DONNA CELEBRATES WITH SAKS
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Donna Karan brought her talent for working a crowd to Saks Fifth Avenue, and the payoff was big for the store’s legwear department.
The event marked the 10th anniversary of the launch at Saks of Karan’s legwear line, produced under license by Hanes Hosiery.
Karan visited the flagship last Tuesday to sign copies of “The Leg,” a book of photographs of women’s legs for which she wrote the introduction, and to plug Evolution, her latest development in hosiery, in face-to-face meetings with customers.
Unveiled at retail this fall, the four-piece collection retails from $12 for knee-highs to $26 for 90-denier opaques. Designed to offer waist-to-toe compression, the product is billed as “The Next Step in Hosiery.”
“I needed an evolution to get back into pantyhose,” quipped Karan.
Karan appeared in the store’s main floor atrium, but the hoopla resulted in hosiery sales that were 73 percent ahead of the department’s average daily volume, said Teri Gakos, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel and hosiery. Overall, Gakos added, hosiery sales so far this year are running 20 percent ahead of last year.
Having had “a great response” to Evolution since it was introduced in August, Saks expects “sales to continue to skyrocket,” Gakos said.
The retailer played up the designer’s visit with displays in its windows, main-floor atrium and hosiery department. Last week was the first time Saks spotlighted sheers in the windows of its Fifth Avenue flagship. There were leg forms clad with Evolution, photograph murals of legs, stacks of “The Leg” and video monitors in the windows playing tapes of Karan talking about legwear. Some of the proceeds from the book, which is available in the hosiery department and on the main floor at Saks, are being donated to Gilda’s Club, a nonprofit organization that offers support groups for cancer patients and their families and friends.
Prior to the store’s opening Tuesday, there was a book signing for about 200 employees. During the event, Philip Miller, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks, presented Karan with an anniversary cake in the form of a leg.
In the crowd of about 150 fans and tourists who came to the atrium, there were some unexpected faces — job seekers, budding entrepreneurs, a former hairdresser and even one of the designer’s high school classmates. As the line snaked forward, flashes popped and compliments spewed, and Karan smiled and joked.
A few were not content leaving with just Karan’s John Hancock or a snapshot. One middle-aged man in a business suit, after having his copy of the book signed, left behind his business card.
At another book-signing that evening at the Rizzoli bookstore here at 31 West 57th Street, even Gregory Hines had a pitch. He offered his modeling services to the designer.
“I’m a big fan of Donna’s. I think she’s a great artist. I enjoy wearing her clothes,” he said. “I told her I’d be happy to do some modeling for her.”
Commenting on the book, Hines, along with several others in the crowd, said Herb Ritts’s shot of three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s legs in motion was the standout.
“A lot of times, we feel so much has to be done with lighting, makeup and styling,” Hines said. “Ultimate beauty doesn’t require a lot of preparation.”
It’s a little more involved than that, according to Ritts, who was also at Rizzoli.
“Sometimes, when doing hosiery, the greatest challenge is to make it sensual and interesting,” he said. “It’s not just about the body. That has to be combined with the person’s mind, walk and shape. You want photos that evoke thought.”
Three DKNY models — Mark Vanderloo, Alex Lundquist and Esther Canadas — stopped by Rizzoli to offer their thoughts on the book.
“Legs can be portrayed in so many different ways — elegant, sculpture erotic,” Vanderloo said. “The form — not the length — is always important.”
“Legs make you dream what the rest of the body is like,” he said. “You can’t really say that about arms.”