On a mission to leverage the St. John brand and establish it as an international luxury house, the company's accessories categories are undergoing a major overhaul, marked by a rare decision to look outside for collaborative input on design and...
On a mission to leverage the St. John brand and establish it as an international luxury house, the company's accessories categories are undergoing a major overhaul, marked by a rare decision to look outside for collaborative input on design and production.Last summer, the company tapped the New York-based Bolan Group for handbags and small leather goods, and teamed up with Italian footwear designer Giuseppe Zanotti. A limited launch bows in August, followed by a full collection debut timed to coincide with the holiday and cruise seasons on Nov. 1."This is a priority for Bruce [Fetter] and I and the company," said Kelly Gray. "We want St. John to be equally appreciated in nonapparel as it has been all these years in ready-to-wear."Shoes and handbags now account for 3 to 5 percent of the company's wholesale volume. (There's also a signature gold-based jewelry collection, which first appeared in 1987, but it only accounts for 2 percent of the volume). With the new creative input, St. John hopes to boost sales to 20 percent.It's an unprecedented move by St. John founding designer Marie Gray and her merchandising daughter, Kelly, who have maintained design of handbags and footwear in-house since introducing the categories in 1994 and 1996, respectively.Not that they won't be deeply involved in the process.Although the mother-and-daughter team are relinquishing some of the chores involved in executing the categories, they remain involved in collaborating on the design as well as editing the line to fit the St. John look.Kelly pointed out, for example, that only 100 styles of the 220 presented made the cut. "We didn't want to launch too wide or be too overassorted and lose any kind of identity with the line," she said.As Fetter pointed out, "If the Marie Gray name is going to be on it, you better believe she wants it to be what her customer wants." But the company also hopes to lure new customers from a wider age demographic to the brand. This necessitates a much broader offering than in the past."We wanted to do something a little bit more than what we've had in the past," said Gray. "But we still need to focus on pleasing a certain group of customers and let them drive the success of the business so that we have a solid base."In other words, St. John wants to avoid the pitfalls of brands that become the flavor of the month because of a certain trendy style.Both Zanotti and The Bolan Group's Henry and Barbara Bolan cite St. John's obsession over quality--particularly illustrated through their company-owned factories--as factors that sealed the deal.And both insist that success lies in balancing the expectations of St. John's longtime customers with a world of new potential fans.None of Zanotti's new designs were available at press time for preview, but the designer said by telephone from his San Mauro Pascoli, Italy, studio last week that among the more important changes is the heel on pumps and slingbacks. "The heel base is a little larger for more comfort--but absolutely modern. There is the logo ornament on the back, in gold or pearl," said the designer known for his signature sky-high sexy footwear, as well as for designs he's sculpted for Valentino Couture and Roberto Cavalli. "There's a client to respect, but also we must consider what's happening in fashion--little by little. It's an exciting challenge."The account is expected to generate 50,000 pairs per year, he added, or 10 percent of Zanotti's total business.For the 12-year-old Bolan Group, whose clients have included Lulu Guinness, Kate Spade and Cassadei, the design mission is similarly as respectful and subversive. Handbags are split into three lines. Career contains epic leather totes and handbags; Sport features soft woven leather and deerskin styles in elliptical shapes trimmed with chunky gold logo emblems and zipper pulls, and Evening is defined by sleek satin quilted bags beaded with crystals or jets. Expect to see plenty of black and white, said Barbara Bolan, who oversees the creative for the company."I think St. John handbags open up a new realm of possibilities. There will be a major array for current customers, but also styled to appeal to new ones. Think about it, people who perhaps want the name, but are not in a position to buy the apparel can buy a St. John handbag, a St. John Day Timer, a cosmetic case," said Bolan. "St. J has to span generations, and Kelly and Mrs. Gray know this."While promoting the product will be central to next year's advertising campaign, distribution will be handled more conservatively, said Fetter. "We don't want to force the product out there. We want to have strong main floor business without oversaturating the market."The challenge is getting the product right, continued Fetter. "There's only so many times you can enter or reenter something before you lose credibility with consumers and retailers. We believe we're getting the rightproduct done because we've partnered with the best we can find. Frankly, we're excited."
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews