Step onto the marble floors of Bergdorf Goodman Women’s Store on Fifth Avenue and you’ll be greeted by twinkling chandeliers, designer handbags, stunning jewelry displayed in glass cases, and a serene color palette of ivory, soft pearl greys, and brass. Across the street is the Men’s Store, which boasts a library of curated shoes along a wall of gridded walnut paneling and upholstery in shades of green velvet and leather.
The Bergdorf brand is the quintessential mecca of luxury and high-end Manhattan culture, catering to the store’s well-traveled shoppers, who pass through the doors in droves. Overseeing the landmark retailer seems a daunting task, as it spans 140,000 square feet across 10 floors with design and displays that must be both fresh and familiar.
Mika Raja-Dell’Anno, however, finds the rapid pace invigorating. Moving from Mumbai to Los Angeles in pursuit of her architecture degree, she discovered an affinity for retail and yearned for the busy metropolitan energy that she’d grown up around. This desire sent her to New York City after graduation and straight into the proverbial arms of Bergdorf Goodman, which itself is housed in the retail epicenter of Midtown Manhattan.
“I love New York,” says Raja-Dell’Anno, who is now Bergdorf’s director of store design and planning. “I love the pace of retail design and construction, and the idea of telling the story of a brand, creating a home for the customer and evolving that aesthetic as the brand grows.
“What’s unique about Bergdorf,” she continues, “is that it gives me the chance to tell the brand story in many different ways because each floor has its own design vocabulary, a unique point of view.”
Dine Among Design
Bergdorf has a habit of listening to employee and customer feedback, then delivering something that exceeds expectations. The highly anticipated Goodman’s Bar opened its doors in January 2020, replacing the vendor shop that had long ago replaced a once beloved café. “It’s always been on our radar to build some sort of replacement for the café, but we wanted to do it the right way,” Raja-Dell’Anno explains. “We wanted to do it differently than before.”
Indeed, Goodman’s Bar serves more than just espresso or martinis. It’s a full-service restaurant located on the second floor of the Men’s Store, featuring a menu created by Michelin-starred Chef Austin Johnson and a wine and cocktail list curated by Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson.
Raja-Dell’Anno describes the space itself as “rooted in art-deco style” with elements inspired by international influences, and European cafés. “There’s Italian-inspired broken pattern marble,” the director describes. “There are caramel leather and cane banquettes that are reminiscent of Viennese coffee shops.”
True to its home, these touches are still undoubtedly New York. The focal wall is lined with a mural inspired by Central Park, which Raja-Dell’Anno refers to as Bergdorf’s backyard. The director designed this mural with hand-painted wallpaper expert De Gournay, giving the restaurant an open, expansive feel in a unique way.
When it comes to installing an entire restaurant into the middle of an existing retail space, the director says, “It was not challenging as much as it was refreshing to design an experience rather than an envelope because in traditional retail, we always design the shell.”
The product itself usually remains the star of the show, but not in this case. “It gave us an opportunity to explore a different level of design detail in everything because now the customers are interacting with the furnishings,” Raja-Dell’Anno says. “What do the tabletops feel like? What is the experience when they’re seated at the bar? What makes them comfortable, even if it’s as simple as integrating a USB charger under the bar? Those things are important to people and they’re often overlooked.”
Stop and Smell the Coffee
Customers who are famished but only have a New York minute can visit the coffee bar on the Beauty Level in the Women’s Store, a partnership between Bergdorf and specialty coffee brand Devoción, one of the only farm-to-table coffee roasters in the world.
“We met with the owner and founder of Devoción [Steve Sutton] to understand a little more about their business and aesthetic,” Raja-Dell’Anno says. “We learned it’s very important to them to have a live element in all of their flagships.” The director’s solution was to incorporate a 6-foot-by-26-foot frieze that merges Bergdorf’s classic art deco style with a live installation of succulents along sculptural brass fretwork.
“I love the pace of retail design and construction, and the idea of telling the story of a brand, creating a home for the customer and evolving that aesthetic as the brand grows.”
Much like every detail one can find in the store, the café placement is the most intentional part of all. As the coffee bar sits beside the fragrance section, it’s meant as a relief to the “olfactory fatigue” that sampling an array of perfumes can bring on a customer. “We thought it was an interesting juxtaposition to put the coffee bar in our fragrance hall,” Raja-Dell’Anno says. “It helps reset your palate and reenergizes you to keep going.”
Each chapter of the Bergdorf brand story offers the director an opportunity to try something different, to see the entire evolution of a project from start to finish. “When you’re talking about retail, Bergdorf is the pinnacle of luxury and style,” Raja-Dell’Anno says. “And to be able to shape a New York City landmark each day is truly a dream come true.”