GILLES’ TURN: Gilles Mendel did a West Coast swing last week with a stop on Wednesday at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco for a trunk show before cocktails, dinner and a fashion presentation on Thursday put on by Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills at the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood, Calif. The presentation featured highlights from the designer’s fall, resort and spring collections for J. Mendel, which pulled from a wide swath of inspirations ranging from the natural beauty of Utah to Dorothy Draper. For pre-fall 2012, Mendel hinted he’s heading in a different direction. “I started with the principle of preppy,” he said, noting plaids and tweeds play a role. The West Coast trip gave Mendel a chance to catch up with the Gores, including Rochelle Gores Fredston, who joined J. Mendel’s board after her father Alec Gores’ firm, The Gores Group, invested in the brand last year. With the support of the Los Angeles-based private equity firm, J. Mendel hired Laird + Partners to articulate its brand position and has plotted an expansion plan that will kick into high gear for fall 2012 when J. Mendel is set to launch handbags. “We are building this company to the next level,” said Mendel.

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