By  on March 25, 2005

IRVINE, Calif. — Marie Gray, co-founder and chief designer of St. John Knits, views the women who buy the company’s clothes through the prism of the way they live.

“I refuse to think of my customer in terms of age,’’ said Gray, who was the honored guest at the 10th annual Guilds Fashion Show and Luncheon last Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Irvine, which raised $100,000 for the Orange County Performing Arts Center. “She doesn’t fit into an age bracket, but a lifestyle.”

Gray held court at a table filled with some of her best customers, ranging from the 40-year-old wife of a mortgage banking entrepreneur who has a cherry wood closet the size of half a bedroom, to a silver-haired, 30-year fan of the line, who said Gray changed her life with mix-and-match pieces.

They traded tidbits — “I have that skirt on order” — over the looks on the runway, a mix of couture, sport, collection, evening and swimwear pieces. Styles ranged from motocross-styled leather jackets in hot pink and paisley-print pants to slimming gowns in tie-dyed patterns and crystal embellishments.

St. John Knits’ new chief executive officer, Richard Cohen, has said the company would generate a younger customer. Gray said she’s still “sorting out”  how intense her involvement will be in the line’s future. And there’s no word yet on the new face of St. John now that Gray’s daughter, Kelly, is bowing out as the face of the company’s fall advertising campaign.

“We want to make sure the face can represent the mood and philosophy of the brand,” Gray said.

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