Jeff Koopersmith’s Conspicuous Consumption Watch: Bergdorf Gone Bananas?

What Are We Thinking?
Worst Luxury Goods Catalogue Ever? Or a Symptom of Dysfunctional Tastemaking?

The first installment of Jeff Koopersmith's Conspicuous Consumption Watch — American indulgence that makes us the envy and laughing stock of the world

Jan. 26, 2007 — Geneva ( — I laughed out loud when I got the latest piece of junk mail from Bergdorf Goodman, the Fifth Avenue Department store that sometimes reflects everything that's bad about America — and at other times everything that is good.

One thing you should know: before bought by Nieman, Bergdorf the store was the launching point for Mrs. Goodman, a great New York Democrat who often hosted emerging talents both political and analytical in her apartment, which was at one time above the store itself at 58th Street and Fifth Avenue.

But today, it seems someone at BG has gone bananas and thinks that this store, a flagship of what a fine department store should be, will now be selling — get this — CDs and books, if you can believe it!

After laughing my way through their latest mailing, I couldn't help but take a look at what they were offering on their Web site.

The contributions?

  • A frenetic and nose-in-the-air set of a dozen or so CDs by such famous vocalists and musicians as Robin McKelle (who?)
  • "Various" from something called "Hôtel Costes Volume 9"
  • Another Various, something called Living Theater with Joseph Baldassare, a "trilogy" at a whopping $62
  • A couple of CDs from Claude Challe (who?)
  • An epic collection of "delicious dance, rock, and worldbeat fusions"
  • 39 songs selected by French tastemaker Claude Challe's brother and music partner, Jean Marc Challe (who?)
  • A collection of junk from Cafe Del Mar's 15th Anniversary
  • AND — lo and behold — a disc from Brandford Marsalis called "Eternal" 

I streamed a couple of the tunes on the site. Cafe Del Mar sounded like the kind of thing you'd hear at an ice skating rink ("Music from Café del Mar in San Antonio, Ibiza, famous for its view of the sunset"). Same for Claude Challe.  I was, however, impressed by the voice of another complete unknown, Madeline Peyroux, a Georgia (USA, not the former USSR) native who lived in Paris for nine years. Her voice is sublime. And last but not least, I sampled "Best of Hôtel Costes," described as a "tres chic—a smooth cocktail of soft dance… the best from the first seven volumes of the Hôtel Costes series."

If that's not enough to make you laugh, try the online book section where you can buy a Jo Marz "Bible" for a mere $790 plus 38 bucks for shipping.  This Bible is hideous, covered with gold leaf (hand done — but then there is no other way to do it) and who knows what jewels, and looks like something tossed in the trash at the Vatican. The description: 

  • Adorned with hand-faceted garnet, African turquoise, freshwater pearls, lapis lazuli, and brass stampings. More than 875 full-color (NOT HAND DONE) Renaissance-era illuminations. Leather bound.

Or how about a leather-covered Merriam Webster dictionary or thesaurus? These days, it's certainly not the best resource — but such a bargain for only about 150 dollars each!  To make them worse, they have that horrible logo stamped on the cover!

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