Published May 16, 2013"People who take fashion seriously are idiots," Joan Rivers confidently blurts out in the early moments of Matthew Miele's Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's. Her comment is intended to be humorous, yet it ironically encapsulates the vulgarity of this 93-minute ode to consumer delusion quite succinctly.
Miele's documentary chronicles the Bergdorf Goodman department store, the infamous NYC landmark that has held onto its coveted city block on Fifth Avenue since 1901, representing the epitome of luxury. It's known as the store that caters to the most "discerning" clientele (read: superficial idiots with more money than brains), where shoes that cost in excess of $5,000 are in such high demand that they can't keep them in stock.
The film features the biggest names in the fashion world, with a veritable who's-who making an appearance in the film to pat Bergdorf's, and themselves, on the back for being influential enough to gussy up vapid people in overpriced costumes.
Giorgio Armani, Michael Kors, the Olsen twins, Rachel Zoe, Vera Wang and many, many more pop up throughout the film to share their stories of how amazing it was to get their products into the department store and, more to the point, be acknowledged by arbitrarily defined greatness. Designer Isaac Mizrahi unknowingly underscores the absurdity of it all when he says, "If your clothes are not at that place, then there's no future for those clothes."
A department store that caters to the one-percent could have easily been a fascinating body of work, if handled correctly. With global recessions still affecting the economy and many people struggling to find work and get by, it's laughable to think such a place has existed for over 100 years, touting objects of fashion that cost more than a house. Unfortunately, as this film was partly funded by one of the descendants of the Bergdorf family, Scatter My Ashes is nothing more than an advertisement for a shrine of illogical consumerism.
One of the subjects in the film attempts to tackle the idea that high-end consumerism is vital when she says, "Stores like this are necessary to make people want to aspire; you need this for the American Dream." The very notion that Bergdorf Goodman is a necessity is laughable, especially when the film briefly touches upon the 2008 U.S. financial collapse. It attempts to generate sympathy for luxury retailers that were hard-hit without acknowledging their place in the decaying economy, not understanding that this "dream," or this expensive crap — this insincerity and greed — was the very reason for the crisis in the first place.
The film's title was taken from a New Yorker cartoon where two ladies are sitting at a table and one confesses to the other, "I want my ashes scattered over Bergdorf's." The anecdote emphasizes the passion and loyalty clients have for the department store, yet it seemingly goes back to the initial comment made by Rivers, which points out that you can't take fashion — or this bland, talking heads documentary with little artistic integrity — seriously. (eOne)