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MUM’S THE WORD: All eyes — and cell phone cameras — were on Sarah Burton Tuesday afternoon when she popped into Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship for a meet-and-greet in the Alexander McQueen shop.
Personable, unhurried and looking no worse for the wear after what has unquestionably been a work week like no other, Burton chatted with guests about the Costume Institute gala, the Met’s new McQueen exhibition and the dress she designed for Catherine Middleton. Even though some guests had been told not to ask anything about the royal wedding, a few could not resist. Ann Lawlor, one of the first to have a word with Burton, said, “She said the princess was one of the most lovely women she has ever met and she was really low maintenance. She said the palace called her and the collaboration between her and Kate was 50-50.”
This story first appeared in the May 4, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
When asked about her own career plans, Meredith Vieira, who was there as a client not as an interview seeker, said she may very well stay on at NBC in some capacity. As for Burton, Vieira was struck by how modest the designer was about her résumé-topping feat. When Vieira praised Burton for her work, the designer quickly said, “All the men looked amazing.”
“She immediately deflected the attention from her to the men,” Vieira said afterward. “She said she loved the secrecy of it until she kind of blew it by running into the Goring Hotel wearing a fur hood, which was from the last collection.”
Burton told Vieira that one of her next moves would be “to take a nice vacation.”
As an ardent Burton supporter for years, Saks’ president and chief merchandising officer Ron Frasch did so without the monarchy’s approval. “Even if Sarah hadn’t done the dress, it wouldn’t make any difference to us because what she does, she does so exquisitely,” he said. “She deserves all the accolades she been receiving. She has been the force there for years.”
Saks will keep the spotlight on McQueen with a trunk show planned at the New York store Tuesday and at the Beverly Hills store Thursday and Friday.
NEW FACE: Los Angeles-based retailer Kitson has hired its first chief executive officer from outside the company. Chris Lee, who was senior vice president at Forever 21 and is an advisory partner at investment firm Goode Partners LLC, has stepped into the role that Fraser Ross held since he founded Kitson in 2000. “The business is so big. I have to keep to the creative side, the merchandising, and have someone to run the business,” said Ross. He added that he was impressed by Lee’s almost decade-long tenure at Forever 21 during which the retailer went from generating around $200 million to $2 billion in retail sales. Kitson has around 10 stores domestically and will grow its Japanese retail network to some eight stores by June. Within the next two weeks, the retailer will also open an in-store shop at Takashimaya in Taipei. Kitson has hired investment bank Greif & Co. to explore strategic options, but Ross said the recent Japanese earthquake and the resulting fallout has slowed the process of deciding upon a partner. “Our global growth pattern can be quite large. We’ve got interest from all over the world for partners. We are just trying to figure out what to do right now,” he said.
ON THE TABLE: Thai conglomerate Central Retailing Corp. made an offer of 250 million euros, or $370.7 million at current exchange, for Italian luxury department chain La Rinascente, according to press reports. The sum, minus 45 million euros of debt coverage, is 10 times the store’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization and in line with estimates that had been given by sources earlier this year.
Maurizio Borletti, one of La Rinascente’s owners and a descendant of the original founder, did not make an offer but launched arbitration proceedings against the sale, claiming to have ownership rights as he currently holds 4 percent of the company. Though Borletti’s latest move could tie up the process for more than a year, national newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore wrote of the deal as if it were a fait accompli, implying that everything could be concluded within a month, the amount of time the current owners have to deliberate on the offer.
FACE FORWARD: Mélanie Laurent has yet another role on deck — as the face of Christian Dior’s Hypnotic Poison women’s scent. The French actress, singer, director and writer, who’s slated to be the Master of Ceremonies for the opening and closing of the Cannes Film Festival this month, is to wear Dior couture creations on the red carpet. The 28-year-old — of “Inglourious Basterds” fame — has more than 20 films under her belt and won a César, the French equivalent of an Oscar, for most promising actress in 2006 for her role in “Je vais bien, ne t’en fais pas” (“I’m Fine, Don’t Worry”). Movies she appears in this year include “Et soudain tout le monde me manque” and “Requiem pour une tueuse.” Monica Bellucci has been among the other faces for Hypnotic Poison.