Those removed from the fashion industry may consider Matthew Miele's documentary "Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's" a glittering, 93-minute advertisement for the high-fashion store on New York's Fifth Avenue.
But to those who can't get enough of Vogue and W, the film, partially financed by a descendant of Bergdorf Goodman's founders, is something of a tribute to the department store's contributions in promoting the careers of the most successful designers around the world.
"When a store like Bergdorf Goodman comes to see your collection, you start to feel like things are finally happening," says Bucks County native Thom Browne.
Browne created major ripples earlier this year when First Lady Michelle Obama wore his navy, patterned coat as one of her Inauguration Day outfits. A similar story about Bergdorf's infuence is shared by designer Michael Kors and more than 175 other fashion figures, moguls, editors and socialites interviewed by Miele throughout the course of "Scatter My Ashes," the title which refers to a New Yorker cartoon where one matron remarks, "I want my ashes scattered over Bergdorf's."
The most fascinating interviews, however, are two Bergdorf employees, David Hoey and Betty Halbreich, the latter a personal shopper so deeply entrenched in the store's subculture that employees directed Miele to speak with her. Halbreich's expressions and one-liners briefly infuse the fashion doc with humor, while Hoey's meticulous decision-making process, leading to Bergdorf's esteemed window displays, is a reflection on the culture within this luxury haven.
There are several amusing anecdotes including one account of Elizabeth Taylor purchasing hundreds of mink earmuffs to send as holiday gifts, and fascinating insights on luxury consumers' spending habits, including the $6,000 pair of jewel-encrusted Louboutin heels that are so popular, the shoe salon can't keep them in stock.
Behind the expensive clothing and intricate window displays, Miele engages the viewer with the politics behind Bergdorf's competition with other high-end retailers Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue, and looks at Bergdorf's cultural significance and role in weaving the American dream.
"Everyone wants to better themselves, so they aspire. I think that's why stores like this are necessary," says former "Saturday Night Live" producer Jean Doumanian.
"Ashes" is a fascinating doc that accurately captures the luster of the venerated fashion mecca and shows why Bergdorf's has become an American institution-a standard bearer that exceeds the demands of consumer capitalism and a symbol where dreams are fulfilled-or within reach.
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's
Documentary directed by Matthew Miele. Narrated by William Fichtner. Distributed by eOne Entertainment.
Parents' guide: PG-13.
Running time: 93 minutes.
Showing at: Ritz Bourse.