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Janet Reis, a former buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue, died Sunday at age 93.
Reis started her career at the store in 1947, working as a model at the Salon Moderne, run by Sophie Gimbel. She subsequently became a buyer for dresses and eveningwear, and held a position as a buyer in the latter for 10 years, until her retirement from Saks in 1991.
At that time, she started Janet Reis Inc., opening a showroom at 530 Seventh Avenue, which specialized in special-occasion dresses from the U.S., Britain and Canada. Among those she represented were the British firms Bellville Sassoon, Carole Lee and Eavis & Brown; Canadian designer Ann Ciona, and Californian Ricco Antonio.
“I knew Janet as a buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue,” said Nicole Fischelis, fashion director of Macy’s Inc. “Janet was totally passionate and had amazing energy. She always wanted to know what was happening, and to find those special dresses.…She was funny, witty and had a great sense of humor.”
“She always wanted to be the first with everything,” recalled former Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director Ellin Saltzman. “She thought her dress area was probably the most important thing in the store, and she liked trends.”
Reis’ niece Diane Gelon, a London-based lawyer, recalled her as “one hell of a woman,” adding, “She was of a breed they barely make anymore.…Everything about her was elegant, beautiful and glamorous. She introduced me to the concept of the way to dress…with [such looks as] an above-the-waist dress.”
Reis’ friends recalled her as a keen theater fan — Stephen Sondheim was a particular favorite — a longtime member of the Roundabout Theatre who had an enormous passion for, and great knowledge about, fashion. She liked to swim at the New York Health and Racquet Club.
Reis is survived by her sister, Rita Stone, and Gelon and her brother, Steve. A graveside service will be held for Reis at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens, at 11 a.m. Thursday.