If fashion is a religion, one of its sacred shrines is an emporium that takes up an entire city block on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, a store so venerated by devotees that a celebrated New Yorker cartoon had one matron confess to another, "I want my ashes scattered over Bergdorf's."
Still overseen by the descendants of the family that began it in 1901, Bergdorf Goodman, to give the place its official name, is the kind of store that both its shoppers and the designers whose clothes sell there view as next door to addictive.
The epitome of luxury and priced to match, Bergdorf's has been called everything from a hymn to consumer capitalism to the store with the most discerning clientele in the world, the kind of place where a $6,000 pair of heels is so in demand that the shoe salon can't keep them in stock.
More than all that, as portrayed in the sparkling documentary Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's, its story is an engaging one.
Though partly funded by a descendant of the store's founder, director Matthew Miele has made a clever, fast-moving film that isn't overly reverential about its subject. It examines such matters as the store's legendary personal shoppers and display windows so significant that Giorgio Armani claims that when he comes to New York "the first thing I want to know is what's in the window."
Armani is far from the only big-name designer Miele counts among his more than 175 interviews. Karl Lagerfeld, shoe king Manolo Blahnik, Marc Jacobs, the twins Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, and Michelle Obama favorite Jason Wu add weight to Isaac Mizrahi's statement that clothes that are not at Bergdorf's are clothes without a future.
Though filmmaker Miele races all over the Bergdorf experience, the heart of the film, the narrative thread he returns to over and over, is the overwhelming amount of work put into the store's signature moment, its Christmas windows.
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's *** (out of four stars)
Directed by Matthew Miele. With Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Candice Bergen, and Vera Wang. Distributed by Entertainment One.
Running time: 1 hour, 33 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (sexual reference)
Playing at: Ritz Bourse