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NEW YORK — The weather was abysmal and most of Tinsley Mortimer’s friends had packed up their children for spring vacation, but that didn’t stop her from pulling together some New Yorkers on Wednesday night to celebrate the opening of Monique Lhuillier’s Saks Fifth Avenue boutique here.

Lhuillier, well aware that the socialite wears her clothes faithfully, invited her to host the event at the flagship. Mortimer, a former publicist, was more than happy to spread the word.

“I was seriously flattered when I got the call,’’ she said. “I love Monique’s clothes. I have been a fan for years. She has such a big celebrity following, but she wanted to get more New York girls to know her.”

Surveying the party on the flagship’s third floor, which included a projected printed design on one wall, Saks’ chairman and chief executive officer, Fred Wilson, smiled approvingly at the guests and rattled off reasons for giving Lhuillier more floor space. “It’s new, stylish, modern, forward and exciting,” he said.

In other words, it suits the type of youthful-minded customer Saks wants to get.

“Look around you,’’ said Wilson, gesturing toward the attractive crowd. “Look at the people who are here. It is aligned with the profile we are going after.”

Lhuillier’s fans weren’t just there for the meet-and-greet — many used the occasion to shop. Several Saks customers stopped her to ask whose beaded fur-trimmed vest she was wearing. To their surprise, she told them she designed it and it was available on a rack a few feet away. Before the night was over and guests stepped into the snowstorm, seven of the $2,700 pieces had been sold, Lhuillier said.

Now that she has expanded beyond her bridal and eveningwear roots to include ready-to-wear, the designer was delighted that Saks, a store that has carried her collection for four years, wanted to give her more space in its flagship. Lhuillier has a freestanding store in Beverly Hills, but the Saks space is the largest on the East Coast. 

Meanwhile, a few in the fashion crowd were already on to the next thing, ducking behind a hanging drop cloth to sneak a peek at the Roger Vivier shop that opens later this month.

This story first appeared in the March 25, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

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