BG Stories: My First Day
I started working at Bergdorf Goodman six years ago, as a Trunk Show Coordinator in our Special Events Department. It all sounded very glamorous, Trunk Shows… Special Events. To be honest, I didn’t even know what Trunk Shows and Special Events really meant but I knew that this was a job that would take me places. Unbeknownst to me, it also was a job that required me to moonlight as an event name-checker, napkin-folder, gift bag-wrapper and runner about-town…
The day began bright, crisp and sunny. Scarf weather. I had just moved to the City and was living — temporarily — on my aunt’s couch in SoHo. The subway still was a mystery of speeding trains and yellow, orange and green lines; and, everywhere I looked, a new adventure dared me to chase it. At times I would gaze dizzily up, thunderstruck over the trees that grew on building tops. I was such a country bumpkin.
That first day happened to be a notable one for Bergdorf Goodman: BG Restaurant would open its doors for the very first time. I only had been in the store once before, just after my job interview, and I had gotten terrifically lost after riding the escalator to the Second Floor (on that fated afternoon, I ended up in the Dior boutique and watched the Spring/Summer runway show unfold again and again and again). Never had I seen a store this big or grandiose… but I was determined to complete my task of the day: assist Kelly Wearstler as she finished preparing the restaurant for its unveiling that night. I did not know who Kelly Wearstler was and, for that matter, I didn’t know how to do half the things that were asked of me, but I did them. I think.
Kelly could not have been nicer — she was gracious and encouraging and incredibly understanding… she was cool in her Chuck Taylors and vintage denim, and I was the bewildered mess of a girl spilling coffee on my blouse, getting lost on my way to the kitchen. At some point mid-afternoon (while our Events & PR girls were busy at another event on Four), I was sent on a mission. Yes: my first mission, and I was asked to find votives.
I botched it. Upon discovering ABC Carpet’s emporium of sparkling gizmos, sealing wax and chandeliers, I fashioned my own votive table scape from a selection of amber, yellow and faded green glass. I completely forgot the request for plain, clear votives. Furthermore, I delivered half of the selection in shattered pieces. I wish I could say I were one of those chic girls who, with the flick of her hair, answered with absolute savvy, aplomb and misdirection; but, to be honest, I never was and never will be; so, with my tail between my legs, I admitted my error and made three more trips to Union Square before getting the order right. I felt defeated and exhausted; I had single-handedly managed to almost ruin the opening of our restaurant, on my very first day. Although it was just my first day, I knew one thing: ambiance is everything. Somewhere between Fifth Avenue and Broadway, I lost the cap to my heel and couldn’t sort out from where that metallic scraping was coming. My arms burned and my shoulders ached, I wanted to cry.
But I went back upstairs. The restaurant was empty save for Kelly who making a few final touches. I still didn’t understand who she was or that the night’s celebrations were intended for her but I respected how hard she had worked that day, how kind she was to me after my parade of mistakes; so I rested the final bag of clear votives on the restaurant’s new bar and found myself gazing out the window. Central Park’s trees flickered copper and gold against autumn’s bold cobalt sky. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? This was the view that so many of us would appreciate and photograph in the years to come. I placed the votives on the tabletops — in odd numbered groupings, as I would continue to do for years to come.
Later that night (now in a new, un-blemished top I couldn’t quite afford), I discovered that coordinating trunk shows (a trait I had yet to actually learn) also meant checking names off the guest list for the Special Events department. Good gracious I was wide-eyed: these were the designers I read about in magazines, written about in my college newspaper. And now we were face to face. I can say, with almost pure confidence, that I mis-identified at least a handful of faces. Peter Som, I’m sorry. And Stacey, please don’t take offense. Mrs. Posen? I hope you can forgive me: it was just my first day. Our poor Special Events team, I must have really embarrassed them. But you know how quickly faces can change and blur and seem different and the same all at once, and so you must understand how easy it was to confuse the woman in the floor-length marigold dress… the one who had to kindly remind me to who she was and how just hours earlier we had paused and enjoyed the view.