NEW YORK — The blatant sex appeal of Narciso Rodriguez’s fall collection has been greatly underestimated, or at least that appeared to be the case on the third floor of Bergdorf Goodman on Wednesday afternoon.
This story first appeared in the April 7, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Well before the young society types and a stunningly attractive actress began to pore over the designer’s fall samples during an appearance there, a couple in their late 50s got a head start on the action in a dressing room, where after a few looks were tried on by the lady, the gentleman requested a few moments alone with her.
“He said about 30 seconds was all it would take,” reported the Rodriguez rep who was helping them.
A few minutes later, it appeared as if the Rodriguez collection might well have the potency of an aphrodisiac, as a storm of women, including magazine editors and, oddly enough, competing retailers from Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York, descended upon the racks. One sleeveless dress, barely the pink of an embarrassed blush, made four consecutive trips to the dressing room on different arms without a hint of shame.
“That white shearling is to die for,” sighed Jennifer Creel, but, then, who was she kidding? “I’d be happy with anything here.”
Tory Burch tried on a black dress that plunged deep enough to expose the black cups of some sort of strapless bra contraption she was wearing beneath, but that didn’t stop her from walking around the salon, showing it off for the rest of the social lineup: Lillian von Stauffenberg, Gigi Mortimer, Serena Boardman and Rita Schrager.
But the young women had some stiff competition on the racks from Rachel Weisz, the actress who appeared in “About a Boy” and “The Mummy.” She tried on several pieces, making two trips to the dressing room with both arms full and settling on a white silk faille jacket. One customer declared she’d take one of whatever Weisz ordered.
“I hate shopping,” said Weisz, but she was persuaded to come to the event to see the rest of the collection after a fitting in Rodriguez’s showroom. “He cuts for a woman’s body. Well, for a woman’s…[behind].”
The main point of designer personal appearances, apart from driving sales, is for everyday customers to gain some insight into the creative mindset and vice versa. Rodriguez kept an eye on the customers on both sides of the floor and was surprised that several women said they were trying on his white evening gowns to wear as wedding dresses, while others modeled his dresses and then stood gaping in front of a video of his runway show to see how the looks were accessorized.
“What I really saw was that everybody is looking at this as a collection,” he said. “I’m really inspired by how important they see the shoes and the accessories are to the collection.”
Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman, said the appeal of his designs rests in their ability to be “feminine, sexy and modern at the same time.”
“Finding those three things combined is not always easy to come by,” he said.
Rodriguez spent much of the day working with about 75 sales associates and Bergdorf staffers in a training seminar, an opportunity for the staff to get to know him, Burke said. Among the questions, Rodriguez was asked what were his favorite movies: “Auntie Mame” and “Chicago.”
“As much as we sell clothes, we at Bergdorf Goodman also sell the philosophy and lifestyle of the designer,” Burke said.
It was easier to put a figure on the clothes, about $410,000 worth in three days, store officials said, with bestsellers including a black wool dress with satin inserts at $1,250, a white silk dress with brown embroidery at the waist at $3,115 and a black wool and and silk faille coat with cashmere panels at $1,875. The results reflect the trend of high-end customers to show little resistance to buying so far in advance of a season. That’s part of the reason why Bergdorf is putting more emphasis on early trunk shows and is hosting the Versace fall collection today and Tuesday and a possible event with Michael Kors later this month.
But if this is what happens with a little sex appeal, what happens when the Versace line hits the floor?