St. John plans to launch its first online store today, which will be followed in a few weeks by an innovative online community, similar to Facebook, for aficionados of the knitwear brand.

This story first appeared in the April 8, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The online store will showcase the full breadth of the St. John world, including fragrances, accessories, the new Caviar knitwear collection and the contemporary line, SoCa, which targets a younger customer.

An interim version of the site showcasing the new design was already online Tuesday, although sales transactions were still being handled by Neiman Marcus.

The design and photographs emphasize a clean, pared-down look that telegraphs the Southern California lifestyle with plenty of white, water and bright sunshine.

“There was a demand to modernize our site,” St. John chief executive officer Glenn McMahon said last year when describing the planned changes.

The online store is part of an overall effort to update and rebrand the Irvine, Calif.-based company since McMahon took over in September 2007 from Richard Cohen, who stumbled when his strategy to lure younger customers with a new fit met resistance from loyal and mature clientele.

The site includes the St. John magazine, corporate information, videos of the company’s runway shows, the forthcoming customer community and all the St. John product categories. Designed by interactive agency Createthe group (see related story, this page), the site includes the agency’s signature large-scale photos and ability to see details in lifelike high definition.

In September, McMahon predicted the online store would eventually account for 10 to 20 percent of St. John’s total revenue, bringing in about $20 million annually.