By  on May 2, 2005

NEW YORK — Talk about star power.

Fans of Josie Natori lingerie and actress Susan Lucci turned out for a cocktail party Thursday night at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship here to kick off a national campaign to promote the nonprofit charity Women in Need.

The goal of the campaign, which will go nationwide at Saks and Nordstrom stores, is to raise awareness for WIN, which lends emotional and financial support to homeless and abused women and their families. An undisclosed percentage of sales from the two-week Mother’s Day promotion, closing May 9, will be donated to WIN, Natori said.

As bystanders awaited the arrival of Natori and Lucci, shoppers in the ninth-floor lingerie department bought Natori items such as bras and camis with coordinating boy-cut briefs, lounge sets and sleepgowns.

There were Lucci fans ranging from girls in their teens to grandmothers, as well as men who said they watch ABC’s “All My Children,” in which Lucci has starred as Erica Kane for 30 years.

“I’ve been a fan for 22 years, since I was 13,” said Tim Sauceda, a fashion designer. “This woman [Erica Kane] is not a victim, she’s incredibly strong….She inspired me to become a designer because her body is so perfect for clothes.”

Christina Gan, 24, who heard of the Saks event through the Web site, said, “I started watching Susan Lucci while I was in college. I watch her every day. I can’t go through a day without her.”

Several Saks sales associates said they watch “All My Children” marathons on weekends on the cable station SoapNet.

“We love Erica Kane and can’t get enough of her,” said a saleswoman.

There was a hush as Natori made an entrance dressed in a bright orange pink reptile jacket by Dior. She was followed by Lucci, who was in Chanel from head to toe. A couple of security guards kept dozens of soap opera fans at bay as one man began chanting “Erica, Erica, Erica.”

Also present were Fred Wilson, chairman of Saks, and Ron Frasch, vice chairman and chief merchandising officer.“Natori is a very important business for us,” Wilson said. “We like the quality of the product.”

Frasch said, “Josie Natori is one of our biggest intimate apparel businesses. She’s a very important partner to our stores and a good friend to Saks.”

Natori told the crowd, “If you buy Natori products, you will be helping a woman in need and you’ll be helping me, too.”

“How can you say no to Josie? She got me into this charity and what I love about it is I can do it with my daughter, Liza,” said Lucci, who has known Natori for 10 years.

Lucci’s daughter, Liza Huber, stars as young socialite Gwen Winthrop in NBC’s soap opera “Passions.” She made personal appearances Saturday and Sunday with Natori at two Nordstrom stores.

Lucci, whose character on the show has just started an entrepreneurial company for women called New Beginnings, said there “could be a possibility” that Natori will make a guest appearance.

“I think she would be perfect,” Lucci said. “I have an idea just where Josie could fit in.”

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