommy Hilfiger’s daughter Ally to go over her Nahm clothing line. Ultimately, Fargo declines to carry the collection — and disappointment spills all over Ally’s face.


But Fargo — and her impeccable silver bob — are unmoved. In the movie, she says she always imagines the client when looking at a piece and asks herself: “Where’s she going in that? If you can’t answer that, then probably no one can.”


But while the clothes at Bergdorf are incredibly selective, the family who founded the store were more down-to-earth than you’d think.


For years, the family lived in a 16-room apartment on the top floor with 10 windows overlooking Central Park and eight overlooking Fifth Avenue. And yet, they were officially listed as its janitors.


Real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran says in the film, “That was the only way to get around the building codes!”


And when it comes to customers, the family has established a culture of treating everyone who comes into the store with the same pleasant demeanor.


Once a bag lady wandered into the store’s fur salon. Andrew Goodman, son of original owner Edwin Goodman, stepped over to help her.


“He was trying to be very polite as everyone here always is,” his grandson, also called Andrew, recalls in the film.


“As she started to touch the fur, she said, ‘I really want to buy it.’ ”


She inquired about the price of the coat, which cost about $8,000 — approximately $250,000 today.


Although it seemed unlikely that a woman dressed in tatters could afford it, she opened her bag and reached in.


“She started pulling cash out of her bag and bought the sable coat,” says grandson Andrew. “But the point of the story . . . is never judge a book by its cover. And you never know. A bag could be full of money.”


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