Department store Bloomingdale’s has been a New York institution for 157 years (starting out with hoop skirts, which were all the rage in the 19th century) evolving into something of a cultural icon, favored by an elite clientele including First Ladies Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford.
It’s also the site where Jackie O. was reportedly prone to “[dropping] tens of thousands of dollars” in a single visit. Hollywood stars like Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway and Diana Ross have had Bloomingdale’s credit cards. And Queen Elizabeth II herself dropped by during a state visit for America’s Bicentennial in 1976.
A 1974 New York Times article described Bloomingdale’s less-known clientele as such:
They are the models and the television actresses, the realtor’s wives and the ad agency secretaries (razorblade thin and stalking the newest hemline), the art directors and the security analysts thronging toward the fat bowties and the Yves Saint Laurent suits for men, nursemaids pausing with baby strollers and leashed poodles to catch a whiff of Bulgarian rose at a perfume counter.
Forty-four years later, Bloomingdale’s still caters to tastemakers—or, as the Times put it, “a species that seems to represent a state of mind rather than a geographic base”—as it has been focused on customer experience long before it was in vogue elsewhere. After all, Bloomingdale’s says it’s “like no other store in the world.”
Ironically perhaps, the Times also noted Bloomingdale’s “wisely shucked off refrigerators and washing machines and left them for the discounters to bleed over,” as it recently announced plans to sell just that. But, true to form, these aren’t just any appliances.
And to herald in this new era, Bloomingdale’s invited designer Jonathan Adler and multimedia artist Jason Bruges to discuss the intersection of technology, art, fashion and design, as well as how they will impact how consumers incorporate smart technology into their homes.
Taking place in an alcove just outside the elevator bank on the eighth floor of the infamous Art Deco building on Lexington Avenue—the façade was completed in 1931—reporters and brand representatives for both Bloomingdale’s and electronics company LG gathered on Wednesday morning. Alongside stood the latest appliances in LG’s line of luxury products.
That’s because as of Nov. 19, Bloomingdale’s has sold LG appliances and TVs from its flagship store in Manhattan, as well as on its website. LG says its Signature line is “designed to provide a state-of-the-art living experience that feels pure, sophisticated and luxurious” as products “were designed with their true essence in mind—streamlined to focus on each product’s essential function.”
And there are some humdingers: Products include a five-credit-card-thin, AI-enhanced, voice-assistant-compatible 77-inch TV (the 65-inch model will set you back $7,000); a peekaboo refrigerator (also $7,000) that displays its contents when you knock on the door and that opens when you swipe your foot underneath; a washer/dryer that dispenses its own detergent and detects soil levels to ensure proper dosage; and a dishwasher with two wash zones, so it is gentle on the top rack and powerful on the bottom rack.
“We continually seek ways to improve the lives of our customers through our product offering,” said Dan Leppo, evp and general merchandising manager of Bloomingdale’s Men’s and Home departments, in a statement. “The addition of LG Signature products alongside our robust home assortment allows our customers to explore how these items could work in their homes and enhance their lifestyle.”
At the event, Bloomingdale’s Home Fashion Director Joe Weiner noted the department store serves five generations of consumers, and it’s hard to find high-tech gadgets that appeal to them all, which is why Bloomingdale’s has historically carried tech-infused products that push the envelope a bit (like digital picture frames, devices that keep drinks at an optimal temperature and self-cleaning water bottles).
In addition, he said luxury isn’t just a high-end product—it’s how the product enhances customers’ lives, such as these LG appliances saving time for consumers.
What’s more, Adler said there used to be a time his clients wanted to hide the technology in their homes, but it has since become a status symbol and is now an important part of his conversations with clients.
“Technology for technology’s sake won’t get us where we need to go,” added Dave VanderWaal, svp of marketing at LG.
Earlier this year, LG partnered with another upscale retailer—Saks Fifth Avenue—to showcase these products. They were also available in Jonathan Adler stores in Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chestnut Hill, Mass. from Sept.2017 through March 2018.