Amid its recession-related troubles, Saks Fifth Avenue may have found a comfort zone.
In all 53 Saks stores across the country, Wear departments opened this week, signaling the culmination of efforts to instill new life into the stale bridge category and throw greater weight behind what’s been the store’s opening price range. Saks is recovering from upsetting the industry with its sharp discounting last year, and again raised eyebrows this month by installing a high-end Kiton men’s boutique, which is seemingly counterintuitive given the world’s economic turmoil. However, Wear embodies what designers consider an appropriate, timely response to consumers across the nation trading down and seeking greater value and fashion.
Industrywide, bridge has been tough, and bad enough that Saks decided to drop the moniker and develop its own spin. Bloomingdale’s was first to do so three and a half years ago, renaming its bridge floor “The New View” and recreating the vendor mix.
Wear at Saks puts the focus on less distributed labels, such as Lavia 18, Aquascutum, Natorious and SoCa St. John, all exclusives at the retailer this season, as well as Elie Tahari, Tory Burch, Eileen Fisher, Lafayette 148, DKNY, M Missoni and the private label Clothes [real].
At one time, the bridge floor was dominated by the likes of Anne Klein, which has been dropped, and Dana Buchman, which is now an exclusive at Kohl’s. Suits and head-to-toe dressing drove sales, but now Saks is banking on items, less formality, color, and mixing and matching to create unique outfits composed of different labels. There’s a consistency on the floor from shop to shop, in terms of bright colors, restrained prices and modern attitude, which is challenging for merchants to create over a large area, requiring much editing and cooperation from vendors.
“They’ve been on this case for a year and a half. I think it’s perfect timing,” said Josie Natori, chief executive officer of Natori Co. Inc. and designer of Natorious. “The whole idea is offer more fashion and more labels. In the past, Saks was more career-oriented.”
Natorious for spring has been on the selling floor for about two weeks, with embellished ikat tunics, priced at $595, and silk tops for layering, $195, among its bestsellers.
Other directional items are Lavia’s knitted jackets, capri pants, and flyaway three-quarter sleeve jackets; Elie Tahari’s animal print cotton skirts and novelty silk ottoman jackets and Lafayette 148’s soft-printed skirts.
Saks is aggressively marketing the floor with print ads, windows and the opening 28 pages of the spring catalogue. At the Fifth Avenue flagship, Wear occupies 25,000 square feet on the fourth floor, which has been repainted, dressed up with new mannequins, lighting, area rugs, fixtures, large steel laser-cut Wear logos on columns, and at the entrance, a steel logo built into the cement floor. However, with Saks slashing capital expenditures, there was no major renovation, though the space is more open, less cluttered with inventory and brighter than before.
“Most importantly, it’s about the change in the product,” stressed Joseph Boitano, group senior vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s at Saks Inc. “It’s a lot less formal today, a lot less head to toe. It’s more about mixing it up, great tops and dresses, items that you can work into your wardrobe. We’ve given the zone a whole new perspective”
Saks chairman and chief executive Stephen I. Sadove said Wear wasn’t about shifting the balance of the Saks inventory to a greater percentage of opening price points. Instead, “Bridge had declined. We trying to re-create what we have lost.” It’s a matter of “getting to the appropriate balance” between good, better and best, he said.
“It’s a new idea and we need to create excitement,” said designer Elie Tahari. Compared with the old bridge floor, “Wear looks younger, there is an element of freshness, and the mix and matching from different people creates a more unique individual look. These are clothes that women can get a lot of mileage out of. They’re affordable, they go from day into evening, and if you buy a few pieces, you can mix it with what you already have.”
Tahari said he provided Saks with some special pieces, and that Saks is buying his collection differently from other retailers.
Wear prices range from $400 to $500 for jackets, $175 to $250 for trousers and tops, and $400 to $500 for dresses. Outfits generally can be put together for under $1,000, whereas in Saks’ second-floor Gold Range, the outfits are moderately higher, and significantly higher in the best or designer ranges.
Despite the ups and downs of bridge, the category has been “really big — among the top three largest volume generators in all of women’s and very profitable,” said Ron Frasch, president and chief merchandising officer. “We are probably the store that has stood behind bridge more than any other. It’s a foundation business for us.”
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye
Did you know: @carlychaikin of "Mr. Robot" has been painting for about a decade? The actress, who plays Darlene on the show, is a self-taught artist who lists Salvador Dalí and Chuck Close as some of her idols. Chaikin told WWD that painting is a form of meditation for her — A much-needed one given the intensity of "Mr. Robot." See a piece Chaikin is working on at WWD.com (📷: @jilliansollazzo) #wwdeye