Byline: Kathleen Nicholson

NEW YORK — Some designers get a thrill from sending their clothes down the catwalk for the press, while others focus on showing them to their customers. Marie Gray falls into the latter category. Gray, principal and designer of St. John, was in New York last week to host a luncheon and runway showing of her spring collection for 50 top clients of the firm’s boutique here.
“You simply can’t cater to the press and the customers at the same time, and I prefer to focus on the customers,” Gray said before the show, held at the firm’s showroom.
That formula has worked like a charm for St. John, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, and which retailers say has excellent sell-throughs, season after season.
Luncheon guests couldn’t have been stronger in praising the clothes. “They never wrinkle, and they make you look your best,” said Bernice Freemansburg, who lives in Pennsylvania and plans her visits to New York around St. John deliveries. “The clothes are classic and not too fussy,” said Tina Bernstein. “Being French, I buy a lot of black.”
The pieces travel well, are versatile, interesting and chic — all big selling points for the professional women, who ranged from marketing executives to singer Ivey Jones, in town to perform the national anthem at The Westminster Dog Show. “Save for a few pair of jeans in my closet,” Jones said, “St. John is the only thing I own.”

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