DALLAS — Is a $10 million Zeppelin your idea of the perfect Christmas gift? Are you in the market for a $1.7 million submersible for that certain someone who has everything?
Well listen up. When it comes to being outrageous — and getting attention for it — the merchants at Neiman Marcus are hard to top.
Neiman’s annual Christmas Book, a catalogue that is an exercise in whimsy and excess, features those gift ideas as well as a $3 million lifetime first-class ticket on American Airlines. And then there is that fun couple, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, covered by designer Jay Strongwater in 25,000 multicolor crystals and on sale for $8,000 each.
“We wanted to do something over the top,” Strongwater said during a press preview. “We got into a conversation about growing up and what we loved to play with, and I always loved Mr. Potato Head.”
The bread and butter of the 152-page catalogue is a 230-foot-long dirigible. It also offers fashion and gifts that include Ugg jackets and handbags, Juicy Couture cashmere and, for the first time, six pages of Chanel accessories and clothing.
Among the excesses is a $350,000 hand-beaded chocolate chiffon gown from Valentino that comes with a trip to the Ritz in Paris and a backstage pass to the designer’s couture show.
“You have couture for women, and you have couture for men,” said Valentino’s representative, Carlos Souza, gesturing toward Jeff Wasson, who stood nearby wearing a $20,000 suit of steel armor Wasson designed in the style of the 15th century.
“A lot of boys have this dream of a knight in shining armor, and I realized I could build that,” Wasson said.
Of all the fantasy gifts, which include a 15-foot-long Las Vegas Trike motorcycle, the one that Neiman’s executives feel sure to sell is the $125,000 limited-edition Maserati Quattroporte. Sixty will go on the market on Oct. 14. All Neiman’s limited-edition cars have sold out since the first nine years ago.
Neiman’s also has had success selling “experiences,” such as the chance to dance with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. This year, a couple can go to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and even perform onstage with a country music band — in custom jackets by Manuel — for a mere $25,000.
This story first appeared in the September 29, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“From $10 serving plates to a $10 million Zeppelin, Neiman Marcus is the ultimate gift resource,” said Brendan Hoffman, president and chief executive officer of Neiman Marcus Direct.
Hoffman declined to predict catalogue sales but said, “Our results up till now have been terrific, and we’re hopeful that will continue through the holiday season.” Neiman Marcus Direct for the fiscal year ending July 31 generated sales of $571 million, compared with $493 million the previous year.
The preview was at a Dallas estate built by oilman H.L. Hunt to resemble George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and is now owned by John Amend, a commercial builder who created the bowling alley displayed in the catalogue.
As the event wound down, Ginger Reeder, a Neiman Marcus vice president who scouts the fantasy gifts, pondered what might sell.
“Who knows?” she said. “The Trike is amazing. Shaquille O’Neal has two of those.”