NEW YORK — Jaqui Lividini, the effervescent fashion voice for Saks Fifth Avenue and survivor of a string of regime and ownership changes, has resigned to start a second career.
Her responsibilities touched many areas of the business, from marketing and public relations to forming strategic alliances, setting fashion direction and editorial content for catalogues. She was involved in the Web site and windows, organizing the corporate gift program and staging special events and charity fund-raisers.
Saks Fifth Avenue overhauled its top management this year, including Fred Wilson’s hiring as chairman and ceo, and some executives were squeezed out. But Lividini, who began as an assistant fashion director at the Houston store and is senior vice president of fashion merchandising and communications, said she was not one of them.
“It was 100 percent a personal decision on my part to leave,” Lividini told WWD. “There is terrific leadership in place right now at Saks.”
She was said to be in talks with the William Morris Agency, but would not comment on that or other career moves. “I am very excited about the opportunities that have already come my way,” Lividini said.
The retail executive gave birth to a girl, Calliope, in May, and maternity leave afforded her an opportunity to step away from the job and contemplate the future, she said. Her impending 20th anniversary at Saks also sparked reflection, and she also has been renovating her Manhattan apartment. “With all the changes in my life, this was the perfect time to make a change professionally. I want to experiment and try something new,” she said.
“This was one of the hardest decisions of my life,” Lividini said. “I became very attached to Saks Fifth Avenue and the people I work with.” Her last day will be Friday. A successor hasn’t been named.
She was a huge asset to Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises, a division of Saks Inc., partly because of her visibility in the media and in the showrooms of American and European designers and vendors. She was a front-row regular at runway shows and was critical in bringing new design talent to the store, including Charles Nolan, who is doing an exclusive collection for Saks for fall. At the same time, she worked closely with the Saks leadership on many behind-the-scenes activities.
“She can do anything, in my book,” said Rose Marie Bravo, ceo of Burberry and a former Saks Fifth Avenue president. “She has financial acumen, public relations abilities and manages people well. She builds strong relationships and always smiles through adversity, even when things don’t go according to plan. She’s positive every day.”
In addition, “Jaqui was instrumental when Saks went public” in 1996, Bravo said. “She organized our road shows and managed business communications.”
With all the hats she wore at Saks, including managing a staff of more than 40 people, Lividini emerged as a key player in the drive to build up the image of Saks into a more modern and contemporary retailer and more synonymous with luxury. She worked on forging strategic partnerships with luxury brands, such as Mercedes-Benz and Ritz Carlton. Among her more innovative events was the “Gifts That Give Back” program last year, which featured 18 designer items exclusive to Saks and benefited the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to restore music education in public schools.
She created Saks’ “Key to the Cure” charity to benefit women’s cancer research and recruited such celebrities as Nicole Kidman, Demi Moore, Charlize Theron, Lucy Liu and Stella McCartney to the cause. She has received the CFDA “Special Recognition” award. She is also a collector of vintage textiles and out-of-print fashion books.
“She is very out there,” said Arie Kopelman, president and chief operating officer of Chanel. “She has a good feel for the fashion business and cares about it. She is fun to work with, but can be aggressive in a positive way that makes things happen.
“Her timing is great,” he said. “This is a good, clean break. She just had a baby, there’s a new management team at Saks and she has a whole new career ahead of her. She’s kind of a unique package, since she has good merchandising skills, organization, public relations skills, a feel for advertising and catalogues. With this interesting background, her warm personality and a level of enthusiasm and aggressiveness, she pulls it all together.”
Along with Lividini, another Saks veteran is also leaving. Brenda Fritz, Lividini’s executive assistant, said that her last day will be at the end of August, after 26 years with the store. “I’m planning a new chapter in my life, out of the retail field,” Fritz said. “I’m interested in working at a museum and volunteer work.”