WASHINGTON — Black-tie dinners — and there are an estimated 900 per year in the nation’s capital — translate into big business for Saks Fifth Avenue.
"This city has more black ties than any other city we serve," said Christina Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, who was honored at just such a black-tie gala here on Oct. 26. "We make a complete offering of designer eveningwear for that community."
Johnson, who took the Saks Fifth Avenue helm in February 2000, oversees 61 full-line Saks Fifth Avenue stores and 50 Saks Off 5th outlet stores around the country. There are two full-line Saks stores in the Washington area, as well as three Off 5th stores.
Saks’ designer black-tie outfits served Johnson well as she donned a Ralph Rucci ensemble for the National Italian-American Foundation dinner at the Hilton Washington & Towers, where she received the "Special Achievement Award in Business."
Johnson’s fashion pick at the VIP reception prior to the dinner was Sophia Loren, who wore a peach-colored organza Armani gown, which literally tripped up more than a few partygoers.
Loren and Robert DeNiro were inducted into NIAF’s Hall of Fame and Johnson made a point of meeting both celebrities at the cocktail party.
Beyond the awards and black-tie dinners, however, Johnson has faced a tough business climate in the luxury market, which was hit hard after the Sept. 11 attacks last year.
The more urban-oriented Saks Fifth Avenue division of Saks Inc. narrowed its operating losses in the second quarter (the latest figures available) to $13.8 million from $45.3 million a year earlier, as reported in WWD. Sales gained 7.8 percent, but comparable-store sales were down 4.7 percent in the second quarter.
However, Johnson, in an interview before the NIAF dinner, said New York has "significantly rebounded in terms of people coming to shop."
"Our New York [flagship] has benefited from that," she said, adding that the renovated main floor of the flagship will open on Nov. 12. Saks "recaptured" 40,000 square feet of selling space during the two-year renovation of the flagship, Johnson said.Saks will also open three more stores this year, including an 80,000-square-foot store in Richmond, Va., as well as a store in Indianapolis and in Raleigh, N.C.
The company also officially reopened its Las Vegas store last Wednesday. That store was expanded to 165,000 square feet from 70,000.
Locally, Saks completed renovations last year on its two full-line stores in Chevy Chase, Md., and at Tyson’s Corner Center in McLean, Va.
The company expanded its Chevy Chase store to 130,000 square feet from 108,000 last year and opened a freestanding Saks Men’s store in late 2000. It also renovated its Tyson’s Corner three-floor store and dedicated 20 percent more space to the designer area, the ceo said.
Saks’ brisk designer business appears to prove some critics of Washington style wrong.
Women in the area, often labeled conservative dressers, actually have a penchant for the more daring designer designs, according to Johnson.
"This consumer is fashion-involved," she said. "Chevy Chase [carries] one of our strongest designer offerings because of the special [affluent] community it serves."
She said fall business at that store has been good, noting designer, ready to wear, handbags, fine jewelry and contemporary sportswear have driven sales.
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews