By  on April 11, 2005

NEW YORK — Saks Fifth Avenue will seek to advance its remerchandising strategy and challenge the competition today by officially opening the first Roger Vivier shop in the U.S. at its flagship here.

Bergdorf Goodman also sells the Paris-based collection of shoes and handbags owned by Diego Della Valle, though not in a shop environment, and Neiman Marcus is planning its first Roger Vivier shop in Los Angeles this year.

But Saks has the jump on it, with the 400-square-foot pale pink shop ensconced in prime real estate, at the front of the third floor, opposite Dior. It is modeled after the Paris boutique on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

“This says that Saks is a fashion leader, first in the marketplace with new ideas and great products,” said Ron Frasch, Saks vice chairman and chief merchandising officer.

Saks plans more Roger Vivier shops, but will proceed slowly and work them into stores undergoing renovations, Frasch said. It is part of a strategy to modernize the Saks image, sell higher-quality product, attract additional younger clientele, focus on customer service and take market share from the Neiman Marcus Group, the luxury leader. Recently, Saks added Marni, Luella Bartley and Valextra; created new shops for Marc Jacobs and Chloé, and has been rolling out exclusive Graff boutiques.

The Roger Vivier shop breaks the Saks mold by merchandising shoes and handbags together. Normally, they are separate, with shoes on four, accessories on one. The idea is to present “a lifestyle collection” in a space accommodating brand extensions, Frasch said. Roger Vivier will launch small leather goods this fall. There could be more such cross-pollinating of categories “to add an element of surprise,” Frasch added.   

Roger Vivier, designed by Bruno Frisoni, has a celebrity following; the brand’s muse is the former Chanel model and designer Ines de la Fressange, who is now a Roger Vivier director. The signature is the buckle flat and lots of whimsy and fantasy, with products ranging from $395 leather bags to $3,900 pheasant-feathered shoes and $20,000 crocodile boots. The staple in the collection is the Belle Vivier suede buckle shoe for $475.

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