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Connie L. Finell, Anne Klein Senior V.P.

Connie L. Finell, senior vice president of retail at the Anne Klein division of Jones New York, and earlier a top women's buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue and...

Connie L. Finell, senior vice president of retail at the Anne Klein division of Jones New York, and earlier a top women’s buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue and Mitchells/Westport, died of breast cancer Friday. She was 49.

This story first appeared in the March 29, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Finell worked almost until her death, attending the Anne Klein fashion show last month for the first collection designed by Isabel Toledo.

She began her career at Saks as a buyer in the fashion jewelry department at age 21 and rose to be vice president of designer apparel, working with some of the best-known figures of the industry.

After leaving Saks, Finell became a vice president of merchandising for the women’s division at Mitchells, the luxury fashion emporium in Westport, Conn. When she joined Mitchells, the store had only a tiny women’s operation and was widely known for its stellar men’s offerings. However, Finell was instrumental in propelling Mitchells into the women’s arena. The store now has an equally strong reputation in men’s and women’s.

Eventually, Finell returned to Saks as a vice president and divisional merchandise manager. Not long after, she opted for store management at one of Saks’ premier locations in Greenwich, Conn.

“Connie was a wonderful human being,” said Christina Johnson, a former Saks chief executive officer who is a partner and managing director at NRDC Equity Partners and worked with Finell. “She was generous, spirited and a terrific merchant. She was a great asset to our team. She will be so terribly missed.”

Mara Perlmutter, president of bridge jewelry of the Victoria & Co. division of the Nine West Accessories unit of Jones New York, said: “Connie was an inspiring, respected professional, a dear friend and a mother who had a rare style and grace. She was a true merchant who touched the lives of so many. We started our careers together at Saks as assistant buyers, and at the end of her career, we were together again.”

She graduated from Tobe Coburn in Manhattan in 1978 with a degree in fashion merchandising.

Finell is survived by her husband, Mark; daughters Marissa, Laura and Rebecca; her father, Carl Fruehling, and brothers Carl, Brian and James.

A funeral service was held Tuesday.