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NEW YORK — Elie Tahari was feeling the love at Saks Fifth Avenue on Wednesday.

This story first appeared in the August 26, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The designer was greeted like a star when he arrived at the flagship for the ribbon cutting of his new 2,250-square-foot shop, the biggest on the fourth floor.

Many of the guests, which included Saks and Tahari employees, wore “I [heart] Tahari” T-shirts, and some had accessorized with special “I [heart] ET” pins. Among them were Stephen I. Sadove, Saks Inc’s chairman and chief executive officer, and Ron Frasch, president and chief merchandising officer. There were even cardboard paddles bearing the motif.

Sadove referred to the Tahari space as the “cornerstone” of the new Wear department, which aims to provide customers with trend-right clothes at a more accessible price point.

“We are in a phase of renovating this floor in total, and essentially rebranding the old world of bridge,” Frasch noted, adding that a Lafayette 148 shop on the Fifth Avenue side of the floor and additional shops for Tory Burch, Burberry Brit and DKNY will follow. The Wear department also offers European brands such as M Missoni, Red Valentino and Rivamonti. “It’s still primarily geared to a woman who has a career, but it’s not your mother’s career clothes,” Frasch said.

The Tahari store is positioned in a prime, gateway location at the front and center of the fourth floor. It features a new, Piero Lissoni-created design prototype that resembles a spacious living room, with an Italian Venini chandelier, a Gio Ponti walnut flip-top table, T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings bleached mahogany ladder-back chairs and a custom Vladimir Kagan upholstered sofa. “There are a lot of new elements here that we will hopefully roll out to many stores,” Tahari said. “We are planning to have more such shops internationally.”

Tahari’s neighbors include Ralph Lauren Blue Label and the exclusive Saks brand La Via 18. Saks opened the first two Tahari shops, for men’s and women’s, in its Beverly Hills store in the past year. “He is our largest volume brand,” Frasch said. “He has been an extraordinary partner. It’s a huge business for us.

People are now beginning to understand that we are changing what this zone of business was,” Frasch added. “Everything is going to be branded now. This customer is spending a lot of money, and our feeling is: Why should she be treated any differently than the woman on the third [designer] floor?”

For the opening, Tahari created a 32-page catalogue, shot by Diego Uchitel with models Alana Zimmer and Ksenia Kahnovich in the fall collection. The shop also offers a collection of embellished knits and dresses that are exclusive to Saks.

The shop “is so big that I thought Ron was going to give me my own zip code,” Tahari said. “But they have a couple here [at the Manhattan flagship].”

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