NEW YORK — The walls are down, the designer shops are out and the feeling is young and spirited.
With the arrival of The Collective on the fifth floor of its Manhattan flagship, Saks Fifth Avenue has transformed its contemporary department into a different way of shopping, leaning toward looks and lifestyles rather than spotlighting designer labels or an age demographic.
“It’s really de-departmentalizing the department store — giving the customer fashion, rather than a sea of brands,” said Marc Metrick, the president of Saks Fifth Avenue, repeating his mantra for how his team is attempting to transform and modernize the retailer’s shopping experience.
“In the old days, you would walk onto the floor and see a big brand message. This is a more flexible environment that gives you the ability to constantly inject newness to the floor,” and not quite so bound by commitments to present the same brands in the same way season after season. “There’s an ease of shopping the floor and a sense of discovery,” Metrick said.
“We believe in this model. I see this coming soon to 15 or so stores,” within the Saks fleet, Metrick added. “I don’t use that word ‘contemporary’ anymore. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just an older term. The Collective speaks to Saks’ ability to be nimble, to change with the consumer and to deliver on what she says she wants, and not just from a product or edit standpoint. It’s also about the environment and the experience. The Collective is a lifestyle experience, a state of mind, not a category of business.”
In creating the Collective, Metrick said efforts revolved around making it “curated” by mixing brands, key items and key classifications to show shoppers how to style themselves. “It’s not so branded. It’s the full look,” he said.
He also said the floor is merchandised to “highlight inspirational trends, the must-have items that women would crave.”
It’s an open-floor plan, with sight lines clear across the 36,268-square-foot space, uniform signage so no designer upstages any other and decorative screens created by local artisans. Yet there’s still a boutique-y feel to the floor. It’s in the merchandising, mixing brands together in the same vignettes to “collectively” depict a trend or a color palette, and display outfits composed of a few labels. Denim is spread around the floor, rather than having the typical denim bar setting it apart. Key denim brands are Rag & Bone Jeans, Frame, AG, J Brand and Current Elliott.
Among the brands sold exclusively are Ganni, Roberta Einer, Romance Was Born, Sandy Liang, Scripted and Thurley.
Other brands on display are 3.1 Phillip Lim, A.L.C., Alice + Olivia, Amo, Cinq à Sept, Delfi, Diane von Furstenberg, IRO, Jonathan Simkhai, Kenzo, March 11, Public School, Saloni, Solace, Theory, Vince and Zimmermann.
Saks’ store design and planning team collaborated with design firm Gensler on creating The Collective.
The Collective actually debuted in a smaller freestanding specialty store format in Greenwich, Conn., last February, and the spirit is the same on Fifth Avenue, though the selection is broader, holding more than 70 brands, versus over 50 in Greenwich.
Saks will open a Wild & The Moon juice bar on the floor later this year. “A juice bar is a lifestyle play,” Metrick said, which means as much to today’s consumer as frozen yogurt machines meant to shoppers of the Nineties.
The floor is also designed to have a greater social component, with seating areas, soft upholstery juxtaposed by feature walls clad in signature Saks wood flooring, area rugs, different chandeliers, a styling suite and 45 fitting rooms.
One of the features Metrick is most happy about is the Fifth Avenue windows. They’ve been uncovered, affording shoppers great views overlooking Rockefeller Center.
The opening of the Collective is another step forward in the sweeping renovation of the Saks flagship.
Soon, The Advance will also be housed on the fifth floor, but on the east side of the escalator bank.
Saks also continues to pump up the third floor for designers, having recently added shops for Dior and Prada, and planning to introduce one for Chanel for the fall. In one of the most dramatic changes, the retailer intends to relocate the beauty floor to two, and create a major accessories statement on the main floor.
“Lots of work is getting done. We are moving forward,” Metrick said. “We started down a path two years to really rebalance the fashion quotient at Saks and drive it much more.
“We really want to stand for modern fashion. The customer is asking for it. They don’t want stuff they can get anywhere.”